Matthew Queen, convicted in Bakersfield 3 trial, denies murder | News

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Matthew Queen is haunted by the death of a Bakersfield 3 member, he said Wednesday in an exclusive jailhouse interview with The Californian.

During his murder trial, Queen said for the first time Micah Holsonbake, a member of the Bakersfield 3, died in his garage. Holsonbake pointed a gun at Queen and Baylee Despot, Queen’s ex-girlfriend, and a struggle ensued, he testified. During the scuffle, Despot dropped a 40-pound dumbbell on Holsonbake’s head and killed him, Queen, 45, testified. The couple then dismembered Holsonbake and scattered his body parts around Kern County.

Queen was sentenced June 7 to 30 years to life, plus 56 years in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the March 2018 death of Holsonbake. Queen said Wednesday he was wrongly convicted and added that the Kern County District Attorney’s Office overzealously charged him.

“I didn’t kill him, but I did help get rid of his body,” Queen said Wednesday from inside Lerdo Justice Facility. “If that makes me guilty, so be it.”

Queen faced 35 charges, including first-degree murder, kidnapping, torture, assault and 20 charges related to possessing and manufacturing firearms by a felon. He was acquitted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and torture in Holsonbake’s death, but was convicted of second-degree murder, assault charges and several weapons allegations.

Holsonbake, 35, Despot and James Kulstad have been labeled the Bakersfield 3 by their mothers who sought answers about what happened to their children. Despot has been charged in Holsonbake’s death, but she has been missing since April 2018. Kulstad died in April 2018 in an unrelated shooting.

Prosecutors previously said Holsonbake was kidnapped, tortured and killed by Queen and Despot in the garage of Matthew Vandecasteele’s, a former friend of Queen. Queen said he granted Wednesday’s interview with The Californian to refute the narrative created by the District Attorney’s Office. 

Queen said he had no explanation for why he dismembered Holsonbake’s body. Queen said Despot was the first to suggest the two slice up Holsonbake’s body, but acknowledged it was “always a choice.” He said he didn’t know what to do when Holsonbake died, but acknowledges he shoulders some responsibility.

“It’s not easy living with it,” Queen said.

The interview

It was all a matter of perception, Queen said of the witnesses who testified at his weeks-long trial. He faced assault accusations from three different people: Megan Farmer, Caleb Seiler and Shane Buchanan.

Seiler, Queen’s friend, alleged two separate assault incidents. Queen was acquitted of assault charges in one event, but was found guilty of kidnapping and burglary stemming from another incident involving Seiler.

Queen said Seiler’s testimony was “wrong” and “twisted.” He added Seiler’s friends are aware he tells stories.

“Just because he feels (scared) doesn’t mean I am making him feel that way,” Queen said.

Vandecasteele never knew what happened in his garage, the place where prosecutors said Holsonbake was kidnapped and tortured, Queen said. Deputy District Attorney Eric Smith, who prosecuted Queen’s case, said the police investigation into Holsonbake’s death dried up until Vandecasteele stepped forward with key information about Queen and Despot’s questioning of Holsonbake in his garage.

But Vandecasteele’s testimony was “coerced” from him, Queen said. Queen referenced how police showed Vandecasteele pictures of Vandecasteele’s ex-girlfriend having a child with Queen, which led his ex-best friend to say “what he felt (police) wanted.”

Prosecutors developed their case from Seiler and Vandecasteele’s allegations, Queen said. He said he was “blown away” and “confused” when Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer announced a murder charge against him and Despot. Despot shouldn’t have been charged with Holsonbake’s murder either, he said, because she didn’t mean to kill Holsonbake.

Queen said he was in part happy to testify on the stand and refute what he considers tales spun by prosecutors about Holsonbake’s kidnapping, torture and death. But his testimony didn’t clear his name, Queen acknowledged.

Cheryl Holsonbake, the mother of Micah Holsonbake, said previously she cannot forgive Queen, which he said Wednesday is understandable.

“I just hope they understand their son was not tortured or murdered,” Queen said.

Queen said he thinks about other alternatives to the day Holsonbake died — such as calming Holsonbake and attempting to reason with him. He said he wished he could have trusted the police enough to go to them after Holsonbake’s death.

But the police got facts wrong, which led the media to report inaccurately because reporters cite police reports, Queen alleged. People are “delusional” if they think the media didn’t affect the trial, he added.

He also wonders why the District Attorney’s Office said they always sought a murder conviction, but then charged him with a slew of other incidents.

“Why the overkill?” Queen said. “Why all the cheap tricks at trial?”

But prosecutor Eric Smith said after sentencing that Queen deserves to be incarcerated so he can’t hurt anyone else.

“He is a person who committed multiple criminal acts … he’s intimidated people, he’s assaulted people, he’s killed someone … he’s definitely a criminal who deserves his sentence,” Smith said.

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @_ishanidesai on Twitter. 

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