CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (KGET)— The sweet, smiling faces of three-year-old Orson West and four-year-old Orrin are immortalized in photos. But, this moment of happiness frozen in time also triggers anger, confusion, and despair for many residents in California City.
“I was devastated,” said Cal City resident, June Soloman.
The boys were reported missing in California City on Dec. 21, 2020. For 15 months their disappearance drew international attention as Cal City gained notoriety as the town with missing children.
Former Cal City Mayor, Jeanie O’Laughlin remembers that tragic year all too well.
“There was some concern from the public because they felt they weren’t getting updates like they should,” said O’Laughlin.
When the adoptive parents were arrested in March 2022, detectives said the boys never were in California City. They were killed before the family moved from Bakersfield.
June Solomon lives near the now, empty, sad-looking home once believed to have sheltered the foster children.
“Nobody, none of the neighbors had seen kids out in that backyard,” said Soloman.
“Who knows what horrors they went through,” said Ron Smith, Cal City Mayor Pro Tem. “There’s nothing more shameful that I can think of.”
Smith is still healing. The Mayor Pro Tem of Cal City and pastor at Victory Baptist Church offered a $10,000 reward to find the boys, and he’s not alone.
Leland Krelle with West Coast Realty says, “It’ll help. It’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t bring the kids back.” Krelle also donated $10,000 and helped rally the community to generate $125,000 to bring the boys back, now believed to be dead.
“We all really would like to be able to lay them to rest properly,” said O’Laughlin.
Jeanie O’Laughlin had just become Cal City Mayor when the boys were first reported missing. This fellow foster mother to dozens of kids over the years is still in shock. “I just can’t even imagine how someone could do any harm to a child whether it’s there’s, or not.”
Ironically, many community members say the tragedy brought the town together. Ron Smith says, “Hundreds of citizens spent time away from their kids at Christmas to look for these two precious little boys. In my 33 years of living here, I have never been prouder of my city.”
Trezell and Jacqueline West have been sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for charges including second-degree murder and child cruelty. “I hope they fall on their face before God and plead for mercy,” said Smith.
If you’re ever in Cal City and you want to know where the boys are, you can find their smiling faces frozen on a sign a little South of town, the town that will never forget Orson, and Orrin, the little boys who lived a life of abuse.