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Holden Matthews, 22, the man who pleaded guilty to setting fire to three historically Black churches in Louisiana in 2019, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his crimes, ABC News reports.
Matthews, son of St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy Roy Matthews, was charged with three counts of intentional damage to religious property and three counts of using fire to commit a felony. The former qualifies as a hate crime under the Church Arson Prevention Act, according to the Department of Justice.
According to federal prosecutors, Matthews admitted to setting the fires because of the “religious character of these buildings” and because of his love for Black Metal, a music genre with “roots in the Norwegian heavy metal scene that reportedly was the inspiration of several church burnings in that country in the early 1990s.”
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 Ku Klux Klan bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, which killed four Black girls in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement—Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair—and seriously injured Addie’s sister Sarah Collins.
In 2015, Black churches in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee burned in the weeks following the terrorist attack on Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. that killed 9 people.