BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A $40 million lawsuit alleging civil rights violations was filed Friday by the mother and maternal grandmother of Orrin and Orson West, the two boys prosecutors allege died while in the custody of their adoptive parents.
Ryan Dean and Dana Moorer, the mother and grandmother, had filed a claim — the precursor to a lawsuit — against the county in April. A news conference regarding the suit is set for Tuesday.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, names as defendants the state Department of Social Services, Kern County Human Services, the Wests and others.
The adoptive parents, Trezell and Jacqueline West, face charges including second-degree murder and are scheduled for trial next month.
The suit alleges Orrin was unlawfully taken from Dean on Nov. 13, 2016, after she returned home from work and found the then-3-month-old “crying uncontrollably.” The child’s father, Charles Pettus, said he’d given the boy two baths that day and nothing unusual had happened.
Dean took Orrin to Memorial Hospital, where it was discovered his legs were broken. Suspecting abuse, Human Services took the child, the suit says. It notes Dean had no prior criminal record or allegations of abuse against the boy.
The department placed Orrin with foster parent Latoya Spry, and Dean was allowed to visit her son two to three times a week at a designated location. Dean believed Orrin was treated well.
According to the suit, Dean filed reunification requests and completed parenting classes to regain custody. Following a doctor’s recommendation, she used marijuana to deal with the stress of having Orrin taken from her.
That backfired, the suit says, as Dean, upon completing parenting courses, was told she need counseling for her marijuana use.
In June 2017, Dean gave birth to Orson. He was released into her care, according to the suit, but days later was taken from her.
“Ms. Dean was informed that Kern County Human Services was removing (Orson) from her home because (Orrin) had been removed and they like to keep siblings together,” the suit says.
In late 2018, both boys were removed from the home of Spry and placed in the home of the Wests “for financial gain,” according to the suit. Afterward, Dean noticed her children seemed scared and were losing weight, and Orson had scratches on his face, the suit says.
Dean shared her concerns with Kern County Human Services but believes they did nothing in response, the suit says. Later, Moorer filed a request to have the children placed with her, but in 2019 the department revoked Dean’s parental rights “without explanation” and denied Moorer’s request, the suit says.
Trezell and Jacqueline West reported the boys missing from their California City home on Dec. 21, 2020. In March, the Kern County Grand Jury indicted the Wests on charges including second-degree murder.
Prosecutors say the boys are believed to have died three months before reported missing. Their bodies have not been found.