BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Recordings of phone calls played Friday in the trial of Matthew Queen contained multiple threats of violence, with a voice identified as Queen’s saying, “I’m gonna go over there and (expletive) shove a pistol down his (expletive) throat.”
Queen made that comment in a 2019 conversation with a friend, Russell Smith, after discovering his SUV had been broken into, according to the recording played for the jury. Queen told Smith he’ll confront the thief and tell him, “I don’t call cops, but what I will do is I will take your (expletive) life, you (expletive) punk.”
Jurors heard that and other recordings on the tenth day of Queen’s trial on torture and murder charges in the death of “Bakersfield 3” member Micah Holsonbake, as well as dozens of other offenses including multiple firearm-related charges.
The trial is nearing its close.
Judge Charles R. Brehmer said he expects the prosecution will rest its case Monday, the defense will call any witnesses its has and the jury will begin deliberations Wednesday or Thursday.
Queen, 45, faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted as charged. Prosecutors say he terrorized multiple people, either inflicting or threatening to inflict violence against them and, in Holsonbake’s case, killing him.
It’s alleged Queen and Baylee Despot, his ex-girlfriend, questioned Holsonbake about a stolen gun in the detached garage of a friend then killed him. Queen and Holsonbake fabricated AR-15-style rifles together, prosecutors say.
Holsonbake’s left arm and skull were recovered months later, on separate occasions, in the Kern River.
Despot went missing shortly after Holsonbake disappeared in March 2018 and has not been found. She, Holsonbake and James Kulstad — who was fatally shot but whose death is not connected to Queen’s case — became known as the Bakersfield 3 because each was killed or went missing within two months.
Co-defendant Matthew Tyler Vandecasteele has taken a plea deal and testified earlier this week that Queen asked to use his garage to interrogate Holsonbake.
On Friday, Bakersfield police Sgt. Chad Garrett, the lead investigator, testified wiretaps were placed on Queen’s phone in 2019 in an effort to unearth information corroborating things investigators had been told and gain new leads.
On July 5, 2019, police intercepted the call between Queen and Smith. Given the remarks made by Queen, an officer was sent to the area and told to make himself as visible as possible to deter violence.
Detective Matt Tramel testified he parked his marked BPD cruiser at Compass Avenue and Light Lane, turned on the overhead lights and walked around the neighborhood.
Standing and talking near a truck and Suburban were Queen, another man and a woman, Tramel testified. Queen and the woman eventually got in the Suburban, the other man got in the pickup, and they left.
Tramel said he was later shown photos and identified Smith and Sara Wedemeyer as the people with Queen.
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Timothy Hennessy, Tramel said he doesn’t recall Queen speaking with him, asking if he was there because his Suburban had been broken into.
“I forget things all the time,” Tramel said.
In another call recorded in 2019, again featuring Queen and Smith, Queen says “smoke his (expletive)” twice, “put a bullet in his (expletive) forehead” and “I say go in there, tie him to a chair, set him on fire.” It was unclear whom Queen was threatening.
Sara Wedemeyer testimony
Sara Wedemeyer, an ex-girlfriend of Queen with whom he has a child, continued testifying Friday after being called earlier in the week.
Before dating Queen, she had been in a relationship with Vandecasteele and lived at his apartment on North Half Moon Drive.
On a night in late March 2018, Vandecasteele ordered her to stay inside the apartment, Wedemeyer said. Prosecutors allege that was the night Holsonbake was brought over for questioning.
Asked it it was strange to be told to stay put, Wedemeyer testified there had been other instances when Vandecasteele was controlling, usually after they had a fight or he was going through drug withdrawal. She said he was addicted to heroin and she used methamphetamine.
Despot came over that night and asked to change her clothes, which was unusual, Wedemeyer said. She said she never saw or heard Holsonbake.
Vandecasteele has also testified to not seeing or hearing Holsonbake that night. He said Despot entered his apartment, took a paring knife and went back out. Queen, who was getting high, left the apartment for a short time with her, he said.
When Despot reappeared, she was pale and rattled, Vandecasteele said. She changed and left with Queen and the next day Vandecasteele found a large, reddish “grease stain” in his garage, he said.
Prosecutors say the stain was blood that tested positive for Holsonbake’s DNA.
Darren Wonderly, an investigator with the District Attorney’s office, testified cellphone data records show a phone associated with Holsonbake was in in the area of Vandecasteele’s home on North Half Moon Drive the night of March 21, 2018.
The last outgoing call or text message from that device occurred 12:38 p.m. on March 22, 2018, Wonderly said.
Two days later, a phone associated with Queen used a cell tower in an area of Maricopa near a Nestle Purina facility. That area was searched.
A cadaver dog trained to detect minute presences of fluid and bone alerted searchers to a location. Hours were spent digging but nothing was found, according to earlier testimony.