BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Matthew Tyler Vandecasteele took the witness stand Tuesday in the trial of Matthew Queen and spoke about the friendship he formerly had with the man at the center of the “Bakersfield 3” case.
Vandecasteele, who began testifying at 3:30 p.m., said he and Queen’s relationship was based on drinking, drugs and guns. Most of his testimony centered on an incident where they went to a motel — Vandecasteele armed with a custom-built AR-15 rifle — to question an acquaintance.
He will continue testifying Wednesday morning, the eighth day of trial.
Queen, 45, and ex-girlfriend Baylee Despot are accused of torturing and killing Micah Holsonbake in Vandecasteele’s detached garage in late March 2018. Holsonbake, who built illegal firearms with Queen, is believed to have been killed for either stealing a gun or replacing one with a weapon with a broken firing pin, prosecutors say.
Queen has pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges, including numerous gun-related offenses.
Holsonbake’s arm and skull have been recovered from Kern River. The rest of his body has not been located.
Despot went missing shortly after Holsonbake and has not been heard from.
Vandecasteele, 35, took a plea deal last year in which he agreed to testify. He has been in custody since police arrested him April 24, 2018, in connection with another case.
In that incident, Vandecasteele, Queen and a woman went to the Red Roof Inn April 15, 2018, to question an acquaintance.
Vandecasteele said he wanted to question Shane Buchanan about spreading rumors he was cashing fraudulent checks in Queen’s name. He said Queen wanted to ask Buchanan why he was sending messages to Despot.
The rumors had led to trouble between him and Queen, Vandecasteele testified. Queen arrived at his home upon hearing them and demanded Vandecasteele return his driver’s license.
Vandecasteele said he found the license while cleaning his car weeks earlier.
He retrieved it and when he turned around Queen was pointing a gun at him, Vandecasteele said. He laughed and Queen left, he said.
When they arrived at the Red Roof Inn, Vandecasteele got out of the car and walked to Buchanan’s room. Buchanan was standing in the doorway and, seeing Vandecasteele approach with an AR-15 in his hands, slammed the door.
“I wanted to butt him in the forehead with the butt of my rifle,” Vandecasteele testified.
Prosecutor Eric Smith played video of the incident caught on surveillance camera as Vandecasteele described the action. After Buchanan shut the door, Queen tried speaking with him, Vandecasteele said. He didn’t hear a response.
Buchanan testified earlier that he feared for his life during the incident and called 911. He said he had recently been released from jail and had messaged Despot in the hope of reconnecting with her.
Vandecasteele, Queen and the woman in the car — who Vandecasteele identified as Sara Wedemeyer, his girlfriend at the time — left before police arrived. He and Wedemeyer were later arrested at the Vagabond Inn.
Wedemeyer was released while Vandecasteele remained in custody.
About two weeks later, Vandecasteele said, he discovered Wedemeyer had started dating Queen. He called her and learned she was at Queen’s house, and had spent the night.
That made him “a little angry,” Vandecasteele testified. He let Wedemeyer know how he felt before Queen got on the line.
Vandecasteele knew many of the people who have been mentioned at trial, including Holsonbake. He said they used drugs together, but he didn’t consider him a friend.
Another acquaintance of Holsonbake’s was Michael Carpenter, who testified earlier Tuesday afternoon.
Carpenter, in custody on drug charges, said he knew Holsonbake about 18 months. Holsonbake bought drugs from him, he said.
One day, Holsonbake dropped off a gun case containing an AR-15 at his apartment, Carpenter said. Holsonbake appeared nervous.
“He was irritable and all over the place,” Carpenter said. “He wasn’t in the right state of mind.”
Queen’s attorney, Timothy Hennessy, asked if Carpenter had accompanied Holsonbake to the Whiskey Barrel Saloon to confront bikers about the AR-15.
Carpenter testified he didn’t go there with Holsonbake, and he was unaware of a dispute with bikers over ownership of the gun.
Holsonbake, Despot and James Kulstad became known as the Bakersfield 3 because each was either killed or went missing within two months in 2018. Kulstad’s death is not connected to the Queen case, authorities say.