KEY POINTS

  • Holden Matthews was arrested for burning African American churches
  • Black metal is closely associated with burning churches
  • Matthews addressed the court at sentencing to declare his remorse

A man in Louisiana received a 25-year sentence Monday after being convicted for setting three African American churches on fire.

Holden Matthews burned three churches; St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, NBC News reported. The acts were carried out over ten days in 2019, between March 26 and April 4. The three churches were all in St. Landry Parish.

Matthews was later arrested and pleaded guilty to the state and federal charges. He was charged with three counts of arson on religious structures and three hate crime charges.

The 23-year-old claimed he did it to boost his standing in the Black Metal community. Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music that has previously been linked with burning churches in other parts of the world, Reuters reported.

Matthews also publicly admitted to burning the churches and kept images and videos of the arson on his phone, according to CBS News.

In addition to the sentence, Judge Robert Summerhays also ordered him to pay $2.7 million in restitution to the burned churches.

He claimed that even though Matthew’s acts were not driven by race, they had brought fear during a "dark time in history" concerning race relations.

Judge Summerhays did give him credit for the 18 months he served since his arrest, so Matthews will only serve 23.5 years in prison.

Upon release, he is mandated to participate in mental health and substance abuse treatment and register as an arsonist. He will also need to refrain from the possession of illegal substances and any criminal activity.

Addressing the courts and the congregants for the first time since his arrest, Matthews stated that he was deeply sorry for what he did. He also wanted the church communities to know that he found his faith in God again.

During his sentencing, he said, “There are not enough words in the English language to say how sorry I am. If I could go back and change it I would. I not only have hurt my real family and friends but I have hurt my brothers and sisters in Christ," the Advocate newspaper reported.

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