Four days before his arrest in connection with the three Louisiana Baptist church fires, Holden Matthews expressed disgust with Baptist beliefs on Facebook, CNN has learned.
Responding to a post about “afrikan spirituality,” Matthews, posting under the name Noctis Matthews, said he cannot “stand all these baptists around here, bunch of brainwashed people trying to find happiness in a religion that was forced on their ancestors just as it was on mine.”
In the posting, Matthews said he wished that, “more blacks [sic] people would look into ancient beliefs of pre Christian Africa.”
An acquaintance, Nygyl Bryyn, confirmed to CNN the profile and alias is that of Holden Matthews. He says his friend is not racist and believes the churches were, “victims of circumstances.”
All three churches authorities say Matthews burned down were black Baptist churches in the heart of south central Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole country.
The suspect is the 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy and may have been influenced by “black metal” music and its “associated history with church burnings,” the state fire marshal’s office said.
CNN reached out to Matthews’ lawyer and the prosecutor’s office but have not yet received a response. When CNN asked authorities if they were aware of the posting, they said because the investigation was ongoing they would not detail any particular leads they are following.
While the motive is still under investigation, authorities said that Matthews’ interest in black metal music may have influenced his behavior.
Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that typically takes on anti-Christian, satanic and pagan themes.
The black metal songs typically have a fast tempo and feature shrieking vocals, heavily distorted guitars and unconventional song structures.
A song from the suspect’s band, Pagan Carnage, referenced church burnings.
The day after police say Matthews burned down St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, a video was posted on his band’s YouTube page of his song, “Diabolical Soul Feast.”
“The holy church is now destroyed,” Matthews screams in the final lyrics of the song. “Burning down in Odin’s name.”
Bryyn says that Matthews writes and performs the song.
The motive for the fires is still under investigation, and federal officials are looking into whether a hate crime was committed. Matthews is charged with three counts of simple arson on a religious building.
Greater Union was among three historically black churches in rural St. Landry Parish, west of Baton Rouge, that police said were intentionally torched over a 10-day span.
St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, located about six miles southeast of Greater Union, burned first on March 26. Greater Union Baptist was set ablaze on April 2. Mount Pleasant Baptist Church burned on April 4.
By Paul P. Murphy and Samira Said, CNN