OFFICE OF LOUISIANA STATE FIRE MARSHAL
Department of Public Safety & Corrections • Public Safety Services
ST. LANDRY PARISH- An Opelousas man has been taken into custody in connection with arson fires at
three churches in St. Landry Parish.
Holden Matthews, 21, was booked into the St. Landry Parish Jail on three counts of Simple Arson of a
On March 26, a fire was reported at the St. Mary Baptist Church in the 100 block of Saqueget Road in Port
Barre. On April 2, a fire was reported at the Greater Union Baptist Church in the 1400 block of Hwy 742 in
Opelousas. On April 4, a fire was reported at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the 3900 block of
Highway 182 in Opelousas.
Investigators have determined all three fires were intentionally set. Several pieces of evidence, both from
the scenes and from technological resources, have confirmed Matthews as the primary suspect.
At this time, the investigative team is still vetting several potential motives. However, information
investigators have uncovered, and that Matthews has offered, suggests a possible connection with a genre
of music called “black metal” and its associated history with church burnings in other parts of the world,
which have been documented in movies and books. Any questions as to the potential motives of hate are
continuing to be vetted by federal authorities.
The collaboration on this case was comprised of around 100 individuals primarily from the SFM, ATF, FBI
and Louisiana State Police. Additionally, assistance was provided by the Louisiana Attorney General’s
Office, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office and several other local law enforcement and fire agencies. The SFM
is also grateful to the Florida Bureau of Fire, Arson and Explosives Investigations for sending a team to
participate in the investigation.
“I am so proud of the team work that has returned a sense of security to this community by determining a
cause for these fires and putting the person responsible for them behind bars,” said State Fire Marshal H.
“Butch” Browning, “I, and all of the investigators involved in this, have been emotionally committed to this
case, not only because of the significance of these churches, but also the threat of additional fires. This
outcome goes to show what happens when well-oiled public safety partnerships pay dividends. I can never
give total condolences to these church communities for the losses of their places of worship. However, I
hope this begins to help their healing.”
The SFM would also like to thank the community for its patience and cooperation with this investigation.