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A 23-year-old man arrested for burning down three separate churches in a ten-day period in 2019, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison. Holden James Matthews was also ordered to pay nearly $2.7 million to the churches. He pleaded guilty in federal court in February to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act and to one count of using fire to commit a felony. Matthews, who plead guilty to the crimes back in February, was said to have committed the arsons to gain a higher profile as a black metal musician.

After the sentencing on Monday, November 2nd, Governor John Bell Edwards released a statement about the crimes committed by the young man:

“Hate is not a Louisiana value, and decimating three historically African American churches is beyond disturbing,” said Gov. Edwards. “The same would be true of any place of worship. What Holden Matthews confessed to doing has deeply impacted many lives and threatened the sense of security of members of St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. I pray he truly understands the depth of the pain he has caused. We are all inspired by the continued strength and resilience of the pastors, congregations and community that pulled together after such terrible losses. Everyone involved in assisting in this case is to be commended for their work and commitment to seeing justice served.”

The loss of the three churches dealt a great blow to the African American community in St. Landry Parish, and they are still working to rebuild the damage left by the fires.

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