BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Even though the West Boys’ bodies have not been found, the Kern County District Attorney confirmed the investigation has enough for the grand jury to conclude the toddlers are dead.
It's the case that has caused both our community and people across the country to watch for 14 months, and hope that the boys would be found safely.
But just days after the DA's announcement, a murder trial date has been set and two previous cases show that bodies don't have to present for the DA to potentially succeed in trying adoptive parents Trezell and Jacqueline West.
“The facts in court will show that we were able to prove to a grand jury that the boys have died, that they were murdered. We did that through a combination of circumstantial and direct evidence,” said Cynthia Zimmer, Kern County District Attorney.
That news comes after toddler brothers, Orrin and Orson West, have been missing for more than a year. Their adoptive parents, Trezell and Jacqueline West, stand trial for allegedly murdering them.
All this happening without the toddler brothers' bodies being found.
“Perhaps they were abducted by some third party, would be a defense, but my experience here in Kern County, I would think Miss Zimmer’s office and the Cal City Police, as well as the Bakersfield Police Department, they have more there than they are able to disclose right now,” said Mark Anthony Raimondo, Criminal Defense Attorney.
According to Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, this phenomenon is not uncommon. She said hundreds of homicides, where a body wasn’t found, have been prosecuted around the country, including two here in Kern County.
These are what the DA refers to as “no-body homicides” and two successfully tried cases include the David Rhodes case in 2019 and the Leonard Bryce Thomas case in the late ‘90s.
“I mean, if you had to have a body, for every single time there was a homicide, it would lead to the conclusion that you could just destroy the body thoroughly and no one could ever be prosecuted, and that is just preposterous,” said Raimondo.
According to the Kern County DA’s files, they obtained a DNA profile through the victim’s biological daughter and victim’s clothing when a victim's body was absent.
Raimondo said that a confessional, or eyewitness account can also become “direct evidence.” Direct and circumstantial evidence are what the DA office confirmed they’ve found in West Boys’ investigation.
“Circumstantial evidence can be as simple as they were in one place together and now the person is no longer there. No one has seen them, there’s no other reasonable explanation. So, a good example can be, ‘I see raindrops on your coat. I didn’t see it rain, but I can conclude it rained. Because your hair is wet, and you have raindrops on your coat.’”
Meanwhile, retired Bakersfield Police Department Sergeant, said he’s seen his share of “no-body homicide” cases where they’d find the bodies within a few days to a week of investigation, but those bodies were not missing this long.
“A case like this is pretty uncommon to the law enforcement community. I think that coupled with the fact that it’s two young boys, it really garnered the attention of across the whole United States,” said Gary Carruesco.
Carruesco goes on to say that there may be evidence, including a lead on where the bodies may be, that the DA’s office and law enforcement is not disclosing.
If so, it’s to protect the integrity of the case. He said we have to trust the justice system and its process right now as we await the trial in May.