Florida Woman Accused of Threatening Denver-Area Schools Found Dead
A Miami woman who authorities said threatened Denver-area schools and purchased a firearm after flying to Colorado was found dead following a 24-hour manhunt. The FBI discovered the body of Sol Pais (pictured), 18, at the base of Mount Evans, a recreational area around 60 miles southwest of Denver, on April 17. Authorities said her death was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The FBI described Pais as extremely dangerous and “infatuated” with the school shooting at Columbine 20 years ago, while noting she made general but credible threats against unspecified schools. The high school senior traveled to Colorado on April 15 and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition from a gun shop in Littleton, Colorado—the town where Columbine High School is located. A school official noted that threats to Columbine have occurred before; however, Pais’ interest in the shooting, travel to the area, and purchase of a gun gave authorities reason to consider this a serious threat. Denver-area schools were closed on April 17 after being put on “lockout” status the day before.
Louisiana Man Charged With Hate Crimes in Fires at Black Churches
A white man accused of setting fires to three historically black churches in Louisiana pleaded not guilty to state charges, including hate crimes, on April 15. Police arrested Holden Matthews, 21, on April 10 in connection to blazes at three churches that are more than 100 years old over the course of 10 days in and around Opelousas, Louisiana. Matthews, the son of a sheriff’s deputy, had been charged with three counts of arson of a religious building; however, prosecutors added three more charges declaring the arsons racially motivated and a violation of state hate crime laws. Prosecutors said a gas can and oil rags found at the locations of the fires were similar to those purchased by Matthews, who had a lighter and package of oil rags in his vehicle. Surveillance video showed a truck similar to the one driven by Matthews around the churches at the time of the fires, prosecutors added. They said he also spoke to a friend about burning churches with gasoline and had news reports about the fires on his phone. Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning testified that Matthews “superimposed himself on those news reports, claiming responsibility for these fires.” No injuries were reported. Federal authorities are also considering whether to file hate crime and arson charges against Matthews.
South Carolina Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Murder-for-Hire Plot Targeting Black Neighbor
A white man who attempted to hire a hitman from a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina to kill and hang his black neighbor received a 10-year prison sentence on April 11. After contacting the KKK for help in murdering his neighbor, Brandon Lecroy was connected with an FBI undercover agent posing as a hitman. In March 2018, Lecroy made arrangements with the agent for the murder of his neighbor, stating in a recorded phone call, “$500 and he’s a ghost.” Lecroy also requested that the man be hanged from a tree and a burning cross be placed in his front yard. When meeting with the agent on April 9, 2018, Lecroy pointed out the neighbor’s house and discussed future targets. Authorities arrested him after he gave the agent a $100 down payment. Lecroy pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit a crime of violence, murder-for-hire on October 24. He is not eligible for parole and will serve three years of court-ordered supervision following his prison term.