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St. Landry church fires suspect indicted in federal court

Posted: 12:37 PM, Jun 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-12 13:37:18-04

Federal officials today unsealed an indictment against Holden Matthews , the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy who is accused of the arsons that destroyed three St. Landry Parish churches.

Matthews, 21, was indicted by a federal grand jury on six counts: three counts of intentional damage to a religious facility, and three counts using fire to commit a felony.

If convicted, Matthews faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years per count of intentional damage to religious property. Matthews faces an additional mandatory minimum of 10 years for the first count of using fire to commit a felony and 20 years for the subsequent counts, all to run consecutively. He also faces up to three
years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and restitution for each of the counts.

He also faces an indictment in St. Landry Parish, accusing him of  two counts simple arson, one count aggravated arson and three counts hate crimes. He’s being held without bond on those charges.

“Attacks against an individual or group because of their religious beliefs will not be tolerated in the Western District of Louisiana,” U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph stated. “Churches are vital places of worship and fellowship for our citizens and bind us together as a community. Our freedom to safely congregate in these churches and
exercise our religious beliefs must be jealously guarded. Today we are one step closer to justice for the parishioners of these churches and the St. Landry Parish communities affected by these acts. My office will continue to work diligently with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute any type of hate crime.”

The ATF, FBI, Louisiana State Fire Marshal, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Landry Parish District Attorney’s Office, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Cybercrime Unit, and the Florida State Fire Marshal conducted the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dominic Rossetti and John Luke Walker, along with Trial Attorney Risa Berkower of the Justice Department’s Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, are prosecuting the case.

To read our stories about how the churches are recovering, click here .

Here’s the indictment if you’d like to read it for yourself: