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Deputy’s Son Charged in Black Church Fires

Holden Matthews

A suspect in arson fires at three black South Louisiana churches last month is a local deputy sheriff’s son.

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Wednesday on three counts of simple arson for fires over a span of 10 days that destroyed predominantly black churches in St. Landry Parish, La. The fires were set on March 26, April 2, and April 4, and destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, respectively.

Matthews is currently in police custody and has been charged with three counts of simple arson on a religious building. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years.

Church burnings were a common occurrence in the South during the Jim Crow era.

“For decades, African-American churches have served as the epicenter of survival and a symbol of hope for many in the African-American community,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “As a consequence, these houses of faith have historically been targets of violence.”


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