BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — In response to some of the allegations against him, Matthew Queen testified people took jokes the wrong way. He pulled pranks that didn’t go over as intended.
Queen may consider his actions a joke, prosecutor Eric Smith told a jury, but there’s nothing funny about what happened to his victims. Queen is charged with torture and murder in the death of Micah Holsonbake, as well as dozens of other charges.
“Ultimately, murder is not a joke,” Smith said during his closing argument Monday. “Kidnapping is not a joke. Intimidating women at the end of the barrel of a gun is not a joke.”
Defense lawyer Timothy Hennessy argued his client’s story of what happened to Holsonbake makes more sense than the theory presented by the prosecution. Investigators became impaired by tunnel vision, ignoring other possibilities.
Queen is no saint, Hennessy said, but he’s also not responsible for Holsonbake’s death. The entire case is tragic and said, he said, a result of a group ravaged by rampant drug use.
The attorneys presented closing arguments over several hours, the jury receiving the case late Monday afternoon. Jurors will begin deliberating Tuesday morning on the 35 charges against Queen.
Prosecutors say Queen and Baylee Despot tortured and killed Holsonbake in late March 2018. They allege Queen suspected Holsonbake either stole a gun or replaced one with a gun that had a defective firing pin.
In the years since his death, only Holsonbake’s left arm and skull have been recovered.
During testimony last week, Queen admitted to using a friend’s garage to cut up Holsonbake’s body. But he said Despot was the killer, not him.
Queen testified Holsonbake’s death occurred at Queen’s home on Compass Avenue. Queen said he made a joke and Holsonbake became angry and drew a gun. He pointed it first at Queen, then at Despot when she entered the room, according to Queen’s testimony.
When Holsonbake pointed the gun at Despot, Queen took advantage of the distraction and tackled him, Queen said. They struggled on the ground.
Queen said he managed to zip tie one of Holsonbake’s hands when Despot walked over and dropped a 40-pound dumbbell on Holsonbake’s head, killing him.
They brought the body to the garage of Matthew Tyler Vandecasteele, where they dismembered it, Queen said. He then disposed of pieces in locations throughout the county, he said.
In addition to killing Holsonbake, Queen is charged with threatening multiple other people, including Megan Farmer, who he allegedly drove to an orchard and pointed an AR-15 rifle at her head.
Megan Farmer testified Queen asked how she would like it if her child grew up without a mother. She said he questioned her over Despot’s fidelity before releasing her.
Queen’s method of questioning others involved having a gun in his hand while inflicting or threatening to inflict pain, Smith said. Queen acquaintance Caleb Seiler testified Queen zip-tied him to a chair, shocked him with a dog collar and pistol-whipped him while interrogating him about a missing gun part.
The prosecutor said Queen’s testimony was a series of lies. Queen blamed others and refused to take accountability for his own actions.
“But that’s what he does, he deflects the blame,” Smith said.
Hennessy argued Farmer gave inconsistent testimony and Seiler, Vandecasteele and others who testified against Queen had something to gain. He noted detectives told Vandecasteele good things happen to those who cooperate in a murder investigation.
“You want me to say Matt Queen did it?” Vandecasteele asked, interviewed while in jail. He asked detectives what they wanted to hear then gave them what they wanted, Hennessy said.
Vandecasteele received a plea deal in exchange for his testimony.
Bakersfield police Sgt. Chad Garrett did an excellent job on this case, Hennessy said. He’d want Garrett in charge of the investigation if he disappeared.
But they disagree on one major point.
“He got the where, the when, the who,” Hennessy said. “I disagree on the what.”
On rebuttal, Smith said Queen’s story is a complete fabrication. His cellphone data shows what he told the jury is not possible.
Given the extraordinary opportunity last week to show law enforcement where he left evidence corroborating his story, Queen took law enforcement to five locations. They located nothing but a single verterbra.
“There’s no dumbbell, there’s no witnesses, there’s no forensic evidence,” Smith said.