‘I practice what I preach’: La. church burning suspect photographed fires for black metal album art

‘I practice what I preach’: La. church burning suspect photographed fires for black metal album art
(Source: WVUE)

ST. LANDRY PARISH, La. (WAFB) - Holden Matthews, the man accused of setting fire to three historic black churches in St. Landry Parish, took photographs of his crimes as they occurred on his cell phone, then used the images to create album covers for his black metal band, federal prosecutors said Monday, according to The Advocate.

Prosecutors showed images of the massive fires recovered from Matthews’ phone, along with edited versions that included superimposed images of Matthews in robes, face paint, and holding a knife, The Advocate reports. The edited versions included a logo for his one-man black metal band, Pagan Carnage.

Prosecutors say Matthews bragged about the fires and asked for feedback on the album covers in a series of Facebook messages during the 10-day span in which three churches were completely destroyed in Opelousas and Port Barre.

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In the Facebook messages, Matthews included song lyrics about burning churches.

"I ain't no damn poser," Matthews wrote to a friend. "I practice what I preach."

Matthews was indicted on three counts of intentionally damaging religious property, which is classified as a hate crime. He also faces three counts of using fires to commit felonies, as well as state charges in St. Landry Parish.

This booking image released by the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal shows Holden Matthews, 21, who was arrested Thursday, April 11, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana. Matthews faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building on the state charges. Federal investigators also were looking into whether hate motivated the fires. (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal via AP)
This booking image released by the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal shows Holden Matthews, 21, who was arrested Thursday, April 11, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana. Matthews faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building on the state charges. Federal investigators also were looking into whether hate motivated the fires. (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal via AP)

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Matthews wrote to friends on Facebook that he wanted to exact revenge on the Christian religion for "centuries of oppression," a belief popular in the Scandinavian origins of black metal music.

"I want them to be scared," he wrote.

Matthews pleaded not guilty to all federal charges, but, according to The Advocate, his lawyer admitted the evidence against Matthews is strong.

If convicted, Matthews faces a maximum term of 20 years in jail 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.

A scheduling conference to set a trial date is set for Thursday.

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