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Louisiana church arson suspect arrested

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 4/11/19, 12:45 pm

Authorities in Louisiana have arrested a man suspected of burning down three rural African American churches in the state. Holden Matthews, a 21-year-old white man, faces three state charges of simple arson of a religious building. Federal investigators are looking into whether race motived the crimes. The first fire burned St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, La., last month. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, La., were set ablaze. Each was more than 100 years old.

At a news conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the fires had stirred concern across the nation: “It has been especially painful because it reminds us of a very dark past of intimidation and fear.” State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said investigators were confident they found the person responsible for the crimes. “This community is safe again,” he said.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz confirmed that the suspect was the son of a deputy. Guidroz said the father knew nothing of his son’s involvement and broke down over the arrest, which he helped facilitate by getting Matthews away from home.


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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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