BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Newly released from jail, Shane Buchanan contacted acquaintance Baylee Despot through Snapchat. They made plans to hang out.
Shortly afterward, as he stood in the doorway of his room at the Red Roof Inn the morning of April 15, 2018, a car pulled into the parking lot. Buchanan believed it was Despot.
Moments later, a man armed with an AR-15 rifle ran toward him, Buchanan testified Friday in the trial of Matthew Queen. He slammed the door shut, locked it and called 911.
“They’re outside the door trying to kick in the door,” Buchanan said in the 911 call played for the jury.
“Please don’t let me die,” he said.
Buchanan’s testimony came on the fifth day of Queen’s trial on dozens of charges including torture, murder, kidnapping and weapons-related offenses.
Queen, 45, and Despot — Queen’s ex-girlfriend — are accused of killing Micah Holsonbake, 38, over a stolen gun in late March 2018.
Holsonbake’s left arm and skull were recovered much later in bags in the Kern River. The rest of him has not been found.
Before their relationship soured, prosecutors say, Queen and Holsonbake built AR-style rifles from pieces bought online, selling some and keeping others.
Despot disappeared shortly after the time prosecutors say Holsonbake was killed. She has not been heard from.
It’s alleged Holsonbake was tortured and killed at the detached garage of Matthew Tyler Vandecasteele. He has agreed to testify in a plea deal reached last year.
Buchanan, one of several people Queen is accused of threatening in separate incidents, said in response to questioning by prosecutor Eric Smith that Vandecasteele was the man who rushed him with the AR-15. He knew Vandecasteele, having previously sold him drugs.
He told the court he believed Queen was also involved. Another person from the car went to the door. The driver stayed inside.
Someone kicked the motel room door and said, “It’s just Matt and I just want to talk to you,” Buchanan testified. The voice was not Vandecasteele’s, he said.
“You don’t talk to people when they run at you with a gun. I don’t want to be a part of that conversation,” Buchanan told the court and laughed.
He said he texted Vandecasteele afterward and asked why he came after him. He never got a response.
“I thought they were going to kill me,” Buchanan said.
Police searched for but did not locate Vandecasteele or Queen that day. Cellphone data helped police track Vandcasteele to the Vagabond Inn, where he was arrested following a stakeout, according to testimony from members of the Bakersfield Police Department.
An AR-15 rifle with a 30-round magazine was found in his room. Sgt. Travis Harless said the weapon was a “ghost gun” — it had no serial number or identifying markings present on guns produced by standard manufacturers.
The behavior of Holsonbake in the months before his death was described by Sara Hodges, who had a brief drug-fueled relationship with him.
Hodges, who testified via Zoom, said she eventually left Holsonbake over his violent behavior. He choked her, she said, and on another occasion brandished a knife at her.
His behavior was violent and erratic, Hodges testified.
After she left him, he sent her a photo in which he wore a knit cap pulled over his face and pointed a gun at the camera, Hodges testified.
Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Timothy Hennessy, Hodges said Holsonbake told her about an incident that happened about a year before they met. He told her he and a woman had been taken to an orchard and held at gunpoint by a group of Hispanic men, Hodges said.
That incident did not involve Queen, she said. Hennessy apparently brought it up to illustrate there were unidentified people whom Holsonbake had angered.
Based on comments she heard the two make, Holsonbake and Despot did not get along, Hodges said.
Dr. Eugene Carpenter said Holsonbake died from severe head injury and a gunshot wound can’t be ruled out, but the exact manner is unknown. He said the skull had a crescent-shaped injury to its left side that could be the entrance wound of a gunshot, and massive trauma to the right side.
His examination of the remains, Carpenter said, revealed a saw and blunt force were used to sever the arm.
Dr. Alexis Gray, a forensic anthropologist, described her job as helping to identify people “who otherwise would be difficult to identify.”
She testified there was damage to the skull consistent with decapitation and she believes but could not confirm a power tool was used.
“The damage to the skull was catastrophic,” Gray said.
The trial will resume April 18.