BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A motion to move the murder trial of Matthew Queen outside the county was denied Tuesday and opening statements are expected to be heard next week in what’s become known as the “Bakersfield 3” case.
In denying the change of venue motion, Superior Court Judge Charles R. Brehmer said he’s confident Queen can receive a fair trial in Kern County, citing questionnaires filled out by potential jurors, many of whom said they never heard of the case.
“This is an important issue,” Brehmer said. “I don’t take it lightly.”
Of the 12 people chosen as jurors, eight said they never saw or read coverage of the case. The four who did said they could not recall specifics and repeatedly told the court they could be fair and impartial, Brehmer said.
The six alternate jurors split 3-3 between those who had and had not heard of the case, with those who had again saying they could be fair and impartial.
Five factors are considered when a judge rules on a change of venue motion: gravity and nature of the offense; nature and extent of news coverage; size of the community; status of the defendant in the community; and status of the victim in the community.
In reviewing those factors, Brehmer said Queen, despite his case receiving substantial local coverage and being featured on two episodes of “Dr. Phil,” can receive a fair trial here — and he’ll do everything in his power to make sure that happens.
Opening statements are scheduled Monday morning. The trial is expected to last a few weeks.
Queen, 45, and ex-girlfriend Baylee Despot are accused of torturing and killing Micah Holsonbake in March 2018. Holsonbake’s severed arm was found in the Kern River, and his skull recovered last year east of the overflow parking lot of Pyle’s Boys Camp.
Despot disappeared weeks after the slaying and has not been heard from.
A third co-defendant, Matthew Tyler Vandecasteele, 35, took a plea deal last year in which he agreed to testify at Queen’s trial. It’s alleged he allowed Queen and Despot to use his garage to question and kill Holsonbake.
Queen is also charged with multiple firearm, kidnapping and threat offenses stemming from other alleged incidents.
Holsonbake, Despot and James Kulstad — fatally shot April 8, 2018 — became known as the “Bakersfield 3” because they knew each other and were killed or went missing within two months of each other. No arrests have been made in Kulstad’s killing.
Anyone with information regarding these cases is asked to call Secret Witness at 661-322-4040.