ST. LANDRY PARISH, LA (KLFY) – An arrest has been announced in the investigation of suspicious church fires.
The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, in collaboration with the ATF, FBI, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and several other local agencies have been investigating the incidents.
The state fire marshal’s office held a Thursday morning news conference to discuss the latest in the investigation.
The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office released the following release in regards to the arrest made in the church fires:
An Opelousas man has been taken into custody in connection with arson fires at three churches in St. Landry Parish.
Holden Matthews, 21, was booked into the St. Landry Parish Jail on three counts of Simple Arson of a Religious Building.
On March 26, a fire was reported at the St. Mary Baptist Church in the 100 block of Saqueget Road in Port Barre. On April 2, a fire was reported at the Greater Union Baptist Church in the 1400 block of Hwy 742 in Opelousas. On April 4, a fire was reported at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the 3900 block of Highway 182 in Opelousas.
Investigators have determined all three fires were intentionally set. Several pieces of evidence, both from the scenes and from technological resources, have confirmed Matthews as the primary suspect.
At this time, the investigative team is still vetting several potential motives. However, information investigators have uncovered, and that Matthews has offered, suggests a possible connection with a genre of music called “black metal” and its associated history with church burnings in other parts of the world, which have been documented in movies and books. Any questions as to the potential motives of hate are continuing to be vetted by federal authorities.
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.
“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.”
The SFM would also like to thank the community for its patience and cooperation with this investigation.
Here’s the timeline of events that unfolded leading up to this moment:
The first chruch fire occurred on March 26th at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, the second at Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2nd, and the third on April 4th at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas.
After three consecutive fires happening in the same parish within days, law enforcement officials began to suspect arson as a possible cause. This prompted an investigation to find evidence of foul play in connection to these incidents.
Before long, St. Landry Parish Deputy Roy Matthews surrendered his son, 21 year old Holden Matthews, to authorities on April 10th in connection to the fires.