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The adoptive parents of two California boys, reported missing in December of 2020, were arrested Tuesday night and accused of killing the boys months before they were ever reported missing.
Trezell West, 35, and Jacqueline West, 32, are now each facing two-counts of second-degree murder, two counts of felony child abuse and filing a false report in the suspected deaths of 4-year-old Orrin West and 3-year-old Orson West, according to a press conference by Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer.
“This morning I’m saddened to announce that the investigation has revealed that Orrin and Orson West are deceased,” Zimmer said. “The investigation has also revealed that they died three months before their adoptive parents reported them missing.”
Zimmer said the bodies of the boys have not been found but that “does not preclude a murder prosecution.”
Investigators continue to search for the remains.
“This is not a resolution in this case and there will not resolution completely in this case until these boys are brought home,” Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry said during the press conference.
The couple was arrested after a three-month grand jury hearing, beginning in December, that included often emotional testimony from more than 50 witnesses, authorities said.
Zimmer declined to discuss any details of the case or what led investigators to believe the boys were killed, saying any additional information about the case will come out during trial.
Trezell and Jacqueline West told police the boys had disappeared on December 21, 2020 while they were playing in the backyard of their California City home.
Trezell Wood told local station KERO-TV he had been gathering wood at the time to start a fire.
“I open up the back gate, I’m throwing wood, bringing it inside the house,” he said. “My wife’s inside, she was actually wrapping gifts so we thought it was a good idea that our youngest two go outside and play with chalk on the back patio.”
He said he realized a few minutes later that they were gone.
“I came in the house, I saw them there. I go in the house, I came back out, I didn’t see them there,” he said during the 2020 interview.
The California City Police Department responded to the call and launched a massive search for the boys—which eventually included the FBI, California Highway Patrol, Kern County Sheriff’s Department and members of the community who “came out to assist in looking for the boys,” Zimmer said.
”Law enforcement worked diligently, hundreds of hours in the next 12 months looking for the boys,” she said.
Investigators now believe the boys had been killed three months before phone call to 911 was ever made.
According to Zimmer, the grand jury was presented with a combination of “direct and circumstantial evidence” that led them to conclude the two boys were dead.
She called the grand jury indictment a “major step in ensuring that there will be justice for Orrin and Orson.”
“This case has tugged at the heart strings of people in my office, and in law enforcement and in this community,” she said. “It is a horrific tragedy that these precious little boys had to lose their lives.”
The Wests had begun fostering the boys in 2018 before they were officially adopted by the family the next year, according to SF Gate.
The couple also has two other adopted children and two biological children, who are currently in the care and custody of child protective services.
Trezell and Jacqueline West are expected to be arraigned Thursday. If convicted of the two second-degree murder charges against them, Zimmer said they could be facing a sentence of 30 years to life in prison.
“This is not the outcome that we and so many had hoped and prayed for over the last year,” Terry said Wednesday. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Orrin and Orson, who with this news today, their worst fears have been realized.”
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