CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. (KABC) -- Two young brothers died three months before their adoptive parents, who have been arrested on murder charges, reported them missing in late 2020, the Kern County district attorney announced Wednesday.
Speaking at a news conference, DA Cynthia Zimmer said an investigation confirmed the deaths of Orrin West, 4, and his brother Orson, 3.
The boys' bodies have not been found, Zimmer said, adding: "However, I would like to emphasize the fact that law enforcement has not found their bodies does not preclude a murder prosecution. As a matter of fact, there have been many hundreds of what we call 'no body homicides' prosecuted across the United States, successfully.
In December 2020, the boys' adoptive parents, Trezell West and Jacqueline West, reported that the brothers had disappeared from the backyard of their California City home.
Police launched a search of the area, which was later joined by the FBI, California Highway Patrol, a Kern County sheriff's search and rescue team, and members of the community. The search expanded to Bakersfield, about 60 miles to the west, where the boys lived before moving in September 2020.
Trezell West and Jacqueline West were arrested Tuesday and were each charged with five counts: two counts of murder, two counts of felony child abuse and one count of filing a false report of an emergency, Zimmer said.
Both parents are being held without bail and are expected to be arraigned in court on Thursday. Online records do not indicate whether they have attorneys to speak on their behalf.
"This is not the outcome that we in so many had hoped and prayed for over the last year," Chief Greg Terry said at Wednesday's press conference. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Orrin and Orson who, with this news today, their worst fears have been realized."
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A reporter asked Zimmer if she could elaborate on why investigators believe the boys were killed three months before the missing persons report was filed.
"No, I cannot," she replied. "But I can tell you: The facts in court will show that we are going that we were able to prove that to the grand jury that the boys have died that they were murdered. We did that through a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence and the grand jury was convinced that they were dead."