BAKERSFIELD, Calf. (KGET) — Trezell and Jacqueline West are adept at telling lies, an attorney said Tuesday.

They lied to law enforcement, their parents, even their children, prosecutor Eric Smith said. The lies, he said, revolved around what happened to their adopted children Orrin, 4, and Orson, 3.

The Wests claimed the boys disappeared Dec. 21, 2020, while playing in their backyard in California City, having moved there from Bakersfield three months earlier.

The reality, Smith said, is Orrin and Orson never made it to California City. Relatives hadn’t seen them for months, and surveillance footage never captured them in California City or Bakersfield on multiple dates in the weeks leading up to the missing persons report.

“Where are Orrin and Orson? They’re dead,” Smith said as he presented a roughly two-hour closing argument in the Wests’ weekslong trial. He said the Wests killed them and asked the jury to return guilty verdicts on all charges, including murder.

The boys’ bodies have not been found. The Wests, indicted in March 2022, face life terms in prison if convicted as charged.

Timothy Hennessy, Trezell West’s lead attorney, told the jury he’s scared, not just for his clients but for what it says about him if he can’t convince them the prosecution’s theory makes no sense and the Wests are innocent. He said a shoddy investigation and tunnel vision on the part of authorities landed his clients in court while the culprits are still at large.

“The reality is that two little boys went missing,” Hennessy said during his 40-minute closing argument. “They got took. And that is terrifying.”

Alekxia Torres Stallings, lead counsel for Jacqueline West, said “there are glaring issues in this case that can not be excused.” And she said it starts with the California City Police Department.

Police failed to write reports and take videos of all their actions and interviews conducted the night of the reported disappearance. Contact with a nearby resident who had a surveillance system wasn’t even known until trial because police never told anyone, Torres Stallings said.

She said she hopes the prosecution isn’t trying to manipulate the justice system by blaming the Wests. But there are numerous problems with their case, she said, and there is reasonable doubt.

The prosecution

Ultimately, Smith said, the Wests’ four other children — two biological, two adopted — unraveled their scheme. The Wests wrongly believed law enforcement couldn’t question their children without their permission.

When a California City police officer interviewed the children the day after Orrin and Orson were reported missing, they all said the same thing: They hadn’t seen their brothers for weeks.

A week later, the Wests’ eldest biological child came forward with startling information; he told a social worker he saw Orrin die at the family’s apartment in Bakersfield in September. He said his parents never called 911 for help. A week later they moved to California City, and shortly after Orson disappeared, the boy said.

The boy said only he and his parents had seen Orrin die. His parents swore him to secrecy, he said, telling him if anyone else knew what happened the children would be taken away.

“He knew the right thing,” Smith said. “The reason he didn’t say anything earlier is because of his parents.”

The Wests loved their two biological children but abused their adopted sons, the prosecutor said. Orrin and Orson were abused merely because they cried a lot, Smith said, referring the jury to testimony from another child who spent time with the Wests and reported Jacqueline West would place crying children in a chokehold to get them to stop.

It’s unclear exactly what led to Orrin’s death, but afterward, the Wests conspired to kill Orson, Smith said. They used the COVID-19 pandemic as cover; it made for a convenient excuse to keep the children away from relatives, he said.

In the three months from when the boys died to when they were reported missing, the Wests had plenty of time to dispose of the bodies, get new phones and come up with a story, Smith said. They didn’t care about Orrin and Orson, only adopting them for the $1,000 monthly payments the state paid for each child. The Wests’ income came almost entirely from those payments and ones they received for their other adopted children.

“Trezell and Jacqueline have no moral fiber,” he said. “They killed two kids.”

The defense

Police focused on the Wests from the beginning, Hennessy said, ignoring other possibilities. They didn’t look into the dozens of sex offenders living in California City, didn’t thoroughly check a tip reporting the boys had been seen in Arlington, Texas and weren’t aware until the trial of lights seen on surveillance footage that could have been a car leaving the vicinity of the Wests’ home the night of the disappearance, Hennessy said.

These failures extended to collecting surveillance footage, the attorney said. Authorities could have gone further back and collected more footage that may have shown Orrin and Orson, but they didn’t, he said.

Everyone involved had blinders on, Hennessy said. He said other factors were also at play.

Trezell West is Black, and this incident occurred around the time of the George Floyd unrest. When Trezell West told police he didn’t think they were taking the investigation seriously enough because two Black boys were missing, they bristled, Hennessy said. One officer indicated he was ready to arrest Trezell West that night despite flimsy evidence, he said.

Hennessy, who is white, said if his child went missing police wouldn’t be calling him a liar the same night. They would have exhausted all possibilities first.

The jury couldn’t help but find the prosecution’s case weak, Hennessy said.

“When they rested their case, you had to have winced a little, thinking ‘that’s all?'” he said.

Torres Stallings went over certain jury instructions, among them how to judge a witness’s testimony by considering how well they could see or hear what they were testifying to, how reasonable the testimony is in light of other evidence and what their behavior was like on the stand.

She referred to the testimony of California City police Officer Brian Hansen and how he gave conflicting statements and then said neither statement was a lie.

There are no confessions in this case and there isn’t an overwhelming amount of evidence, Torres Stallings said. With the exception of the eldest child’s testimony, she said the rest of the evidence is circumstantial. She noted that if two reasonable conclusions can be drawn from circumstantial evidence, one pointing to innocence and other to guilt, the jury must choose the one pointing to innocence.

The prosecution built its case on what the Wests’ eldest child said. But there were issues with how the boy and the Wests’ other children were questioned, Torres Stallings said. Hansen, who conducted the initial interviews, had no formal training in questioning children.

Social worker Sunya Barton, who conducted later interviews, testified she was unaware of suggestibility in children. Torres Stallings said there were “bad questions” that could lead to false allegations. Some involved simple yes or no answers instead of open-ended responses.

In wrapping up her 75-minute testimony, Torres Stallings played audio of a detective telling Jacqueline West everything that will happen to her if she doesn’t tell the truth: her family will disown her, friends abandon her, the other children will be taken away. As the audio played, Torres Stallings showed a video of footage from the Wests’ house with the family gone.

Everything the detective said would happen came to pass, she said. But Trezell and Jacqueline West are still standing by each other, she said, and they know they did nothing wrong.

“There is nothing in this case that points to the unreasonable conclusion that they did anything,” Torres Stallings said.