Holden Matthews, 22, who pleaded guilty to setting fire to three historically black churches in Louisiana in 2019, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for his crimes, ABC News reports.
Matthews, son of Deputy Sheriff of St. Landry Parish Roy Matthews, has been charged with three cases of willful damage to religious property and three cases of fire in the commission of a crime. The former is considered a hate crime under the Church Arson Prevention Act, according to the Justice Department.
According to federal prosecutors, Matthews admitted that because of the “religious nature of these buildings” and his love of black metal, a musical genre with “roots in the Norwegian heavy metal scene that reportedly inspired several churches to set fires in Burns this country in the early nineties. “
As ESSENCE previously reported, between March 26 and April 4, Matthews set fire to St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas.
There is a long history of white supremacist attacks on black churches, including the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four black girls amid the civil rights movement – Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair – and Addie’s sister Sarah Collins seriously injured.
In 2015, black churches burned in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee in the weeks following the terrorist attack on Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC that killed 9 people.