Louisiana Fire Marshall Butch Browning (pictured above) said Thursday at a press conference that the suspected arsonist, Holden Matthews, behind a series of recent church fires is believed to have been motivated by “black metal music,” which has a “history of church burnings.”
“We are still vetting several motives, however we do have information investigators uncovered and that Matthews had offered, connecting him to black metal music,” Browning said. “It has an association in history with church burnings in other parts of the world.”
Browning declined to elaborate further, saying that the investigation is still “extremely active” but that federal authorities will take the lead on determining if the arson was a hate crime. “A hate motive is in the federal nexus,” he said.
Browning may have been referring to a sub-genre of black metal music called “national socialist black metal,” identified on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website as “extreme music” often bent to white nationalist and neo-Nazi causes.
Matthews, a 21-year-old white man from St. Landry Parish, the same area where the three historically black churches were burned, is also the son of a local police deputy.
St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz, clad in a black tie emblazoned with gray handguns, dismissed any rumors that Matthews’ father, Roy, had a hand in his son’s arrest.
“Holden Matthews’ father did not turn him in,” Guidroz said. “He was shocked and hurt as any father would be.”
“I love Roy Matthews — he’s one of my best friends,” Guidroz added. “He knew nothing about his son’s activities.”
Though the investigation is ongoing, Browning said that “we are extremely, unequivocally confident that we have the man responsible for these crimes,” adding that the quick arrest “averted what possibly could have been other crimes.”
Matthews has been charged with three counts of simple arson of a religious building, eliciting a maximum punishment of 15 years in jail.