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Testimony begins in Bakersfield 3 murder trial


Testimony begins in Bakersfield 3 murder trial.

Opening statements were given Monday in the trial of a man accused of killing one of the Bakersfield 3, and the prosecution wrapped up the first day by calling the police and a witness to testify.

Prosecutor Eric Smith began by explaining to the jury each of the 34 felony charges against Matthew Queen, which include first-degree murder, torture, and kidnapping in the death of Micah Holsonbake, one of the Bakersfield 3. The other charges include threats with intent to terrorize, assault, and a host of weapons charges.

The Bakersfield 3 includes Baylee Despot, James Kulstad and Holsonbake, who went missing in March 2018. Holsonbake’s body has not been found, but officials have recovered partial remains.

Despot is also charged with Holsonbake’s death. However, she has been missing since 2018. Kulstad was killed in a drive-by shooting, which remains unsolved and is not related to this case. Police said Kulstad ran in the same circles as Queen and Despot.

Smith’s opening statements included text messages from Queen detailing violent threats, such as tying someone to a chair and killing them, while calling himself the “bogeyman”. With these messages, Smith sought to show the similarity between Queen’s pattern of behavior and the way she allegedly killed Holsonbake, he said.

Defense attorney Timothy Hennessy made brief statements at the end of Smith’s opening statements, saying his client is innocent.

“You may not like Mr. Queen… you may even hate Mr. Queen,” Hennessy said. But he won’t hold you responsible for Mr. Holsonbake’s death.

Queen’s associate Matthew Vandecasteele pleaded no contest to an accessory charge in Holsonbake’s death in exchange for testifying against Queen. He told police that Despot and Queen came to his apartment in March 2018 because they wanted to use his detached garage to “obtain firearm information” from Holsonbake, according to Smith’s opening statement.

Queen and Despot were in Vandecasteele’s garage for about three hours, and when Despot returned, she was “visibly shaken,” Vandecasteele told police, according to Smith.

Queen returned the next day and enlisted Vandecasteele’s help to “help me get rid of something,” Smith said, though the prosecutor added that what Queen wanted to get rid of was unknown.

Smith added that Vandecasteele said he didn’t go because he was high, so Queen went. When Queen returned, she had dirt in her truck and cell phone data showed that Queen drove to the Maricopa and Taft areas, Smith said.

Vandecasteele told police there was a stain, and police later found fingerprints on a shelf in his garage, which ended up testing positive for Holsonbake’s blood, the prosecutor said.

In August 2018, people playing at Hart Park found a black bag containing Holsonbake’s severed arm, a red-trimmed sweater and orange and black string, Smith said. The rope was similar to a spool of rope found inside the Queen’s residence, according to Smith.

A saw was used to cut off the arm, Smith said. A skull and some other bones were also found in a black bag near Lake Ming in August 2021, and by comparing dental records, the skull was determined to be from Holsonbake, the prosecutor added.

Smith said Holsonbake’s death was caused by serious head injuries. Although no bullets were recovered, a gunshot wound could not be ruled out, he told the jury.

After the bones were recovered, the case was only able to move forward after Matthew Vandecasteele decided to provide vital information about the case, Smith said. Vandecasteele went to the police after learning that his ex-girlfriend, Sara Wedemeyer, had a baby with Queen while he was in prison, Smith added.

Testimony in the case began with Bakersfield police officer George Vasquez saying he made a traffic stop on a car that Queen and his girlfriend Baylee Despot were driving. After pulling them over, Vasquez said, officers found weapons in the car.

Officer Trent Alexander later testified that some of the weapons found did not have serial numbers and appeared to be custom-built.

Despot’s friend Megan Farmer followed up with officers with her testimony about how Queen’s issues with Holsonbake began during a 2017 New Year’s Eve party attended by a group of friends including Queen, Queen’s girlfriend Baylee Despot, Farmer, Holsonbake and others.

At this meeting, Queen discovered that a gun had been stolen from her and began accusing Holsonbake and a man Farmer identified as her “baby’s dad” of stealing her gun, Farmer said.

Farmer testified that he heard Queen tell Despot that he wanted to torture and kill Holsonbake in a garage. Despot is also charged in Holsonbake’s death, but she has been missing since 2018.

When Smith asked Farmer why he didn’t go to the police, Farmer said he didn’t think the threat was legitimate because “Who tortures someone?” he asked rhetorically.

Farmer testified that Queen threatened her on two separate occasions, including a January 2018 car ride with her, Queen and Holsonbake, when the three entered an orchard. Queen pointed a gun at Farmer, and she fell to her knees and begged for her life. Holsonback jumped out of the car as he moved to get away, Farmer said.

In a separate incident, Queen told Farmer to “get the (expletive) out of the house” after Farmer told Despot to end their relationship. The farmer told the jury that Queen pointed a gun at him while her 1-year-old daughter was in her bedroom.

Smith then showed jurors Facebook messages in a group chat between Farmer, Despot, Matthew Vandecastaele, and Micah Holsonback. Farmer said in one of the messages that Holsonbake described the look on Queen’s face as if someone was leading them “to the orchards to be executed.”

During cross-examination, Hennessy briefly questioned one of the officers about a magazine found under a rifle case during the traffic stop before Farmer was called to testify.

The trial was adjourned for the day amid Hennessy’s cross-examination of Farmer, questioning whether Holsonbake’s fear about the trip to the orchards might have been caused by an unrelated incident, and not the trip to which he was taken.


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