Siblings allegedly killed by foster parents were illegally separated from their birth mother, lawsuit says

The birth mother of two California brothers allegedly killed by their adoptive parents has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that her children were unlawfully removed from her care.

Ryan Dean said he tried multiple times to regain custody of Cinsere and Classic Pettus, but was denied. The brothers, whose names were changed by their adoptive parents to Orrin and Orson West, were reported missing in December 2020. They were 4 and 3 years old when they went missing from their adoptive home.

His adoptive parents, Trezell West and Jacqueline West, have been charged with murder. While authorities said the brothers are dead, their bodies have not been found.

Orrin and Orson West.
Orrin and Orson West.Kern County District Attorney’s Office via AP

“I feel like I didn’t deserve this,” Dean said at a news conference Tuesday. “I’m not a criminal. I don’t have a bad record.”

Cinsere was removed from his mother’s care in 2016 after Dean said he came home to find the 3-month-old baby “crying uncontrollably,” according to the June 17 lawsuit alleging civil rights violations and wrongful death. The boy’s father said he gave the baby two baths and said nothing else had happened that day.

Dean took the girl to the emergency room where he was told that both of Cinsere’s legs were broken. An X-ray showed no other injuries, according to the lawsuit.

While in the hospital, Dean was told that Kern County Human Services would be taking the boy and placing him with an adoptive family because hospital staff believed he had been abused. The lawsuit states that at the time Cinsere was removed from her, Dean had no allegations of abuse against her.

Classic was removed days after her birth in 2017 because the human services department said they “like to keep siblings together,” the suit says.

Dean said in the lawsuit that he fought to get his two sons back, but was repeatedly denied. In 2018, the children were removed from their foster home and placed with the West family. Dean never received an explanation for the move, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that shortly after moving in with the West family, Dean “began to see a change in his children.” He claims the boys looked “scared,” had lost weight, and Classic “had scratches on his face.” Dean reported his concerns to the department of human services, but no action was taken, the suit says.

Less than a year after living with the family, the foster parents reported the children missing from their backyard in the desert town of California City, according to the lawsuit. Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in March that the children most likely died three months before they were reported missing.

Dean said in the lawsuit that the state “had a duty” to protect her children, but instead placed them in a home that was a “state-created danger.” She is seeking $40 million in damages.

Kern County Human Services and the state Department of Social Services are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The Department of Social Services said it could not comment on the lawsuit and the Human Services department could not be immediately reached.

Timothy Hennessy, an attorney for Trezell West, said at a news conference in March that the couple should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

The Associated Press contributed.

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