Within 33 days this spring, Micah Holsonbake went missing, James Kulstad was shot to death and Baylee Despot was reportedly last seen by her boyfriend. In the months following — they came to be known as the Bakersfield 3. Their cases remain unsolved.
Micah Holsonbake’s life was chaotic in the days leading up to his disappearance.
His mother, Cheryl Holsonbake said, “He talked a lot about being concerned that people were going to hurt him. He was afraid, felt like he needed to defend himself.”
He was last seen by an extended family member March 23 — crossing the intersection of Mt. Vernon Avenue and Flower Street, near Kern Medical. Since then, there have been stories of sightings all over the county and even outside of the state.
Cheryl Holsonbake said, “We have heard so many stories, probably at least 50 different scenarios. There have been some recurring stories that we believe are closer to the truth about what happened.”
16 days after the last confirmed sighting, Kulstad was shot and killed leaving a small house party at a chiropractor’s house in southwest Bakersfield. The chiropractor, Dr. Sukhjeet Bajwa, has since agreed to surrender his chiropractic license because of drug and gun convictions. Bajwa’s attorney said she advised him not to comment on the case.
Kulstad’s mother, Diane Byrne said, “A lot of the people that were hang out with him were doing drugs.”
Byrne said her son was hanging out with Micah Holsonbake around the time he went missing. .
Cheryl Holsonbake said, “It really was about they not only knew each other, but their circle of friends were common.”
Despot’s then-boyfriend, Matthew Queen, said he last saw her April in a neighborhood near Palm Avenue and Renfro Road, but little other info has ever ben released.
Despot’s mother, Jane Parrent said, “Supposedly that’s where he last saw her. I don’t think it is. I think the last place was at his house.”
Despot was 21 at the time she disappeared. Her boyfriend was more than twice her age.
Queen hasn’t responded to requests for comment, but he has made lengthy Facebook posts saying he believes Despot ran away and that her mother is set on making him look like the bad guy. He also confirms he too knew Micah Holsonbake.
Cheryl Holsonbake said, “It was just very obvious that this was not a coincidence. That they’re, I’m not saying the same person necessarily was involved with all three of them but the groups of people that were around each of them, they all knew. I mean, they know. People out there know.”
In the early months of our own investigation, 17 News found police documents linking the key players and others — validating the mother’s suspicions. A sheriff’s office search warrant from June revealed detectives were investigating Queen, Despot, Holsonbake and three others for allegedly manufacturing and selling illegal guns.
“The stuff they were involved in, these people know. They all know each other. It’s a big circle of criminal activity over here in Rosedale,” Parrent said.
The extent of their involvement isn’t known, but after Despot and Micah Holsonbake disappeared, Queen was charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon. The case is ongoing.
As the months go on, the mothers have come together, working tirelessly to find answers on their own. Through their dedication and support, they’re determined to find answers.
Parrent said, “It just makes me feel like I’m doing something to find her and in the process we’re going to fix some things in the city of Bakersfield and Kern County so other people don’t have to go through this horrible nightmare.”
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Despot or know who killed Holsonbake or Kulstad, call Secret Witness at 322-4040.
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- The Bakersfield 3: Disappearances of Micah Holsonbake, Baylee Despot, and murder of James Kulstad