BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — After dozens of searches, scores of interviews, months of investigation, weeks of trial, and, lastly, a plea on the part of a defense attorney asking her client receive probation, the adoptive parents of Orrin and Orson West on Thursday were sentenced to life terms in prison.
Trezell and Jacqueline West, accused of killing the young boys three years ago, were sentenced to 15 years to life in prison plus four years.
As the Wests were sentenced, sniffling was heard from members of the audience, some of them biological family of Orrin, 4, and Orson, 3, others members of the public who have followed the case from the beginning.
Trezell West, 37, and Jacqueline West, 33, reported the boys missing in December 2020. Prosecutors say the couple killed them three months earlier and disposed of the bodies, then fabricated a tale of how the boys disappeared from their backyard, apparently kidnapped.
In May, they were found guilty of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and child cruelty regarding Orrin. Jurors failed to reach verdicts on second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with Orson’s death. A guilty verdict for child cruelty was returned regarding Orson.
Prosecutors announced they will not retry the Wests on the hung charges, noting how difficult it was for child witnesses in the case to testify.
A son’s testimony
The key witness in the case proved to be another child in the Wests’ home.
Their eldest biological son — the Wests had four adopted sons and two biological sons — told investigators and testified in court he saw Orrin dead in the family’s Bakersfield apartment about a week before they moved to California City in September 2020.
“I touched his body and it was cold,” the boy told investigators when asked how he knew Orrin was dead. He said he didn’t tell anyone because his parents said it would split up the family.
Within a week of Orrin’s death, Orson disappeared, the boy said. The other children in the home also said they hadn’t seen the two for a long time before they were reported missing.
The boys’ bodies have not been found.
A motive for the killings remains unclear, but prosecutor Eric Smith said the Wests abused their adopted children. He said that led to Orrin’s death — and a decision to kill Orson, too.
“This case was prosecuted because the evidence was overwhelming that Trezell and Jacqueline West murdered those two boys,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said at a press conference held after sentencing and the lifting of a gag order that previously barred attorneys from commenting.
There have been no videos, photos or any other trace of the children since September 2020, Zimmer said. If the defense had evidence showing they were still alive after that date, they would have presented it, she said.
Any new, viable leads on the bodies’ whereabouts will be investigated, Zimmer said. She thanked California City and Bakersfield police, as well as multiple other agencies that became involved, for their painstaking work, and also expressed gratitude to volunteers who showed up in droves to assist in searching for the children.
Defense counsel are expected to hold a press conference next week.
Timothy Hennessy and Victor Nasser, Trezell West’s attorneys, and Alekxia Torres Stallings and Fatima Rodriguez, defense counsel for Jacqueline West, have maintained their clients had nothing to do with the boys’ disappearance. They argued at trial a sex offender or a biological family member of Orrin or Orson could be responsible.
Before sentencing, Torres Stallings made an impassioned plea for Jacqueline West to be sentenced to probation. She noted how unusual such a request was for a murder conviction, but said her client lost everything — her children, her husband, her prior life — and if she had any information on what happened to the boys or their whereabouts she would have provided it at this point.
Jacqueline West has no prior criminal record and was never previously the subject of Child Protective Services reports, the attorney said. She said they were asking for “a fair and just sentence.”
Judge Charles R. Brehmer rejected Torres Stallings’ argument.
“Jacqueline West is not the victim. Let’s just be clear,” he said.
In some cases, Brehmer said, he has veered from the sentence recommended by the probation department.
“This is not one of those cases,” he said. “I understand all the options open to me for sentencing and I’m going to sentence Jacqueline West to what I believe to be the appropriate sentence in the eyes of the law and in consideration of all arguments and discretion that I do have.”
Brehmer then sentenced her to the total term of 15 years to life plus four years, the same punishment her husband received minutes earlier.