A 22-year-old man has pleaded guilty to intentionally setting fire to three African-American churches in the US state of Louisiana.
Holden Matthews admitted in court to setting fires to St. Mary Baptist Church Greater Union Baptist and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church over a 10-day period in March and April 2019. All three churches are historically black and in the St. Landry Parish, which is nearly 42 percent black.
Federal prosecutors did not specify whether there was a racial element to Matthews’s crimes, but hate crimes were among the charges he pleaded guilty to.
Matthews pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the Church Arson Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 247(a)(1) — one count for each church — as well as one count of using fire to commit a federal felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(h). The fires completely destroyed each of the church buildings.
Each church was razed to the ground by the fires Matthews lit, prosecutors said. No-one was injured, as it was the middle of the night.
As a member of a black metal band, Matthews told prosecutors he believed the acts would elevate his status.
He admitted to posting pictures and videos of the church burnings to Facebook “in an effort to promote himself in the black metal community.”