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Suspect in Bakersfield 3 murder case ordered to stand trial

Bakersfield 3

A flyer from late 2018 seeking information about the Bakersfield 3.

A Kern County Superior Court judge on Monday ordered a Bakersfield man to trial on nearly three dozen charges for a series of violent incidents he is alleged to have perpetrated against several people who were part of a gun and drug ring, including the murder of a man who is part of the Bakersfield 3.

Matthew Queen, 45, will be tried on a total of 34 charges in the case, and faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted on them all. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held in jail without bail.

Queen is accused of murdering Micah Holsonbake, who went missing in early 2018. A severed arm belonging to Holsonbake was found in the Kern River months after his disappearance and he is presumed dead. Queen also faces charges for kidnapping and threatening two other people at gunpoint, along with numerous charges for the manufacture, sale and possession of firearms.

Baylee Despot, also one of the Bakersfield 3 who is still missing and formerly was Queen's girlfriend, is also charged in Holsonbake's murder.

During a four-day preliminary hearing that concluded Monday, prosecutors presented evidence to support their assertion that Queen and Despot killed Holsonbake in the garage of a friend's apartment on N. Half Moon Drive in Bakersfield in March 2018 because he stole a gun from Queen. The evidence included witness testimony that Queen and Despot were at the friend's home around the time of the alleged murder, a blood sample found in the garage that DNA analysis found to be Holsonbake's and a piece of rope found with Holsonbake's severed arm that matched a spool of rope at Queen's residence.  

Prosecutors also questioned Caleb Sieler and Megan Farmer, who testified that Queen had threatened them at gunpoint. Farmer said Queen once put a rifle to her head and demanded information about his then-girlfriend, Despot, and on another occasion pointed a gun at her while she was visiting Queen's home with her 1-year-old child.

"I thought I was going to die. I’m lucky I’m not dead," Farmer said of the incident at Queen's home, in testimony done remotely through video conference.

Sieler described an incident in which he was roused from bed in the middle of the night by Queen, who forced him at gunpoint into a vehicle. Once inside, Sieler said, Queen held the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, at which point it became apparent the firearm was a BB gun. Sieler also testified that Queen once tied him to a chair with zip ties as part of a "sick joke."

Holsonbake's mother, Cheryl Holsonbake, described the testimony from witnesses and images of her son's arm shown early in the hearing as "horrific." 

She attended the four-day hearing with the mothers of Despot and James Kulstad, who died in an unsolved drive-by shooting in early 2018. Police believe Kulstad ran in the same circles as Despot and Queen. The mothers banded together to press for answers about their missing or dead children, and have raised thousands of dollars for the Secret Witness program and to purchase equipment for the sheriff department's search and rescue team.

So far, none of the Secret Witness money has been given out in the case of Despot, Kulstad or Holsonbake, though Cheryl Holsonbake said she felt the young men who discovered the bag in the river containing her son's arm and reported it to the police were deserving of a reward. She said she was also grateful to the others who came forward with information that has helped in the case against Queen. 

"They will always be our heroes," she said.