Prosecutors: Deputy’s son sent friends videos of St. Landry Parish churches burning

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OPELOUSAS, La. (Ashley White/The Advertiser)- After setting fire to St. Mary Baptist Church, Holden Matthews messaged friends with video of the burning building and suggested he might burn more, according to evidence prosecutors presented Monday in federal court.

The 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputy is accused of burning three historically black churches in St. Landry Parish over a 10-day span. He has been indicted on federal charges of using fire to commit a felony and of intentional damage to religious property, which are hate crimes under the Church Arson Prevention Act. He also faces state hate crime and arson charges. 

In a detention hearing that lasted nearly two hours Monday, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued Matthews should remain in federal custody in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center because he is a danger to the community and a flight risk. A federal magistrate agreed, ordering Matthews to remain in federal custody after last week’s indictment, The Advertiser reported. 

Read The Advertiser’s full story

One video presented as evidence, time-stamped at 2:20 a.m. and taken at St. Mary, shows the church engulfed in flames, pans to its signage, then back to the raging fire. In another video that shows St. Mary burning, Matthews names a friend and says, “We did it,” testified Robert Bodin, special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Matthews also reportedly superimposed himself in front of two of the burned churches, Bodin said. The photos resemble album covers with his one-man band’s name, “Pagan Carnage,” in the corner.

In some photos of the burned churches, he placed a photo of himself wearing a black robe with white and black face paint while holding a knife, The Advertiser reported. 

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