Three church fires attributed to arson were reported in St. Landry Parish in the months of March and April. The suspect, Holden Matthews, 21, of Opelousas, La., has been booked on three counts of simple arson of a religious building.

The fires, which have since been determined to have been set intentionally, happened on March 26, at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre. Also, on April 2, at the Greater Union Baptist Church, and April 4, at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, both located in Opelousas.

According to a media release from Ashley Rodrigue, Public Affairs Director at the
State Fire Marshal's Office, investigators found evidence at the scene that confirmed Matthews was responsible for setting the fires. As authorities continue to determine the motive, they have obtained information from Matthews that points at a possible connection to a genre of music called black metal. The genre has a history with church burnings around the world, and has been documented in movies and books. Federal authorities are still working to determine the motive.

“I am so proud of the teamwork that has returned a sense of security to this community by determining a cause for these fires and putting the person responsible for them behind bars,” said State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning, “I, and all of the investigators involved in this, have been emotionally committed to this case, not only because of the significance of these churches, but also the threat of additional fires. This outcome goes to show what happens when well-oiled public safety partnerships pay dividends. I can never give total condolences to these church communities for the losses of their places of worship. However, I hope this begins to help their healing.'

Holden is currently in the St. Landry Parish Jail.

"The collaboration on this case was comprised of around 100 individuals primarily from the SFM, ATF, FBI and Louisiana State Police. Additionally, assistance was provided by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and several other local law enforcement and fire agencies. The SFM is also grateful to the Florida Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives Investigations for sending a team to participate in the investigation."

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