NewsSt. Landry Parish

Actions

Federal sentencing for St. Landry Parish church arsonist continued to Monday

Posted at 8:35 AM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 19:15:04-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — Federal sentencing for the man who burned down three, historically black churches in St. Landry Parish is on hold once again.

23-year-old Holden Matthews pled guilty in February to state and federal charges. Matthews admitted that, between March 26 and April 4, 2019, he intentionally set fire to Greater Union, Mt. Pleasant and St. Mary Baptist Churches.

Matthews' sentencing is delayed yet again because new evidence has surfaced. It's unclear what that evidence is, but he could be sentenced to six or seven years in prision and pay restitution to the victims in the amount of $2,660,547.30.

Sheryl Richard, a member of Greater Union Baptist Church said, "We're going to be patient, we're going to wait and we're going to continue to have faith in God."

Richard was one of several who gave a victim impact statement and talked directly to Matthews.

"I can only hope that he heard and he felt what we had to say today," Richard said.

"Some believe you should receive the death penalty, some want to kill you themselves and others believe your punishment today will not be enough," said Kyle Sylvester, a pastor at St. Mary Baptist Church.

While it was emotional for many members of the congregation to face Matthews, they also shared their memories of their churches.

Pastor Freddie Jack, president of the 7th District Missionary Baptist Association said, "It was a history in itself being shared with others who do not know what when on while it was still there before the burning."

Richard said, "We have not stopped praying for him ever since that night that everything took place for us."

According to the St. Landry Parish Clerk of Court, Matthews' state sentencing has also been continued from Friday, but a new court date has not yet been set for that hearing.

------------------------------------------------------------

3:00 p.m. UPDATE: A federal judge has issued a continuance in the sentencing of Holden Matthews due to new evidence being introduced to the court on Friday. The court is in recess until 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2.

According to the St. Landry Parish Clerk of Court, Matthews' state sentencing has also been continued from Friday, but a new court date has not yet been set for that hearing.

------------------------------------------------------------

1:00 pm UPDATE: For much of the morning, Holden Matthews heard victim impact statements from members of the three churches that were burned down last year.

Matthews' federal sentence could include between 70 - 87 months, or 6 - 7 years in prison, and a total restitution to the victims in the amount of $2,660,547.30.

Many of the witnesses who testified Friday shared their memories at their churches and others directing their comments directly to Matthews.

Many expressed forgiveness and prayers for him. Some described how they got the early morning call that their church was on fire.

“Some believe you should receive the death penalty, some want to kill you themselves and others believe your punishment today will not be enough,” said Kyle Sylvester, a pastor at St. Mary Baptist Church.

Right now, court is in recess until about 1:00. The defense will present a witness before the judge issues Matthews sentence.

That witness is Dr. Mary Kelly, a clinical psychologist, who will give testimony on Matthews' mental condition.

------------------------------------------------------------

The 23-year-old man who pleaded guilty to burning three historically Black St. Landry Parish churches will be sentenced Friday.

Holden Matthews is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court first before being sentenced on state charges in St. Landry Parish.

Matthews was scheduled to be sentenced in federal and state court on Friday, October 16, but sentencing was rescheduled to Friday, October 30.

Matthews pled guilty in February to state and federal charges.

Four of the six charges against him in federal court include one count of using fire to commit a felony and three counts of intentional damage to religious property. The latter charges are what is known as the Church Arson Prevention Act.

Matthews faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a statutory maximum sentence of 70 years in prison.

Matthews admitted that, between March 26 and April 4, 2019, he intentionally set fire to three Baptist churches with predominantly African-American congregations in the Opelousas area.

You can read more of KATC's coverage of this case here.

------------------------------------------------------------
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.

To reach the newsroom or report a typo/correction, click HERE.

Download our free app for Apple, Android, Roku and Amazon devices.

Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Evening News Headlines, Latest COVID-19 Headlines, Morning News Headlines, Special Offers

Alexa's Daily Flash Briefing

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Instagram

Subscribe to our Youtube channel