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Mother Of Boys Allegedly Killed By Adoptive Parents Sues Over Kids' Alleged Unlawful Removal
Ryan Dean claims that her boys, Classic and Cinsere Pettus, were illegally removed from her custody and awarded to Trezell and Jacqueline West. The Wests are now charged with murdering the kids, who they'd renamed Orrin and Orson.
The biological mother of two California boys allegedly killed by their adoptive parents has filed a $40 million federal lawsuit against the state, county and those parents, claiming her sons were unlawfully taken from her care and killed.
Ryan Dean and the boy’s biological grandmother, Dana Moorer, filed the suit on Friday. They said they both had tried unsuccessfully to regain custody of Dean's sons, who were first reported missing in December 2020 by their adoptive parents, Trezell West and Jacqueline West.
The Wests are now facing charges of second-degree murder, child abuse and filing a false report after investigators accused them of lying about what happened to the boys.
The couple initially reported that Classic Pettus, 4, and Cinsere Pettus, 3 — who had been renamed Orrin and Orson West — had been playing in the backyard of their California City home on Dec. 21, 2020 when they disappeared, according to a press conference earlier this year by Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer.
Law enforcement agencies searched tirelessly for the pair for 12 months before they reached the conclusion earlier this year that the Wests had killed the boys three months before the 911 call to report them missing, authorities said.
The children’s bodies have never been found, but Zimmerman said in March that investigators uncovered evidence to suggest they were dead. She declined to provide any details about what led officials to that conclusion.
The case against the Wests is still pending, but Dean believes her sons never should have been placed into either their foster home or the couple’s care.
“I just feel like I didn’t deserve this,” she said at a Tuesday press conference, according to NBC News. “I’m not a criminal. I don’t have a bad record.”
Dean lost custody of her oldest son, Classic, in 2016 after she came home from work and found her 3-month-old son “crying uncontrollably,” according to the lawsuit obtained by NBC News and local station KGET.
The baby had been in the care of his father, Charles Pettus, that day. Dean said Pettus told her that he’d given his son two baths that day but nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
However, when Dean brought her son to the hospital, doctors discovered that both of his legs were broken, according to the lawsuit. The child was taken into the custody of the Kern County Human Services after doctors felt he might have been abused in the home.
Dean, who attorneys said had no criminal record, completed parenting classes and filed reunification requests to regain custody of her son, who had been placed in a foster home — where Dean was able to regularly visit.
As a result of the stress of the situation, however, her attorneys said a doctor recommended she use marijuana. Once she completed her parenting classes, her attempts to reunify with her son were denied because she was told she needed counseling as a result of the marijuana use.
Her son Cinsere was born in June 2017. Although he was initially released into her care, he was removed by the Kern County Human Services department a few days later because, she says she was told, “they like to keep siblings together,” according to the lawsuit.
Both boys were then removed from their foster home and placed into the Wests’ care in late 2018.
Dean said she was never given an explanation for why the move was made and thereafter saw her children less often. When she was able to see them, she noticed they were losing weight, appeared “scared” and one of her sons had “scratches on his face.”
Dean alleges that she wrote a letter to the human services department expressing her concerns that her children weren’t getting “proper care” but she never got any response, according to a copy of the suit obtained by The Associated Press.
The family’s attorney, Waukeen McCoy, said at the press conference that Moorer had also made multiple attempts to gain custody of her grandchildren, also completing parenting classes and undergoing a psychological review, but her requests were denied, too.
The family is now seeking $40 million in damages in the suit against the state Department of Social Services, Kern County Human Services, the Wests and others, arguing that the state “had a duty” to protect her children while they were in the care of the system.
“Cinsere and Classic Pettus were murdered after being unlawfully taken from their mother as a result of an outdated foster care model that Congress described as having a perverse incentive to tear African American families apart,” McCoy said, adding that Black families were disproportionately subjected to child abuse investigations.
Kern County Human Services information officer Jana Slagle declined to comment on the allegations to Oxygen.com, citing an existing court gag order in the case and a lack of a court order to obtain a juvenile file.