BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The adoptive parents of Orrin and Orson West were arraigned Friday on new charges of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy.
Trezell and Jacqueline West, arrested in March on suspicion of killing Orrin, 4, and Orson, 3, now each face a total of seven charges.
The grand jury returned a superseding indictment that includes the new charges as well as those brought in the original indictment in March. In all, the Wests face two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of child cruelty, falsely reporting an emergency, involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy.
Alekxia Torres-Stallings, attorney for Jacqueline West, asked that bail be set for her client but Judge Judith K. Dulcich said the defendants will remain held without bail. She did, however, say motions seeking bail could be filed on behalf of both defendants and be heard at a later date.
Trial remains set for July 25.
The bodies of Orrin and Orson have not been found and prosecutors have not revealed the manner in which they believe they died.
A gag order issued in March remains in effect and bars prosecutors and the Wests’ attorneys, investigators and court staff from speaking about the case.
Involuntary manslaughter is defined under California law as when a person commits a crime or a lawful act in an unlawful manner that causes the death of another person, but they did not intend to kill and did not act with conscious disregard for human life.
Defense attorney Kyle J. Humphrey, who is not involved in the case, said involuntary manslaughter filed in the death of a child covers a variety of scenarios: swallowing drugs the parents left in the open; failure by a caretaker to provide proper nutrition; refusing to get medical care for serious symptoms.
One of the reasons a grand jury could be asked to reconvene in a case where an indictment has previously been handed down is proper charges weren’t brought based on mitigating circumstances, Humphrey said. Since defense attorneys aren’t present and there’s no cross-examination of witnesses brought before a grand jury, it’s the responsibility of prosecutors to present mitigating evidence.
For example, Humphrey said, if a witness reports seeing a red car from a distance, but prosecutors know the witness has vision issues, it’s their responsibility to give that information to the grand jury.
Prosecutors allege Orrin and Orson were killed about three months before the Wests reported them missing Dec. 21, 2020.
Dozens of searches have been conducted and digging performed at sites in California City and Bakersfield.
A criminal protective order bars the Wests from seeing their two biological children and two remaining adopted children. Prosecutors sought the order out of concerns the Wests would influence the children about the criminal case.
Among the charges against the Wests is an allegation they induced a minor to assist in committing a crime, suggesting at least one of the children witnessed what happened and will be called to testify.