BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Following 12 days of testimony in which they heard from dozens of witnesses, viewed numerous videos and listened to the defendant himself, jurors in the trial of Matthew Queen will soon have the case in their hands.
Closing arguments began Monday morning. Prosecutors Eric Smith and Melanie Ayala are expected to explain how Queen earned a reputation as a “boogeyman” and should be found guilty of numerous crimes including torture and first-degree murder.
Queen’s attorney, Timothy Hennessy, has previously argued this case did not result from a “single evil man,” but a troubled group heavily into drugs and with easy access to firearms.
During riveting testimony last week, Queen said co-defendant Baylee Despot, not him, killed Micah Holsonbake at Queen’s house in March 2018. He said he helped cut up the body in a friend’s garage then disposed of the pieces in areas throughout Kern County.
Despot, Queen’s ex-girlfriend, disappeared shortly after Holsonbake was reported missing. She, Holsonbake and James Kulstad — killed in a shooting unrelated to Queen’s case — became known as the “Bakersfield 3” because they knew each other and were either killed or went missing within two months.
While cross-examining Queen, Smith asked him what evidence — other than his testimony — proves events happened as he said they did. The prosecutor noted the 40-pound dumbbell Queen says Despot used in the killing has not been located, nor has the handgun Queen claimed Holsonbake pointed at him.
Prosecutors allege Queen blamed Holsonbake when a handgun went missing. The two fabricated AR-style rifles together, Holsonbake often spending time at Queen’s home on Compass Avenue in northwest Bakersfield.
When Queen noticed a gun missing, he decided to question Holsonbake, prosecutors say.
He and Despot brought Holsonbake to the garage of Matthew Tyler Vandecasteele. Queen and his girlfriend zip-tied Holsonbake to a chair and tortured him while asking about the weapon, prosecutors say.
Then they killed him, Smith said.
Queen testified to cutting up the body in Vandecasteele’s garage and leaving pieces in multiple areas. He said Despot, afraid of getting caught, left Bakersfield days later.
On April 26, Queen led law enforcement to five locations where he said he left body parts and other evidence. Investigators recovered a single verterbra.
Vandecasteele took a plea deal last year. He testified Queen asked to use his garage and came over with Despot but said he never saw nor heard Holsonbake in his garage on the night in question. Queen testified he didn’t tell Vandecasteele why he needed his garage.
While the torture and murder charges are the most serious allegations against Queen, he faces a slew of other charges — including kidnapping and firearm assault offenses.
Caleb Seiler and Megan Farmer testified Queen, in separate instances, held them at gunpoint while questioning them. The gun in Seiler’s case turned out to be an imitation firearm, but Seiler said he didn’t know that at the time.
Farmer told jurors Queen took her to an orchard and pointed an AR-15 rifle in her face while asking if Despot had been faithful to him. She said Queen asked her how her kids would feel growing up without a mother.
Hennessy, Queen’s attorney, in response to testimony from Seiler, Farmer and others who said Queen threatened them, has called attention to the rampant drug use within the group. He suggested some witnesses took events out of context, their minds addled by methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin.
Most of the charges against Queen are weapons-related offenses. As a convicted felon, Queen is barred from owning firearms.
During testimony, Queen acknowledged knowing he could not legally possess guns. He described the rifles he put together with parts bought online as “family guns” he planned to give to his sons.
Queen repeatedly denied selling AR-style rifles, testifying law enforcement seized every gun he made with the exception of two guns Despot took when she fled town. He said he remained in Bakersfield for his children.