(NewsNation Now) — A prayer vigil was held in Bakersfield, Calif., on Thursday, marking exactly 10 months since Orrin West, 4, and his brother Orson West, 3, were reported missing.
The brothers had been through a lot in their young lives — much of it in foster care.
“It’s not a good feeling,” said their biological father, Charles Pettus. “Not knowing, you sit up and think about it all the time. Gotta make yourself think about something different. Something positive, something happy, something better.”
In an exclusive interview with NewsNation, Pettus spoke publicly for the first time about the mysterious disappearance of his sons.
“They might not remember me, but I remember them,” Pettus said. “I’ll show them. I don’t care how long it takes, how hard it’s going to be, I won’t give up. I’ll never give up.“
The disappearance happened at about 5 p.m. Dec. 21, 2020, at a California City home. The boy’s adoptive father, Trezell West, has said they were outside that afternoon playing with a family dog named Chalk.
“[The boy’s adoptive mother Jacqueline] was actually wrapping gifts, so we thought it’d be a good idea that our youngest two go outside and play with Chalk on the back patio,” West said.
West claims he checked on the boys and then went to collect firewood. When he came back outside, he noticed they were gone. His wife didn’t know where they were, either.
It turned out a back gate was left open.
The Wests spoke with local media two days after they called the police, but they have not commented publicly since.
“I don’t want you guys thinking we didn’t try,” said Jacqueline West, Trezell’s wife. “We actually looked before we called the police.”
Police were called around 6 p.m. Soon after, the neighborhood and the West home were searched.
The Wests eventually had their two biological and two adoptive children removed from their care.
In March, Bakersfield police took over the investigation due to their additional resources.
“It’s a puzzle and there are pieces that are missing, and we are using every legal means to figure out what happened and get the facts and circumstances behind what occurred,” Sgt. Robert Pair of the Bakersfield Police Department said.
Police admit to withholding more than 90% of the evidence in this case to protect their investigation. And while the Wests aren’t speaking with the media, police say they remain in contact with both of them.
“It’s one of those situations where you open a door and it leads to another hallway, which leads to another hallway. So we haven’t reached the end of our journey yet,” Pair said.
The boys were given the names Cinsere and Classic at birth. Their biological parents lost custody in 2018 due to a suspicious leg injury which relatives insist was not inflicted.
“They took my family, they took my life away from me. My kids are my life. That’s my family,” Pettus said.
The boy’s biological cousin, Rosanna “Ro” Wills, is among the loved ones convinced that the boys were never in California City.
The Wests had moved into the home in September and reported the boys missing three months later.
“Something happened. Something happened,” Wills said.
The Wests moved away but are said to return periodically to check on the home.
They have not attended any of the prayer gatherings or recent searches.
“We’re the only ones out here, including the supporters, who are pushing for the boys,” Wills said. “We haven’t heard nothing from their side of the family, the adoptive family.”
There is a hefty reward in the case and it’s hoped more national awareness will bring the boys home.
“So many other kids have coverage but these two boys didn’t from day one,” said Keisha Stevenson, a friend of the boy’s biological family. “I don’t feel like they’re deceased. I feel like somebody has them and it might not be in California.”
Community activist Jennifer Nobles has made sure that billboards and banners featuring the boys are widely disseminated, even though the only available photos are well over a year old.
“I have children, I have three. Most people who have children don’t expect anybody’s child to go missing and just disappear,” Nobles said. “Even if [the pictures are] a little bit old, I hope there is some feature on their face and nose and lips and their eyes, anything that just stands out to them and makes them question, could that be one of the boys?”
There is a secret witness telephone line just for this case: 661-322-4040.
The family and Bakersfield police implore anyone with information from before or after the boys were last seen to call.
NewsNation asked viewers to send us cases that we should be featuring on “Missing in America.” Our team is sifting through hundreds of tips we have received.