BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A plea to help locate two missing boys just four days before Christmas 2020 shocked the community of California City.
Trezell and Jacqueline West reported their two adopted children — Orrin and Orson — went missing.
“They are our children and so we want them back,” Trezell West told reporters.
On Dec. 21, 2020 the Wests told police Orson, 3, and Orrin, 4, had gone missing from the backyard of their home on the edge of the vast, desert community of California City.
“I came in the house, saw them there, went into the house, came back out, didn’t see them there,” Trezell said at the time. “I realized I left the gate open and I panicked.”
Officers and neighbors started looking for the boys, scouring yards and fields.
The next day, the search became an investigation. Detectives went through the West home taking large brown bags full of evidence. The family’s van was towed; their cellphones seized. The FBI eventually became involved.
Authorities removed the family’s four other sons and placed them into protective custody. The community prayed and left Christmas presents that Orrin and Orson would never get to open.
Police continued their search digging up vacant fields. Investigators used ground-penetrating radar to search for bodies, but found nothing. Law enforcement involved in the investigation at the time grew frustrated by finding no trace of the boys.
“What I do believe: That night there’s no way that they could have got out of that neighborhood without some sort of assistance from an adult,” former California City Police Chief John Walker said.
Police wouldn’t say who that adult might have beenl, but a week later, Walker was more blunt.
“I can’t comment on that, whether I think they’re alive or not. I do suspect foul play,” Walker said. “We haven’t been able to put that together, how the boys got out of the yard or where they’ve gone.”
Four months later, in March 2021, the Bakersfield Police Department took over the case. Bakersfield police said its department had more resources than the 21-officer California City Police Department.
Investigators then followed up on leads in Bakersfield where the Wests had lived until September 2020.
Massive searches turned up few leads. Family members and strangers alike held onto hope while contributions poured in to create a reward of more than $100,000.
While many from the community gathered for prayer vigils, Trezell and Jacqueline West never attended any.
A year later, in March 2022, the investigation turned into a homicide investigation. Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer announced Trezell and Jacqueline West were indicted by a grand jury for the murders of their adopted children, Orrin and Orson.
“Our investigation has revealed Orrin and Orson West are deceased. The investigation has also revealed that they died three months before their adoptive parents reported them missing,” Zimmer said at the March 2, 2022 press conference.
Hours before his arrest, 17 News tracked down Trezell West at a post office in Edison. He left in an RV west of Bakersfield where police caught up with him.
Biological family of Orrin and Orson West have pleaded for information about Orrin and Orson’s fate.
“Where are they boys’ bodies?” Rosanna Willis, the boys’ cousin, asked. “We want to bring them home to give them a proper burial.”
Trezell and Jacqueline West pleaded not guilty to charges. Their trial lasted weeks and witnesses said they hadn’t seen the boys for months prior to them being reported missing.
Pivotal testimony came from the Wests’ oldest biological child who claimed he saw 4-year-old Orrin’s body at the family’s home.
The defense argued the police focused on the Wests from the beginning, ignoring other possible suspects.
Jurors eventually found Trezell and Jacqueline West guilty of five of the seven counts against them including second-degree murder of 4-year-old Orrin.
On Thursday, after two delays, the couple was finally sentenced to prison. Trezell and Jacqueline West will spend 15 years to life in prison for the death of Orrin.
For the boys’ family, the question remains: Where are the boys?