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Deputy's son arrested, accused of setting fire to three historically black Louisiana churches


Officials are investigating whether the alleged arsons were motivated by hate

Image source: KATC-TV video screenshot

The son of a Louisiana sheriff's deputy was arrested and brought up on arson charges Wednesday, accused of intentionally torching three historically black churches over a 10-day span.

What are the details?

KATC-TV reported the 21-year-old suspect is Holden Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish Deputy. Authorities say Matthews is linked to the March 26 fire at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, the April 2 fire at Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, and the April 4 fire at nearby Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

Pastor Harry Richard of the Greater Union Baptist Church was happy to hear of the arrest, telling The Washington Post, "I felt relieved knowing that our congregation didn't have to worry anymore. They are my main concern. I was reassured that law enforcement was on our side."

State Fire Marshal H. "Butch" Browning told reporters physical evidence and video surveillance footage led investigators to believe the suspect set the fires intentionally, The Post reported. Browning noted that each of the three arson charges against Matthews carry a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

According to the New York Post, "the areas where the churches are located are predominately black," while Matthews is white. The NAACP released a statement saying the attacks were acts of racially motivated "domestic terrorism."

CBS News reported that authorities have not yet developed a motive.

Anything else?

Previous rumors claimed Matthews' father, Deputy Roy Matthews, took his own son into custody in connection with the crimes. Authorities said that was not true, but that the elder Matthews did "help facilitate" in Holden's arrest by directing the suspect away from his home to an area where deputies could safely make their approach.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said Deputy Matthews had no idea of his son's alleged involvement in the crimes prior to the sheriff informing him. The father reportedly "broke down" upon learning the news.

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