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Suspect in black church fires charged with hate crimes

The Associated Press

Opelousas, La. – Prosecutors have now added hate crime charges against the white suspect in three recent arson fires that destroyed African American churches in Louisiana.

Twenty-one-year-old Holden Matthews pleaded not guilty at a Monday court hearing. He was ordered to be held without bond.

Three black churches were torched in 10 days. Two were in the city of Opelousas. Another was in a nearby town.

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 a litany of new evidence that prosecutors say ties Matthews to the crimes.