BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Matthew Vandecasteele didn’t hesitate when Matthew Queen, at the time his best friend, asked if he could use his garage to question someone about a stolen gun one night in late March 2018.
He testified Wednesday he thought Queen would intimidate Micah Holsonbake, make him tell the truth about what happened to the missing firearm. On the night in question, Vandecasteele said, he never saw Holsonbake and didn’t look in the garage.
The next day, however, he went inside and noticed something different: a large, red “grease stain” on a wooden shelf.
Prosecutors say the stain tested positive for blood matching Holsonbake’s DNA. The 38-year-old’s left arm and skull were recovered on separate occasions months later from the Kern River. The rest of his body has not been found.
Vandecasteele testified he had saws in his garage to chop up vehicles.
“I didn’t think he was killing anyone,” Vandecasteele told detectives of Queen. He told them to analyze the stain.
Queen, 45, is on trial on charges of torture, murder and numerous other offenses, including multiple gun-related offenses. He and his ex-girlfriend, Baylee Despot, are accused of torturing and killing Holsonbake at Vandecasteele’s detached garage on North Half Moon Drive. Queen and Holsonbake had fabricaed AR-15 rifles together.
Vandecasteele began testifying Tuesday afternoon and resumed Wednesday, the eighth day of trial. He said he and Queen were once close, but that changed after he went to jail and learned Queen started dating his girlfriend, Sara Wedemeyer. A phone call he made from jail to Wedemeyer in which he told her “you know what happened to Micah” is what led police to him.
“If Sara hadn’t cheated on you with Queen, you wouldn’t have told anybody,” Smith said.
“No,” Vandecasteele agreed.
Defense lawyer Timothy Hennessy suggested Vandecasteele told detectives what they wanted to hear to get a deal with prosecutors and avoid further trouble. Vandecasteele was already in prison on an unrelated incident in which Queen was involved, Hennessy said, and detectives said things could get worse — unless he cooperated.
Vandecasteele’s statement in court changed slightly from what he told detectives, but the main points remained the same. In short, Queen and Despot used his garage to question Holsonbake, Holsonbake disappeared and there was a red stain in his garage that hadn’t been there before.
One of the changes in his testimony related to telling detectives he went to his garage the night of Holsonbake’s questioning, after Queen and Despot had left, and looked for a “big blood spill” but didn’t see anything.
In court, however, Vandecasteele testified he never went in the garage that night. It wasn’t until the following morning he entered and found what he called the grease stain.
He testified in court he didn’t believe Queen would harm Holsonbake, but said he didn’t know or care what happened to Holsonbake. They weren’t friends.
The night Holsonbake was questioned, Vandecasteele testified, Despot entered his apartment and asked for a knife. He said he gave her a paring knife and he believes she went back to the garage. He didn’t ask what she wanted it for.
Queen, with whom he’d been smoking methamphetamine, left for a couple minutes, Vandecasteele said. He returned and they continued to use drugs.
Despot returned. She looked pale, shaken, Vandecasteele said. She asked for a change of clothing and went into a back bedroom with Sara Wedemeyer, Vandecasteele’s then-girlfriend, according to his testimony. Despot changed, and she and Queen left.
The next day, Queen came by and asked for help disposing of “something,” Vandecasteele said in a recording of an interview with detectives played for the jury. Queen made no reference to a body, he said.
Nevertheless, Vandecasteele told detectives there was a large covered tub in Queen’s truck that he believed held a body, Queen returned that night and there was dirt on his truck. Vandecasteele said he didn’t know where Queen went.
Asked by Smith if he sawed off Holsonbake’s arm or decapitated him, Vandecasteele said no.
During cross-examination, Hennessy read portions of the interview transcript where detectives told Vandecasteele anyone connected to the “Bakersfield 3” case was going down. They told him if he could help them they would help him, showed him pictures of his child and the mother of his child, stressed everything he was missing out on while locked up.
And they made it clear they believed Vandecasteele knew a lot more about what happened to Holsonbake than what he was telling them. Vandecasteele said he never saw or heard Holsonbake on the night in question. He said he was a heroin addict at the time, and spent that night smoking meth.
Holsonbake, Despot and James Kulstad became known as the Bakersfield 3 because each was killed or went missing within two months in 2018.
The trial continues Thursday.