BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As the search for the bodies of the West Boys continues, the question remains: who is responsible for their deaths?
Their biological mother believes the county is at fault, as officials placed her children with the couple now accused of murdering the boys. She has filed a $40 million claim against the county.
Attorney Waukeen McCoy, who is representing both the biological mother, Ryan Dean, and her mother, Dana Moorer, said the $40 million claim was filed against the Kern County Human Services Department and two employees handling the case, who they claim ‘unlawfully’ took the kids away.
"My client had not been involved in the criminal system; she was a perfectly good mother."
The claim breaks down all the events that led up to the boys being adopted by Trezell and Jaqueline West.
The claim said it began in 2016, when the boys' biological mother, Ryan Dean, found Cinsere Pettus, later named Orrin West by adoptive parents had broken both his legs while she was at work.
The baby was at home with his father and two step siblings. The attorney said they think the kids may have been playing with the baby before Cinsere got hurt.
At three months old, Cinsere was placed into a foster home, then in 2017, Dean gave birth to a premature baby who she called Classic Pettus, who was later renamed Orson West.
Classic would later join his brother in foster care.
From the beginning, when 23ABC first covered the case, Dean expressed concern.
"They did something, I feel like they did something, and they know something."
According to the claim, Dean also expressed this concern in a letter written to the Human Services Department, talking about how her kids seemed scared and had scratches on their skin when she had visitation time with them after they were placed in foster care with the Wests.
The claim goes on to say the grandmother also looked into gaining custody of the boys and went as far as getting her house approved by the county in order to foster them, but by then the county told them it was in the kids’ best interest to stay with the Wests.
Now that the District Attorney has said they believe the kids were dead three months before being reported missing, McCoy said the biological mother felt it was time to file a claim.
"We already received a response back from the county saying they are not going to act on our claim."
McCoy said because the county and the state are both municipalities, they sent the claim to both, so they can consent to be sued.
If the county accepts the claim, then the dispute is settled among the county and the biological mother, but if it is rejected, they go to court.
McCoy adds the $40 million amount based on similar cases but acknowledges there's no amount of money in the world that can bring the boys back.
"This family came to me, because of the principle of the matter that Kern County did not do the right thing in taking the kids away. They want to make sure this does not happen to any other family in Kern County or anywhere."
The Board of Supervisors were expected to discuss this in their closed session meeting on Tuesday.
The biological father, Charles Pettus, is also suing the county and meanwhile Trezell and Jacqueline West are due back in court May 13.
We did reach out to county officials, who said they are not allowed to comment on ongoing litigation.