BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Two-and-a-half years ago California City police received a chilling report: Two young boys had disappeared from a backyard.
Police rushed to the scene and a helicopter, dogs and massive group of law enforcement and volunteers spread through neighborhoods and the surrounding desert area searching for Orrin, 4, and Orson West, 3. They found nothing.
And that’s how things stood for months — at least publicly. Behind the scenes, however, investigators were gathering evidence that would ultimately lead to charges including murder against Trezell and Jacqueline West, the boys’ adoptive parents.
Closing arguments in their trial will be heard Tuesday morning.
Following is a timeline of events in the West case:
Dec. 21, 2020
The Wests report the boys missing in the early evening. They tell police Trezell West had been gathering firewood while Orrin and Orson played in the backyard of their home on Aspen Avenue. They say Jacqueline West had been inside wrapping Christmas presents.
Trezell West briefly went inside, according to the Wests, and when he came back out the boys were gone. They say they conducted a quick, frantic search then called 911.
California City police arrive, followed by a sheriff’s Search and Rescue team and a California Highway Patrol helicopter. News of the disappearance spreads quickly, and citizen volunteers show up in droves.
The Wests are questioned.
Dec. 22, 2020
The search continues and the Wests are brought in for further questioning.
California City police Officer Brian Hansen questions the Wests’ four other children. All four say they haven’t seen Orrin and Orson in weeks, information which won’t be made public until trial.
Investigators go through the Wests’ home and leave with evidence collected in several brown bags and a duffel bag. The adoptive parents’ van is towed to be searched. The FBI gets involved.
Dec. 23, 2020
The Wests speak with media outside their home. They explain they were told to remain inside their home during the search. Trezell West says they fostered Orrin and Orson in 2018 and adopted them in 2019.
They say their other children — all 10 or younger — have been removed from their custody. Two are biological children of the Wests, the other two adopted.
The Wests say their cellphones and other electronic devices have been seized by police.
The home is searched again that afternoon. That night, the FBI digs in the Wests’ backyard.
Dec. 28, 2020
Re-interviewed by a social worker, the Wests’ eldest child, then 10, says he saw Orrin vomit and die at the Bakersfield apartment where the family lived before moving to California City in September 2020. He says he agreed to keep quiet about the death so authorities wouldn’t split up the family.
The boy tells the social worker he’s not sure what happened with Orrin’s body. They moved to California City a week later, he says, and soon after Orson disappeared.
Dec. 29, 2020
Then-California City Police Chief Jon Walker tells the media foul play is suspected and nothing was found in the backyard.
Jan. 2, 2021
The extended family of the missing boys issues a statement. They say they are cooperating with authorities and have involved private investigators. The West home in California City has been the target of attempted break-ins and rocks have been thrown at it, according to the statement.
Jan. 4, 2021
A total of $25,000 is offered by local businesses for information on the boys.
Jan. 17, 2021
Reward money rises to $100,000 for anyone with information leading to the boys’ whereabouts. The money has been donated by businesses, churches, the adoptive family and the city.
Jan. 25, 2021
California City police ask residents to report anyone seen trespassing on the Wests’ property. A candlelight vigil is held outside the home.
Feb. 1, 2021
Police and FBI agents revisit the home and use a device that sends a signal into the ground to see if there are anomalies in the soil. Nothing unusual is detected.
Feb. 2, 2021
A candlelight prayer is held outside a home in Bakersfield where the boys lived before they were adopted.
Feb. 14, 2021
The biological family of Orrin and Orson say they are raising money to put up more billboards about the disappearance.
Feb. 19, 2021
Protesters gather outside the Department of Human Services building to raise awareness of the case.
Feb. 21, 2021
Online communities composed of groups across the country and overseas track the case and share information.
March 1, 2021
The Bakersfield Police Department takes over the investigation.
March 6, 2021
Bakersfield police and officers from other agencies search a field in the area of Cottonwood and East Pacheco roads in connection with the investigation.
March 9, 2021
A group that follows cases involving child victims pays for two billboards in Wichita, Kan., asking for information about the boys.
March 15, 2021
The Bakersfield Police Department confirms it served a search warrant March 12 at the home of the boys’ adoptive grandmother. No other information is provided.
March 19, 2021
The reward for information increases to $125,000.
Wanda West, Trezell West’s mother, releases a statement asking the community to continue searching for her grandsons. She writes about losing Orrin and Orson and also her other four grandsons when Child Protective Services took them into protective custody.
June 1, 2021
BPD releases new information on the case. Police say 44 warrants have been served, 83 people interviewed and 170 items seized in the investigation.
Sept. 9, 2021
Charles Pettus, the biological father of one of the boys, files a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Child Protective Services for removing the children from his custody. The next hearing is scheduled in June.
Oct. 21, 2021
A community prayer vigil is held to mark the passage of 10 months since the boys were reported missing.
Dec. 15, 2021
A toy drive is held in honor of Orrin and Orson.
March 1, 2022
Trezell and Jacqueline West are indicted on charges including second-degree murder. They are arrested at about 7 p.m. in western Kern County.
March 2, 2022
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer holds a press conference in which she says the boys’ bodies have not been found, but there was enough direct and circumstantial evidence to convince the grand jury the boys were murdered.
She makes public that it’s believed Orrin and Orson died in September 2020, about three months before they were reported missing.
March 3, 2022
Trezell and Jacqueline West plead not guilty at their arraignment.
March 7, 2022
Timothy Hennessy, lead attorney for Trezell West, and Alekxia Torres Stallings, lead attorney for Jacqueline West, hold a press conference where they accuse Zimmer of spreading false information.
March 8, 2022
A Kern County judge issues a gag order in the case.
The order bars attorneys and their investigators and law enforcement involved in the West case from speaking publicly about it. It also applies to witnesses and court personnel with access to reports filed in the case.
June 17, 2022
Ryan Dean, the biological mother of Orrin and Orson, and her mother Dana Moorer file a $40 million lawsuit (an amended suit filed months later seeks $100 million) for alleged civil rights violations.
The family says the suit against the state and county stems from the decision to remove the children from their biological parents and place them in a dangerous situation with the Wests. The next hearing is scheduled in June.
In 2016, Dean was suspected of child abuse after her she took her oldest son Orrin to Memorial Hospital for a broken leg. According to the suit, Dean filed reunification requests and completed parenting classes to regain custody but had no luck. In 2017, she gave birth to Orson, who was removed from her custody a week later.
March 28, 2023
Opening statements are presented in the Wests’ trial. Prosecutor Eric Smith says the boys died in September 2020 and the Wests and an unidentified accomplice are responsible. Defense attorneys say investigators targeted their clients without scrutinizing local registered sex offenders and other potential suspects — including the boys’ biological family.
May 16, 2023
Closing arguments are scheduled and the case will go to the jury.