BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — He admitted to cutting up a body and scattering the remains across Kern County, illegally putting together AR-15 rifles with parts he bought online and sending macabre messages he passed off as jokes or exaggerations.
Although Matthew Queen denied killing “Bakersfield 3” member Micah Holsonbake, a jury last month decided there was enough evidence to support a conviction for second-degree murder, as well as kidnapping and assault charges filed in connection with separate incidents in which people testified he threatened them.
Despite the allegations against him, Queen, his voice wavering, on Tuesday told Holsonbake’s parents he is not the monster he was depicted as by prosecutors.
“I can never make your family whole again, and I’m sorry,” he said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that day, and how I should have done things differently.”
Following his statement, Queen, 45, was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison, plus 56 years.
During a weeks-long trial, prosecutors Eric Smith and Melanie Ayala said Queen and ex-girlfriend Baylee Despot killed Holsonbake over a missing gun in late March 2018, dismembered him and disposed of the pieces. Boys playing in the Kern River found Holsonbake’s arm months later, and a girl located a bag containing his skull last year.
The rest of his body has not been found.
Despot, Holsonbake and James Kulstad — killed in a shooting unrelated to Queen’s case — became known as the “Bakersfield 3.” They knew each other and either died or went missing within two months.
Before sentencing, Cheryl Holsonbake, Micah Holsonbake’s mother, told the court her son was much more than the gun-making, drug-dealing, abusive man described at trial. He was a loving father and son, close friend to many, a patriot who joined the Navy after 9/11 and afterward became a stockbroker and fell in love.
“He was a good man,” Cheryl Holsonbake said. “He was a good man who struggled and made poor decisions, but his chance for recovery and mended relationships was stolen from him. When Micah was murdered, dismembered and thrown out like trash throughout the county, he was stolen from us.”
She said, “He is ours, he has always been ours, and now only God knows where most of his body lies.”
Traumatized at every stage — the months Micah Holsonbake was missing, when DNA evidence revealed the arm in the river was his, seeing his death certificate, the discovery of his skull — the family suffered blow after blow, mentally and emotionally, but remained committed to seeing the case through to the end, Cheryl Holsonbake said. She attended every day of trial.
Judge Charles R. Brehmer told the Holsonbakes he hopes they remember Micah Holsonbake as the person he was before the last few years of his life.
“I hope your memories that you have of Micah Holsonbake are positive memories,” Brehmer said. “He’s your son, he should be remembered that way. He should never be remembered as being what we’ve heard described in this trial, and what ended up happening to his body.”
“He’s much more than that,” the judge said.
Queen and Holsonbake fabricated AR-15 rifles from components bought online, prosecutors said. It’s alleged Queen believed Holsonbake was responsible when a handgun went missing from his home.
Prosecutors said Queen and Despot tortured and killed Holsonbake at a garage belonging to Matthew Tyler Vandecasteele, who accepted a plea deal and testified at Queen’s trial. Vandecasteele said he never saw Holsonbake on the night in question, but Queen and Despot asked to use his garage and Despot at one point entered his home and took a paring knife.
The next day, Vandecasteele testified, he entered the garage and found a large reddish stain on a shelf. He said Queen showed up and asked for help disposing of something — Queen didn’t specify what it was — but there was a container in the back of his truck large enough to hold a body.
Vandecasteele testified he declined to accompany Queen because he was sick from drug use.
Despot disappeared shortly after family reported Holsonbake missing. She has not been found. She remains charged with torture and murder, among other offenses.
Taking the stand in his defense, Queen testified Despot killed Holsonbake and he only helped get rid of the remains and tried to cover up what happened to protect her.
Defense lawyer Timothy Hennessy said during closing arguments Queen should be found guilty of the firearm offenses but the evidence did not support the other charges. He noted many witnesses and alleged victims called by prosecutors had criminal records and admitted to heavy drug use at the time.
The jury found Queen guilty of kidnapping Caleb Seiler in January 2019, but not guilty of assault charges stemming from an incident in November. Regarding the latter incident, Seiler testified Queen zip-tied him to a chair and shocked him with a dog collar before pistol-whipping him.
He testified Queen was angry because he didn’t tell him he’d taken a gun from his home.
Queen was also found guilty of threatening and assaulting Megan Farmer with a firearm. She testified Queen drove her to an orchard, pointed an AR-15 in her face and questioned her whether Despot had been faithful to him.