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Wed, April 21

Man gets 25 years for torching churches

Holden Matthews (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal photo)

Holden Matthews (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal photo)

LAFAYETTE, La. - A Louisiana man who admitted to burning down three predominantly African American churches to promote himself as a “black metal” musician was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay the churches $2.6 million.

U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of Lafayette sentenced Holden Matthews, giving the 23-year-old man credit for 18 months he already spent in jail, U.S. Attorney Alexander Van Hook said in a news release.

“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.

Matthews had shown interest in “black metal,” an extreme subgenre of heavy metal, according to authorities. The music has been linked, in some instances, to fires at Christian churches in Norway.

Matthews told the judge, pastors and congregations of the three Baptist churches that he was deeply sorry and wanted them to know he had recovered his faith in God, The Advocate reported.

Summerhays ordered him to pay $1.1 million in restitution to Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church and $970,213.30 to Greater Union Baptist Church, both in Opelousas, and another $590,246 to St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Port Barre.

All three were burned down over 10 days in March and April of 2019. The churches were empty at the time of the fires, and no one was injured.

Although race was not considered a motive, Summerhays said, he had to consider that the crime brought the church communities back to a dark time of racial discrimination, the newspaper reported.

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