Man accused in string of church fires in St. Landry Parish sentenced to 25 years behind bars

Holden Matthews, 21, accused of intentionally setting fire to three churches in St. Landry...
Holden Matthews, 21, accused of intentionally setting fire to three churches in St. Landry Parish (Source: Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal)
Updated: Nov. 2, 2020 at 9:11 PM CST
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ST. LANDRY PARISH, La. (WAFB) - The man accused of burning down three historically Black churches in St. Landry Parish back in 2019 has been sentenced by a federal judge, according to reports from KATC.

Matthews was sentenced Monday, Nov. 2, 2020 to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty in both state and federal court. The judge requested that Matthews serve his sentence in a facility near his family and that he receive counseling for substance abuse and mental health treatment.

KATC reports that Matthews admitted to intentionally setting fires at Greater Union, Mt. Pleasant, and St. Mary Baptist churches between March 26 and April 4, 2019.


On March 26, 2019, Matthews set fire to St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre. On April 2, he set fire to the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, and then on April 4, he burned down Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, also in Opelousas.

Matthews reportedly admitted to setting the fires because of the religious character of the buildings in an attempt to raise his persona as a “Black Metal” musician. He reportedly did this in an effort to copy similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s. Matthews also reportedly admitted to posting photos and videos of the church fires on Facebook. He says he took these photos and videos in real time as he watched the churches burn down. Click here for more information about the evidence presented against him in court.

Governor John Bel Edwards released the following statement Monday about Matthews' sentencing:

“Hate is not a Louisiana value, and decimating three historically African American churches is beyond disturbing. The same would be true of any place of worship. What Holden Matthews confessed to doing has deeply impacted many lives and threatened the sense of security of members of St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. I pray he truly understands the depth of the pain he has caused. We are all inspired by the continued strength and resilience of the pastors, congregations and community that pulled together after such terrible losses. Everyone involved in assisting in this case is to be commended for their work and commitment to seeing justice served.”

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