Federal hate crime charges filed against Louisiana church burning suspect

Holden Matthews (St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office)
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LAFAYETTE, La. (WAFB/Gray News) - The man accused of intentionally setting fires that destroyed three African American churches in St. Landry Parish has been formally charged in federal court.

On June 6 a federal grand jury in Lafayette indicted Holden Matthews, 21, on three counts of intentional damage to religious property and three counts of using fire to commit a felony.

The three churches were burned down in a 10-day span in March and April.

Matthews, the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy, was arrested on April 11 after an extensive investigation by the ATF, FBI, Louisiana State Fire Marshal, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Landry Parish District Attorney’s Office, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Cybercrime Unit, and the Florida State Fire Marshal.

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.

RELATED:Former Saints player pitching in to help raise $1.8M for destroyed churches in Louisiana.

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