Speaking to reporters at a news conference Wednesday, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said the remains of 4-year-old Orrin West and 3-year-old Orson West, whose birth names are Classic and Cinsere Pettus, have not yet been found. be found.
“However, I would like to emphasize that the fact that law enforcement did not find their bodies does not preclude prosecution for murder,” Zimmer said, declining to say whether investigators knew Orrin and his wife. How Orson died or not.
Trezell Phillip West, 35 years old and Jacqueline Gabrielle West, 32 years old — person adopt children as adoptive parents in 2018 following a report of abuse by a family member and their adoption the following year — was arrested by Bakersfield Police Department officers last night. The pair are charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of willful cruelty to a child and one count of false reporting of an emergency, according to court filings seen by The Daily Beast. review.
They are being held without bail at the Kern County Sheriff’s Central Reservation Facility, pending a hearing scheduled for Thursday. Both have steadfastly maintained their chastity, highlighted in a January 2021 blog post, “Our priority is to find out where the boys are and their safe return. The truth has been and will be brought to light”.
On December 21, 2020, Wests told California City police that Orrin and Orson disappeared while playing in the family’s backyard, Zimmer recounted. Local police conducted a search in the surrounding area, but to no avail. After making little progress, the FBI lent its support, as did the California Highway Patrol and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. But in March 2021, according to Zimmer, “critical information came to light that required the involvement of the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.” She did not specify what that information was.
“Law enforcement worked diligently, hundreds of hours, over the next 12 months to find the boys,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “This morning, I am saddened to announce that an investigation has revealed that Orrin and Orson West have passed away. The investigation also revealed that they were dead three months before their adoptive parents reported them missing.”
Police executed dozens of search warrants, more than 100 interviews, and scoured at least 27 different areas in the state, a A spokesperson for Bakersfield PD said in December. The community was strongly involved in trying to find Orrin and Orson, inspiring many online and armchair investigators to join, one of whom is a retired NYPD detective.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Eric Smith, supervisor of Kern County’s DA Homicide Unit, said more than 50 witnesses were called to testify before the grand jury that ultimately brought the charges against Trezell. and Jacqueline West.
“Much of the testimony of those witnesses was incredibly emotional because it relates to this case,” Smith said. “But that is to be expected from a case involving the murder of two innocent children.”
Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry added. “And there won’t be a complete solution in this case until these boys are brought home.”
There have been “hundreds of successful prosecutions of non-corpse homicide,” Zimmer said during Wednesday’s news conference, explaining that more than one bodyless murder in Kern County has resulted in convictions.
According to former federal prosecutor Thomas DiBiase, an expert on immoral homicides across the United States, there have been about 550 cases that have gone to trial. Having the bodies or bodies of victims is “the most important piece of evidence in a murder case,” DiBiase told The Daily Beast in an earlier interview. However, he said, “Once they are tried, they tend to be convicted, because prosecutors will only bring the strongest unspecified case to trial.”
This past December, Orrin and Orson’s biological father, Charles Pettus, filed a lawsuit against Kern County, the county’s child protective services agency, and the State of Californiaalleged negligence in taking the boys from their parents and placing them in Wests’ care.
“In 2018, Mr Pettus and his biological mother, the parents of Cinsere and Classic Pettus, were removed from their custody by the Defendants due to an investigation into abuse with another member of the family. family,” the lawsuit said. “The Pettus children were not under the supervision of a related family member at the time of the alleged abuse, and were not under the supervision of any of the aforementioned Plaintiffs at the time of the alleged abuse. forced abuse. At the time of investigation The defendants had no prior charges of abuse. The biological mother has no criminal record, nor does she have a complicated and unscrupulous background. However, the children were removed from the care of their biological families due to the alleged abuse incident.
According to the filing, “the stress of the abuse and child loss investigation” led to Pettus’s separation, and after being placed into a foster family, the couple’s two sons were sent by authorities. went to live with Wests, who had two biological and two other adopted children. Those children are now in foster care, Zimmer said.
“Mr. Pettus lost contact with his biological mother after the children were taken away and she has not seen the children since late 2018,” the lawsuit states.
Ten months after his biological children disappeared, Pettus continued to hold out hope that the boys would be found alive.
“I don’t want my children to die, I want them to come home because my children are all I have,” said Pettus, who previously lost his third child in an accident, told NBC local branch KGET last fall. “After my parents left, it was just me and my kids… They took my family, they took my kids, my kids are my life. No matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult it is, I will not give it away, I will never give up.”
Trezelle and Jacqueline West do not yet have an attorney listed in court records, but they will have the opportunity to retain an attorney or have a court-appointed attorney, once they are sorted, according to Zimmer.
“This case has touched the hearts of people in my office, in law enforcement and in this community,” Zimmer said. “It is a terrible tragedy that these precious boys lost their lives.”
If convicted of murder, both face sentences ranging from 30 years to life in prison.