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Prosecutors have now added hate crime charges against the suspect in three recent fires that destroyed African-American churches in Louisiana.
Twenty-one-year-old Holden Matthews, who is white, pleaded not guilty at a Monday court hearing. He was ordered held without bond.
Three black churches were torched in 10 days. Two were in the city of Opelousas. Another was in a nearby town.
“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,” the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal said in a statement posted to Facebook on April 11.
Matthews is the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff's deputy. He was arrested Wednesday on three charges of arson of a religious building. The three additional hate crimes charges — one for each blaze — were added Monday.
Authorities at Monday's hearing also outlined new evidence that prosecutors say ties Matthews to the crimes.
Authorities said that they’re still looking into possible motives, though they’ve insinuated that Matthews’ ties to Norwegian black metal may offer insight.
"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,” The fire marshal’s office said.
Varg Vikernes, arguably the most notorious church arsonist associated with black metal, gained notoriety in the 1990s for murdering a former bandmate and setting three churches ablaze, according to the Guardian.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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