The new charges were revealed Monday, per an Associated Press report. That same day, Matthews pleaded not guilty via a jail livestream. Originally arrested on arson charges, Matthews now faces an additional charge for each church alleging he broke state hate crime law. Federal hate crime and arson charges could also be forthcoming.
The churches affected in the March attacks include the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, as well as the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas. Prosecutors have said emphatically that they have a litany of evidence against Matthews, described as a "pathological fire setter."
Among the evidence that's been mentioned are the purchasing of fire-setting items similar to what was found at the scenes of the crime, photos of the churches on fire, texts about the fires, surveillance footage showing a truck similar to one driven by Matthews, and more. Speaking at a bond hearing Monday, Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning further described the evidence investigators have collected as "unequivocal."
Fundraising efforts have been launched to help the churches rebuild and recover from these heinous acts, with a Seventh District Baptist Association-hosted GoFundMe currently nearing $400,000 of its $1.8 million goal.