We’re weeks away from a grim milestone for the families of the Bakersfield 3, three friends, who disappeared or were murdered within a month of each other.
Baylee Despot, Micah Holsonbake, and James Kulstad all came from loving families, raised in middle class Bakersfield neighborhoods. For most of their lives, the three seemed to flourish, so how did they end up in such grave danger?
17’s Olivia LaVoice begins her series with taking a closer look at the case of missing woman Baylee Despot, and the dark and mysterious aspects of her life before she vanished.
“It’s like something you’d see in a movie. You just think it’s never going to happen to you, especially to a girl that’s grown up in a good neighborhood, raised by good parents, had a good childhood, could’ve had everything she ever wanted … but took that wrong turn in life,” said Baylee’s sister, Katelyn Parrent.
Baylee’s loved ones have feared the worst since she went missing last April. But even before this nightmare began, those closest to her say the year before she vanished was extremely rocky.
“She wanted to go back to college, she wanted to join the air force, she wanted to be a flight attendant, she had all these goals, and she was doing good for a while, and then her marriage had ended. Once that marriage ended everything just went south-slowly but surely.”
It was spring 2017 that her brief marriage ended. That’s when family says Baylee began hanging out with a new crowd and doing drugs.
“She had gotten arrested the first time, and that was outside of Micah’s house.” In July 2017, Baylee was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct in front of Micah Holsonbake’s home. The misdeamnor charge was ultimately dismissed.
“Micah and I were friends … and I hadn’t known that he knew my sister.”
When Baylee’s sister, Katelyn met Micah, he was working as a banker and living a clean life. She thinks Micah crossed paths with her little sister in the Rosedale drug scene just as Katelyn began to lose touch with him. But Baylee hanging out with Micah wasn’t a concern, in fact, Baylee’s mother believes Micah tried to help Baylee get out of a new relationship Baylee said was abusive.
Ultimately, in August 2017, Baylee was granted a domestic violence restraining order against her then boyfriend.
“She dealt with that, was around bad people in that relationship.”
20 days after filing the restraining order, Jane Parrent says her daughter reported she was gang raped at an apartment complex after she was given a drugged drink. Her mother says the sexual assault had a huge affect on her daughter, and she worked hard to get Baylee help from counseling. But things went from bad to worse as summer 2017 turned into fall.
“It was almost every night there was somebody there to pick her up, or there’d be multiple cars there to pick her up and she’d be gone for two-3-4 days come back, tell us all these horrific stories…she’d call crying she didn’t know where she was but she needed to get picked up.”
Katelyn recalls one night that was particularly distressing: “She had called my mom one night-and my mom was freaking out-i got on the phone and asked her where she was, she told me where she was, I kept her on the phone, went and got her, she had none of her belongings, no shoes…..I wanna say it was a couple nights after that there were two vehicles that came to pick her up and we could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t want to go, but if she didn’t go, we didn’t know what would happen. And I told my mom she’s 18-19 years old, we can’t stop her.”
By November 2017 it was too much for Katelyn. She planned a two week getaway in Texas, and ended up not coming back to Bakersfield.
“I had told her right before I had left. … I had looked her in her eyes and I said Baylee, you’re gonna end up mouthing off to the wrong person […] I said the people you’re around, they’re not your friends, they don’t care about you, they’re never going to care about you. You’re either gonna end up dead or go missing…that was the last thing I ever said to her.”
A couple weeks later, Baylee was in trouble again. This time, she was with a new boyfriend, twice her age. According to police reports, in December 2017, the pair was pulled over when an officer said he saw a gun in the center console of their car. Police say a subsequent search discovered four loaded guns-including an AR-15 style rifle and a 9mm rifle.
Officers wrote in reports that neither high powered weapon had any identifying marks. Neither Baylee, nor her boyfriend, Matthew Queen said a word to cops. Queen, a previously convicted felon prohibited from owning a firearm or ammunition was charged with several new felonies in a case that’s still pending.
Baylee took a deal with prosecutors, pleading no contest to misdeamnor charges of carrying a loaded firearm and carrying a concealed weapon in a vehicle. For her plea, she received a reduced sentence of 3 years probation.
After that-family says she moved in with Queen, and the family’s contact with her became less consistent. But in late April 2018, a month after Micah Holsonabek went missing, when suddenly no one could get a hold of Baylee, her family instantly knew something horrible had happened.
“I heard about Micah and then she went missing and I told my mom I said no-they know each other, I said it’s not a coinicidence.”
James Kulstad, who was shot to death in april, is the third member of the Bakersfield 3. Katelyn didn’t know him personally, but she knew of the ties between him, Micah, and Baylee. She says early on she encouraged her mother to connect the dots.
In December, DNA linked an arm found in a duffle bag in the Kern River to Holsonbake. Now, as Baylee remains the only of the three considered missing, Katelyn says her focus is to: “Hope and pray that whoever does know where she is, whether it’s parts of her or bones, whatever it is thats left of her, to give us that information.”
And to those who continue to prevent her family from getting the answers they so badly need, her message is:
“We know a lot more than they think we know, and that sooner or later, somebody is going to slip up and start talking.”
If you have an information on the whereabouts of Baylee Despot, you’re asked to call Bakersfield Police at 661-327-7111. Remember, you can remain anonymous by calling Secret Witness at 661-322-4040.