Black Metal Arsonist Who Torched Churches In Louisiana Sentenced To 25 Years



Holden Matthews, a 23-year-old Louisiana man who pled guilty in February to burning down three historically Black churches in Louisiana in 2019, was sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison, according to the Department of Justice.

Fires-Black Churches

This file booking image released by the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal shows Holden … [+] Matthews, 21, who was arrested Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana. Holden Matthews has pleaded not guilty to federal charges arising from the arson fires at south Louisiana churches. However, a court filing Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 says a plea-change hearing now is set for Feb. 10 in Lafayette. (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal via AP, File)

(Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal via AP, File)

Key Facts

Matthews was ordered to pay over $2.6 million in restitution to the churches he torched, and will undergo three years of supervised release following his prison sentence.

In February, Matthews pled guilty to burning down three Baptist churches in St. Laundry Parish, Louisiana between March 26 and April 2 2019, in an effort to bolster his reputation as a “Black Metal” musician. 

During his plea hearing, Matthews admitted he set fire to the St. Mary, Greater Union and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Churches in an attempt to copy a string of church burnings in Norway in the 1990s.

Matthews shared photos and video of the flaming structures with his friends, in one message writing “listen to that sound dude haha beautiful,” and posted them to Facebook, according to the DOJ and the Washington Post.

Key Background

Matthews, the son of a sheriff’s deputy St. Landry Parish, was arrested by his father’s sheriff’s department in April 2019. He was charged with three counts of arson and three violations of the Church Arson Prevention Act, a federal hate crime. Dustin Talbot, Matthews’ federal public defender, told the Post in April 2019 the arson wasn’t racially motivated. He said Matthews wanted to target Christians in general and only chose the historically black churches because “they have a lot of wood in them.” Black metal is a style of heavy metal that is distinguished by its satanic lyrics and symbolism, grinding guitars, breakneck pace and throaty, gruff vocals.

Further Reading

Louisiana Man Sentenced for Arson of Three African-American Churches (Department of Justice)

Arsonist pleads guilty to torching three black churches to ‘raise his profile as a Black Metal musician,’ feds say (Washington Post)

The man accused of burning down three churches in Louisiana has been charged with hate crimes (Washington Post)

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