Parents of toddlers Orrin and Orson West, who were reported missing from their California City home days before Christmas in 2020, were arrested and indicted for their murder this week, authorities said.
Trezell and Jacqueline West, who adopted the boys, are each facing two counts of second-degree murder and felony child abuse — one count for each victim, according to the Kern County district attorney's office.
Dist. Atty. Cynthia Zimmer said Wednesday that an investigation revealed Orson and Orrin died three months before the Wests told investigators that the boys — 3 and 4, respectively — vanished while playing in their yard on Dec. 21, 2020.
The bodies of the children have not been found, Zimmer said during a news conference.
"This case has tugged at the heartstrings of people in my office and in law enforcement and in this community," Zimmer said. "It is a horrific tragedy that these precious little boys had to lose their lives."
When the Wests reported the boys were missing to the California City Police Department, volunteers and law enforcement, including the FBI, conducted an exhaustive search of the remote area, but turned up nothing.
Police soon suspected foul play, according to KABC-TV Channel 7.
The outlet reported that authorities brought in cadaver dogs to the Wests' home and excavated the yard.
About a week after the children were reported missing, "crucial information" came to light necessitating the involvement of the Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County D.A.'s office, Zimmer said.
A more than a yearlong investigation ensued, continuing into the grand jury hearing, which began about three months ago, officials said.
More than 50 witnesses testified as part of the indictment, and "much of those witnesses' testimony was extremely emotional," said Eric Smith, supervisor of the district attorney's homicide unit.
Zimmer said the fact that law enforcement has not found the boys' bodies does not preclude a homicide prosecution.
After being arrested around 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Wests are now being held in Kern County Jail without bail, according to prosecutors and inmate records. They also have been charged with one count each of making a false report of an emergency, court records show.
Each faces 30 years to life in state prison if convicted in the boys' deaths, prosecutors said.
An arraignment is set for 8 a.m. Thursday in Bakersfield, according to court records.
The couple has four other children — two biological and two adopted — who are now in the custody of Child Protective Services, Zimmer said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.