A 10-year-old boy told investigators he watched his toddler brother die one night and that another disappeared after he heard a “loud thud” in the night.
Adrian West, now 12, will testify to what he heard and saw about the disappearances of Orrin, 4, and Orson, 3, reported as missing by their parents on December 21, 2020, prosecutor Eric Smith said Tuesday during his opening statement at the trial of Trezell and Jacqueline West, now charged with the boys’ murder.
The Wests have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, which include second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, child cruelty, falsely reporting an emergency, and conspiracy. Their attorneys say the disappearance remains a missing persons case and that police took the easy way out to explain why they couldn’t find the boys — charge the parents with murder, KGET reports.
“This is a tragic accident is what the evidence will show,” said Timothy Hennessy, one of Trezell West’s attorneys, in his opening statement.
The Wests reported the boys missing from California City, where they had moved from Bakersfield not long before. Trezell West said he’d accidentally left a back gate open, as CrimeOnline previously reported, while he stepped back into the house, as CrimeOnline previously reported. When he returned the boys were gone.
But Smith argued that the boys died months before they were reported missing, in September 2020, and that for Orrin, at least, the death came while they still lived in Bakersfield.
Adrian, the couple’s oldest biological child — Orrin, Orson, and two other children were adopted — will testify that he awoke one night to odd noises coming from Orrin and that he saw the color drain from his brother’s face before he vomited and died, Smith told the court. His parents didn’t call for help, he told investigators, and instead discussed keeping Orrin’s death a secret.
“And what you’ll hear (through testimony), (Adrian) knew if they told somebody they would be taken away from their parents,” Smith said.
Further, Adrian told detectives, Orson disappeared not long afterward, just days after the family moved to Bakersfield. He heard the “loud thump” in the night never saw his brother again. He was told the boy had gone back to his grandmother’s.
But defense attorneys told the court that police simply didn’t conduct a proper investigation, that they only interviewed a handful of 41 registered sex offenders living in California City, that they didn’t follow up on tip from a woman in Texas who said she saw the toddlers, and that they never explained surveillance video showing a vehicle leaving the area of the Wests’ home shortly before Trezell West called 911 to report the boys missing.
The trial is expected to last until early June.
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[Featured image: Orrin and Olson West/handout]