A California woman who has been missing for two years and connected to the so-called Bakersfield 3 case is now facing murder charges in a killing.
For the last two years, Micah Holsonbake, Baylee Despot, and James Kulstad have been known as the Bakersfield 3, according to local outlet 23ABC News. In early 2018, Despot and Holsonbake both disappeared and Kulstad was found shot to death in his car all within the span of two months, according to local outlet KGET. The mothers of Holsonbake, Despot and Kulstad then banded together to search for answers in the unsolved crimes that took away their children, starting a website and becoming local advocates.
One of Holsonbake's arms was found in a park later that year, and police began investigating his case as a homicide — with Despot still missing. However, the case took a shocking turn on Wednesday when Despot was charged with murdering Holsonbake, according to Bakersfield.com.
Despot, 20 at the time of her disappearance, was charged alongside former boyfriend Matthew Queen, 43, who is currently being held in jail on other charges.
Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said Wednesday that Queen and Despot are accused of first-degree murder, kidnapping, torture, and conspiracy charges in Holsonbake's death.
Police previously said they believe Holsonbake's death and Kulstad's still-unsolved killing — as well as the disappearance of Despot — are related. However, Zimmer said Kulstad's death is not part of the current case and is no longer considered linked to Despot or Holsonbake, Bakersfield.com reported.
Despot's mother, Jane Parrent, told Bakersfield.com that she was shocked by the charges — also leveling blame on Queen, with whom Despot was living with at the time of her disappearance.
"The Baylee everybody knows and loves, she would never ever do anything that horrific to anybody unless her life was in danger or she was threatened, or maybe she was drugged and didn't know it," Parrent said. "I'm not trying to make excuses, I just want answers ... so until we can find her, if she's alive, and talk to her, only she knows for sure."
Parrent also told Bakersfield.com she spoke to Holsonbake's mother, Cherly Holsonbake, after hearing the news, saying she "doesn't think Baylee would ever do that unless she was made to."
A third man, Matthew Vandacasteele, was also charged with three counts Wednesday in the case — kidnapping, conspiracy, and manufacture of assault weapons. Vandacasteele is in custody in another jurisdiction, according to the local outlet.
Queen allegedly asked to use Vandacasteele's apartment's garage to extract information from Holsonbake back in 2018. Queen and Despot then allegedly placed zip ties on Holsonbake's arms there and Despot retrieved a knife from inside the apartment, according to the charging documents obtained by Bakersfield.com. Queen or Vandacasteele also researched how to dissolve a body, the documents claim.
Queen faces 50 years to life in prison, Despot faces 25 years to life in prison, and Vandacasteele faces 16 years in prison.
Queen is set to be arraigned in Kern County at a later date, and it was unclear if he was available for comment.
"Baylee Despot has an active arrest warrant for her role in the murder of Micah Holsonbake. Despot is still considered to be missing and investigators are still seeking any information that could result in her being located," the Bakersfield Police Department told Oxygen.com in a statement.
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