The Prime Suspect In The Burnings Of 3 Historical Black Churches Is The Son Of A Louisiana Sheriff's Deputy

There are disputes as to whether or not the suspect's father turned him in.

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| April 12 2019,

00:01 am

Authorities in Louisiana have identified the son of a local sheriff's deputy as the prime suspect connected to three fires at historically Black churches. 

The alleged culprit is 21-year-old Holden Matthews, son of deputy Roy Matthews, KATC reports. In about 10 days, a fire was set to three predominantly Black churches in the St. Landry Parish.

The first fire occurred on March 26 at the St. Mary Baptist Church. The second took place at Greater Union Baptist Church on April 2 and the last on April 4 at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. At the time of the fires, no member of any of the three churches' congregations was inside. A fourth fire was reported in Caddo Parish on March 31, but authorities are not sure if it is connected to the others. 

According to CBS News, the suspect was a resident of the parish. He was arrested Wednesday on three counts of simple arson of a religious building. Each of the three charges carries a 15-year prison sentence.

Multiple reports suggest Roy turned in his son to authorities, but St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told KATC those reports are false. At the time of the fires, no member of any of the three churches' congregations was inside.  

The recent attacks on the historic churches have put the community on high alert. Some of the churches were reportedly well over 100 years old. Extra security measures were put into effect to ensure the safety of the congregations.  

"There's still people that need to be helped, there's still ministry that has to be done, so we can't let this setback stop us from doing what God has initially called us to do," St. Mary's Baptist Church Pastor Kyle Sylvester told CBS News. 

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Very little is known about the suspected arsonist. According to his Facebook profile, he was in a band and member of several Facebook groups where he learned about different cultures.

The Daily Beast notes Holden commented on two memes about Varg Vikernes, the former neo-Nazi metal musician was sentenced to 15 years in prison for setting fires at three Norway churches. He also fatally stabbed a guitarist. Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people, was reportedly inspired by Vikernes. 

U.S. Attorney David Joseph released a statement praising the efforts of the FBI, ATF and other agencies for bringing Holden to justice. 

“A suspect has been identified in connection with the three church burnings in Opelousas, Louisiana, and is in state custody," he said. "The U.S. Attorney’s Office, ATF, and FBI are working with state and local law enforcement and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the victims and those St. Landry Parish residents affected by these despicable acts." 

Fire officials have yet to confirm a motive behind the incidents.

As for the St. Landry community, Sunday church service will continue as planned. A GoFundMe campaign was launched to benefit the churches.  

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