(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) — The more than yearlong search for two missing California toddlers took a disturbing twist Tuesday night when their adoptive parents were jailed on murder charges, authorities said.
Trezell West, 35, and Jacqueline West, 32, were being held without bail on Wednesday at the Kern County Jail, according to online jail records.
The couple was booked at the jail around 8 p.m. Tuesday on two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of willful cruelty to a child and a misdemeanor charge of making a false report of an emergency, according to jail records. They are expected to make their first appearance in court on Thursday.
The Wests reported their adopted children, 4-year-old Olson and his 3-year-old brother, Orrin, missing in December 2020 from the backyard of their home in California City near Bakersfield, setting off a massive search involving police and volunteers. A reward fund ballooned to more than $120,000 for information on the boys’ whereabouts.
Lt. Jason Townsend of the Bakersfield Police Department confirmed to ABC Bakersfield affiliate station KERO that the couple was arrested around 7 p.m. Tuesday. Townsend declined to release more information on the arrests except to say they were taken into custody in an unincorporated area of Bakersfield.
Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to discuss developments in the case.
Trezell and Jacqueline West reported the boys missing on Dec. 21, 2020, and have publicly denied being involved in their disappearance.
In an interview with KERO just two days after the boys vanished, Trezell West claimed he last saw them playing in their backyard.
“I realized that I left the back gate open and I panicked and came inside the house. [We] searched the house, me and my wife,” Trezell West said at the time. “Once that didn’t pan out, I got in the van. I looked down the street in both directions; it was getting dark, getting cold.”
Police investigators previously said the Wests were not suspects. It was not immediately clear what evidence led investigators to arrest the couple.
The whereabouts of Olson and Orrin remain a mystery. Since the outset of the search for the boys, police have said they suspect foul play was involved in their disappearance.
The Wests were initially foster parents to Orson and Orrin, who came to live with them in 2018. The couple officially completed the adoption process in 2019.
In addition to Orson and Orrin, the couple has four other children, including two who are adopted and two who are biological, investigators told ABC News. The Wests’ four other children had been moved into protective custody, police said.
In an interview with ABC News in February 2021, Trezell West’s mother, Wanda West, defended him and Jacqueline West as “really good parents as far as I’m concerned.”
ABC News’ Sabina Ghebremedhin and Zohreen Shah contributed to this report.
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