A man was jailed this week for a string of arsons at three historic black Baptist churches located in one Louisiana parish.
Holden Matthews, 21, was charged with three counts of simple arson of a religious building for a March 26 fire at St. Mary Baptist Church, an April 2 fire at Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, and an April 4 fire at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas.
“A suspect has been identified in connection with the three church burnings in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is in state custody,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, David C. Joseph, said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office, ATF, and FBI are working with state and local law enforcement and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and those St. Landry Parish residents affected by these despicable acts.”
Investigators are still determining a motive, but preliminary evidence suggests a genre of music called “black metal,” and its references to church burnings, might’ve played a role in the arsons, according to KFDM.
Two of Matthews’ friends revealed to BuzzFeed that Matthews was a musician who was trying to break into the Norwegian black metal scene.
Nygyl Brynn Blackwolf also claimed the 21-year-old was influenced by “Lord of Chaos,” a violent horror biopic released in February. The film centers on famous Norwegian black metal musician Kristian “Varg” Vikernes, who murders another musician and sets several churches on fire. (Vikernes, now 46, was released from prison in 2009 after serving 15 years for murder and arson.)
“Holden was always a bit of a marshmallow. He’s just a kid wanting to be a musician,” Blackwolf told BuzzFeed of the friend he’s known since 2014. “I just can’t believe it because this is not something he would actually do.”
“If he did this, he was inspired by that movie.”
The suspect is reportedly the son of St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputy Roy Matthews. CBS News reported that the deputy turned his son into authorities. However, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told KATC that the suspect’s father didn’t turn him in, as the deputy wasn’t aware of his alleged actions.
Authorities confirmed Holden’s arrest during a Thursday morning press conference. Butch Browning, with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said Holden is “unequivocally” the person who committed the three arsons. St. Landry Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said police had patrolled vulnerable churches in St. Landry, adding that the parish has more than 100 churches which are similar to the three congregations that were targeted, according to the news outlet.
CNN reported that officials are also investigating a fourth, smaller fire which occurred on March 31 at Vivian United Pentecostal Church in Caddo Parish, a predominantly white church located more than 200 miles north of St. Landry Parish.
[Featured image: Holden Matthews/Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office]