By Bassel Barakat
A white man accused of burning three Louisiana black churches in southern Louisiana parish was charged on Monday with hate crimes.
Holden Matthews, 21 — son of a deputy sheriff — entered a not guilty plea on Monday and was not granted bond after he got arrested on Wednesday. However, prosecutors added new charges declaring the arsons hate crime.
“There is a substantial amount of evidence, it appears,” state District Judge James Doherty said before denying Matthews’ bond request, keeping him in jail.
The blazing fires devastated the three predominantly black churches that had existed for more than thousand years. The churches are considered to be the spiritual homes of black families.
Matthew’s arrest was announced by authorities at a news conference last week as well as the charges of three counts of simple arson of a church building. “These were evil acts.” said Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana.
According to authorities, Matthews was a member of a black metal band which is considered to have a possible connection to the incident. Black metal is a genre of music linker to church burnings.
The additional hate crime charges was filed on Monday by Earl Taylor, the district attorney for St. Landry Parish.
St. Landry Parish attorney refused to give a comment on the new charges.
“He actually superimposed himself on those news reports, claiming responsibility for these fires,” Browning said. “The evidence we have was unequivocal,” Browning said. Later he added: “He has clearly demonstrated the characteristics of a pathological fire setter.”
The churches were empty when Matthews sat up the fire, and no one was injured. But at one of the three churches, two occupants of a nearby home had to evacuate when the siding on the home started to catch fire from the church, the AP reported.
The incidents occurred on March 26, April 2 and April 4. The first fire was at St. Mary Baptist Church in the Port Barre while the others were at Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the city of Opelousas.