Following a change in plea in federal court on Monday and the entering of a guilty plea in state court in connection with criminal cases against Holden Matthews, the suspect in the 2019 St. Landry church fires, Governor John Bel Edwards and State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning released the following statements:
“These unthinkable acts deprived three church communities of not only their places of worship, but their sense of security. Holden Matthews’ actions came from a place of hate and intolerance and the charges he has pled guilty to speak to the serious and sickening nature of his crimes.
I have often said that hate is not a Louisiana value. I have visited and prayed with the congregations of St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the aftermath of these fires and saw unshakable faith and strength in the midst of tragedy and beautiful love and forgiveness spring forth from pain. I ask that the people of our state continue to pray for and support these three churches as they rebuild and continue their missions.
I also thank the hundreds of members of law enforcement, including the State Fire Marshal’s office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice, Louisiana State Police, the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, the St. Landry District Attorney’s office and others who assisted in this case.” Governor John Bel Edwards.
“This is a win for faith. Today’s guilty plea is a validation of the hard work our agency, Sheriff Bobby Guidroz and his deputies, state and federal partners put into this case. It’s also an opportunity for closure and continued healing for the affected church communities.” State Fire Marshal H. “Butch” Browning.