Louisiana Man Holden Matthews Sentenced to 25 Years for Setting Fire to 3 Baptist Churches

Holden Matthews
Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal

A Louisiana man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after he admitted to burning down three predominantly Black Baptist churches and was also ordered to pay $2.6 million to the houses of worship he destroyed.

Holden Matthews, 23, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays. Matthews, who said he was a “Black metal” musician, an extreme form of heavy metal which originates in Scandinavia, and said that is what inspired him to do the crimes. The judge also took off 18 months from his sentence which he already spent in jail, U.S. Attorney Alexander Van Hook said in a statement obtained by CBS News.

"Matthews admitted to setting the fires because of the religious character of these buildings, in an effort to raise his profile as a ‘Black Metal’ musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s," the statement said.

He had pleaded guilty to both state and federal charges and the judge ordered that the sentences get served at the same time.

His reign of terror began on March 26, 2019, setting fire to St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Louisiana, officials said. His spree lasted for 10 days, but no one was injured.

"These churches trace their origins to the post-Civil War Reconstruction period and, for generations, were a place for predominantly African American Christians to gather, pray, worship, and celebrate their faith," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said a statement obtained by CBS News. "The churches survived for nearly 150 years but did not survive this defendant's warped act of hatred."

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