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Bakersfield 3 Trial: Jurors find Queen guilty of second-degree murder

Disappointment overcame Lance Holsonbake when he heard the court clerk read that a jury found defendant Matthew Queen not guilty of first-degree murder in his son’s death, but those feelings vanished Thursday when he heard the guilty of second-degree murder verdict.

“We've said from the very beginning, ‘As long as (Matthew Queen’s) put away for a lot of years … we’ll be OK,’” said Holsonbake’s wife, Cheryl Holsonbake, after hearing the verdict at Kern County Superior Court. “We wanted something, of course, for Micah (Holsonbake).”

Micah Holsonbake, a member of the Bakersfield 3 and the son of Lance and Cheryl Holsonbake, disappeared in late March 2018. Only his arm and skull have been recovered from the Kern River and Lake Ming, respectively.

Queen faced 35 charges, including first-degree murder, torture and kidnapping in the death of Micah Holsonbake, and was acquitted of these charges. Queen testified that his ex-girlfriend Baylee Despot dropped a 40-pound dumbbell on Micah Holsonbake’s head, which killed him. The couple then chopped up Holsonbake’s body and scattered the pieces around Kern County, Queen said. Despot was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, torture and kidnapping in Holsonbake’s death, but she has been missing since April 2018.

Matthew Vandecasteele is the third defendant in Holsonbake’s death. He took a plea deal to testify against Queen, and is scheduled to be sentenced May 23 for being an accessory, possession of a firearm by a felon and falsely imprisoning someone with violence.

Despot and James Kulstad are the other two of the Bakersfield 3. Kulstad died in an unrelated drive-by shooting in April 2018. The mothers of the Bakersfield 3 banded together to find answers about their children’s deaths or missing status.

Queen also faced 20 weapons charges, including multiple counts of manufacturing, distributing and transferring an assault weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon and possessing ammunition. In addition, he faced four charges of assault with and without firearms, one count of burglary, two counts of threatening with intent to terrorize and one misdemeanor of obstructing an officer.

Deputy District Attorney Eric Smith, who prosecuted the case with co-counsel Deputy District Attorney Melanie Ayala, said his goal from the beginning was a murder conviction, which is why he was “pleased” with the jury’s verdict Thursday.

“It has been difficult to get all this evidence together,” Smith added, while reflecting on the numerous charges. “We have witnesses that came in from out of town. We have witnesses, expert witnesses, witnesses in custody and so it has been difficult to get everyone here to provide the evidence. But I think (it was) well worth it and, ultimately, that's what the result shows.”

Defense attorney Timothy Hennessy did not respond to a request for comment.

Queen was found guilty for 19 of the 20 weapons charges. He was found not guilty of one count of manufacturing, distributing or transferring an assault weapon.

Megan Farmer, Caleb Seiler and Shane Buchanan, all acquaintances of Queen, all had assault allegations against Queen. Queen was found guilty of assault and intent to terrorize Farmer in one incident, and was acquitted of assault in another incident where Farmer was the victim.

Queen was found not guilty of assault against Buchanan. The defendant faced charges in two incidents regarding Seiler. He was found guilty of burglary, as well as kidnapping of Seiler from his apartment. Queen was found not guilty of two counts of assault against Seiler in another incident in which Seiler was zip tied to a chair, pistol-whipped and shocked with a dog collar.

Queen also was found guilty of obstructing a peace officer.

Bakersfield Police Sgt. Chad Garrett, lead investigator on Queen’s case, said it was good to see his work over four years come to fruition. BPD Chief Greg Terry sent his condolences to the Holsonbake family, noting the verdict today is important, but the effects of their loved one’s death will never leave the families.

Cheryl Holsonbake added Garrett was the first person who believed in their case, and she thanked him and the Kern County District Attorney’s office for their work.

Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer noted Garrett held Micah Holsonbake’s picture during the Victims March in 2019, before the case became solid. They brought out this same picture today, she added.

“There is hope for all victims and unsolved crimes,” Zimmer said.

Queen’s sentencing is scheduled for June 7. He faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison.