Louisiana man Holden Matthews has pleaded guilty to burning down three churches in an effort to raise his profile as a black metal musician by copying similar crimes committed in Norway in the 1990s.
Matthews, 22, pleaded guilty on February 10 in the Western District of Louisiana to intentionally setting fire to three Baptist churches.
At the plea hearing, Matthews admitted that, between March 26 and April 4, 2019, he intentionally set fire to three Baptist churches in the Opelousas, Louisiana area.
Matthews will be sentenced on May 22 and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a statutory maximum sentence of 70 years in prison.
First, on March 26, 2019, Matthews set fire to St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Louisiana.
Next, on April 2, 2019, Matthews set fire to the Greater Union Baptist Church, in Opelousas, Louisiana.
Then, on April 4, 2019, Matthews set fire to the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana.
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.
Matthews further admitted that, after setting the third fire, he posted photographs and videos on Facebook that showed the first two churches burning.
Matthews admitted that he had taken these photographs and videos in real time on his cell phone, as he watched those churches burn, and that he had posted them to Facebook in an effort to promote himself in the black metal community.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said the The Department of Justice would continue to protect parishioners and condemned Matthews’ “disgraceful” behaviour.
“The Department of Justice will remain unwavering in its protection of the freedom to practice religion without the threat of discrimination or violence,” he said.
“Matthews admitted to setting fire to three churches because of their religious character.
“His disgraceful conduct violated the civil rights of the church’s parishioners and harmed their communities.”