The biological mother of two California brothers allegedly killed by their adoptive parents filed a federal lawsuit stating that her sons were unlawfully removed from her care.
Ryan Dean said she 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 at the time they disappeared from their adoptive home.
Their 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.
“I just 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 she came home and found the then 3-month-old “crying uncontrollably,” according to the June 17 lawsuit alleging civil rights violation and wrongful death. The child’s father said he gave the baby two baths and said nothing else had happened that day.
Dean took the child to the emergency room where she was informed that both of Cinsere’s legs were broken. An X-ray did not show any other injuries, according to the suit.
While at the hospital, Dean was told that Kern County Human Services would be taking the child and placing him with a foster family because hospital staff believed he had been abused. The suit states that at the time Cinsere was removed, Dean had no allegations of abuse lodged against her.
Classic was removed days after his birth in 2017 because the human services department said “they like to keep siblings together,” the lawsuit states.
Dean said in the suit that she fought to get her two children back but was repeatedly denied. In 2018, the boys were removed from their foster home and placed with the West family. Dean was never given 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 her children.” It states that the boys seemed “scared,” had lost weight and Classic “had scratches on his face.” Dean reported her concerns to the human services department but no action was taken, the lawsuit states.
Less than a year after living with the family, the adoptive parents reported the boys were 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 boys most likely died three months before they were reported missing.
Dean said in the suit 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.
The Kern County Human Services and the state Department of Social Services are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The agencies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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.