Two brothers, 4-year-old Orrin West and 3-year-old Orson West, went missing on Dec. 21, 2020. On Tuesday night, the brothers’ adoptive parents were arrested and charged with murder.
Trezell Phillip West, 35, and Jacqueline Gabrielle West, 32, each stand accused of murder in the second degree, willful cruelty to a child, and false report of an emergency, according to Kern County, Calif. booking records reviewed by Law&Crime.
The couple were arrested after 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2022, after charges were filed against them earlier that afternoon; their first court appearance is currently slated for this Thursday, Mar. 3, 2022.
Orson West and Orrin West have never been found. They were last seen alive playing near their home before vanishing without a trace.
“I don’t want my kids to be deceased, I want them to come back home because my kids is all I got,” Charles Pettus, the boys’ biological father, told Bakersfield NBC/CW affiliate KGET some 10 months after their disappearance. “After my parents go, it’s just me and my kids.”
The children, whose birth names are Classic Pettus and Cincere Pettus, were removed from their biological mother’s home by Child Protective Services and adopted by the West family in September 2020. Three months later, they were gone. Their biological father said he learned about the news from the media — not from law enforcement.
“I was looking through family members’ phones and then we watched the news, that’s how we found out,” Pettus told the TV station. “I didn’t know they even sent them out to other people.”
On Dec. 29, 2020, police said they believed foul play had occurred.
At the time the boys went missing, the adoptive father reportedly said he was gathering firewood while the two played outside. Trezell West is said to have told law enforcement he briefly went back inside the house and returned to find the boys gone. After that, he reportedly said he drove through nearby streets and talked to his neighbors to no avail. At around 6:00 p.m. on the day in question, the children were reported missing to police.
A series of law enforcement efforts and community searches ensued. The next day, the adoptive parents were brought in for questioning, KGET reported. By the second night, a search warrant was effectuated at the West residence, the parents’ van was towed for a comprehensive search, and the FBI was involved in the case, the TV station said. Still, months passed with little headway.
In March of last year, the Bakersfield Police Department took over the investigation from the California City Police Department. Weeks later, the BPD said it had issued some 44 search warrants, conducted 83 interviews, and seized 170 items in an effort to find the boys or who was responsible for their absence — insisting the case was not cold.
Details about the alleged circumstances of the brothers’ disappearance and apparent murder are not currently being divulged. The Kern County District Attorney’s Office is holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the case.
News of the arrests was welcomed by the boys’ extended family.
“Now the truth is out, the truth is out and this is the beginning of a long journey to justice and we will hold every last one of them accountable!” cousin Rosanna Wills said in comments reported by KGET on Tuesday. “It’s a lot for our family, we are losing our loved ones this year and this is not good, we were looking for a different outcome but it is a huge weight off our shoulders but now we got our answers, now we know who did it.”
[image via screengrab/KGET]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]