21-year-old Holden Matthews of Louisiana was charged with hate crimes on Monday (April 15), after being accused of setting fire to three predominantly black churches in southern Louisiana.
Per The New York Times, Holden reportedly set fire to the churches over a 10-day span. The son of a deputy sheriff, he pleaded not guilty to his charges and was not granted bond. The Associated Press also reports that the hate crime charges are added to the three charges of arson filed last week after the attacks occurred.
“At a news conference last week, the authorities announced Mr. Matthews’s arrest and the initial charges of three counts of simple arson of a church building. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said at the time that although he did not know the motivation behind the fires, ‘these were evil acts,’” the Times reports.
The attacks occurred in St. Landry Parrish, “a rural area in the heart of Cajun and Creole country.” The three churches– St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church– were empty when Matthews started the fires with gasoline.
According to authorities, there may be a connection between church burnings and black metal, a genre of metal music that Matthews participated in. Since the ‘90s, there have been numerous arson attacks on churches by members and fans of the black metal scene.