ST. LANDRY PARISH, La. (KLFY) – Officials have confirmed the arrest of a 21-year-old man in connection to three fires that destroyed rural historically black Baptist churches.
Flanked by local and state officials, Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed the suspect as Holden Matthews. St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said Matthews is the son of a St. Landry Parish deputy.
Holden was booked into the St. Landry Parish Jail on three counts of simple arson of a religious building. He faces up to 15 years of prison for each charge. No bond has been set.
The motive behind the burnings is still unknown, that officials alluded to possible hate-related crimes.
“Nobody should fear for their house of worship,” the governor said, calling the crimes an “act of evil.”
“I don’t know what this young man’s motive was. I don’t know this man’s heart.”
The governor added that the crimes were “not a reflection of Louisiana.”
Matthews is believed to be the only suspect in this investigation, which remains ongoing, state Fire Marshal Butch Browning said. A music genre “black metal” may part of the 21-year-old’s motive, Browning said.
“Again, I will say the threat is now gone,” the official said.
Investigators said evidence suggests a “possible connection” the music genre, which reportedly has a history associated with “church burnings in other parts of the world, which have been documented in movies and books,” the Fire Marshal’s Office said is a statement released today.
“Any questions as to the potential motives of hate are continuing to be vetted by federal authorities,” the agency said.
The collaboration on this case was comprised of the following agencies: 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,” the agency said.
Watch the full press conference below: