Deputy Sheriff's Son Charged in Historic Louisiana Church Fires

Cheryl Sanders
April 12, 2019

Authorities have arrested a person in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana, a federal prosecutor said.

Many residents said the church burnings brought back memories of civil rights-era violence.

"We can now confirm all three of these fires are intentionally set, and all three of these fires are related", Browning said. In times like these, it is important for us to remember the words from John 15:12: "'My command is this: "Love each other as I have loved you.' I'm asking the people of Louisiana to follow this teaching and join their prayers to mine as we love and support these congregations".

"Right now we are just making sure we gather all the facts", said the Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge, Eric Rommal.

The churches were empty at the time, and no one was injured.

"There is clearly something happening in this community", Browning said in a statement last week.

Pressed on the possible "black metal link, Browning said: "We believe there is a relation there with that. It's still under investigation", Richard said". "I was reassured that law enforcement is on our side".

The suspect was arrested on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and although there are sighs of relief there are also calls for strong charges against Matthews.

A red petrol can recovered at one of the churches was sold at Walmart locations, and the company's investigators found that the same type of petrol can, automotive cloths and a lighter were bought March 25 at a store in Opelousas.

Holden Matthews, 21, was booked into the St. Landry Parish Jail on three counts of simple arson of a religious building.

The deputy then helped facilitate his son's arrest by getting him to an area where police could detain him "without incident", Sheriff Guidroz said. Documents say the debit card used to buy the items belonged to Matthews.

To make matters even more alarming, the young man in custody is the son of a St. Landry deputy, the town where the crimes took place.

"I love Roy Matthews", Guidroz said. He did not elaborate.

A news conference was scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, according to the Louisiana fire marshal's office.

The Democrat said the alleged arson was perpetrated by a "depraved individual", adding: "Hate is not a Louisiana value". "It is not a reflection on the state of Louisiana". For decades, African-American churches have served as the epicenter of survival and a symbol of hope for many in the African-American community.

Authorities said they arrested Matthews within 24 hours of identifying him and moved quickly out of fear he would strike another church.

"My church has a lot of history".

Matthews commented on memes about the far-right political activist and black metal music icon Varg Vikernes who was convicted in 1994 for burning three churches in Norway.

Black metal music, an extreme subgenre of heavy metal, often contains references to Satanism and pagan beliefs. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas were torched. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas were burned.

Three Baptist churches in rural St Landry Parish, about 100 miles north-west of New Orleans, burned between 26 March and 4 April. Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas respectively caught fire, according to a statement from the State Fire Marshal's Office. All that was left of what looked to have been an upright piano was the lattice-work of steel strings.

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