A Colorado father accused of murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters reached a deal in court to avoid the death penalty on Tuesday, pleading guilty to nine criminal counts including to the murder of his wife, his two daughters, and his unborn son.
Christopher Lee Watts’ plea deal, made at a Frederick, Colorado courthouse, also includes a charge for the unlawful termination of pregnancy in the death of the unborn son, Nico; and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
"What Chris Watts needs to understand is that he will be serving three consecutive life sentences plus time for the death of the unborn baby, Nico,” said District Attorney Michael Rourke in a press conference following the guilty plea.
According to local reports, Watts said in court that he is “satisfied” with his defense counsel and knowingly accepts his plea deal.
“Originally, Watts faced the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison without parole. With the agreement of the victims’ family, DA Rourke eliminated the death penalty from consideration in exchange for pleading guilty to all nine counts,” a press release from the Welden County District Attorney’s office said on Tuesday.
On August 15, Watts, 33, was arrested and charged with murdering his wife of nearly six years, Shan’ann Watts, 34, and their daughters, Bella, 3, and Celeste, 3plus the five other counts he pled guilty to on Tuesday.
The arrest came just one day after after he gave an unemotional interview to a local TV station, pleading for his family to come home after they had been reported missing for several days and the story had attracted national attention.
The next day, investigators discovered the corpses of his wife and children at the Anadarko oil company property where Watts worked.
The bodies of Celeste and Bella were stuffed in the oil tanks near their mother, who was in “a shallow grave near an oil tank,” court papers said. Watts’ attorneys previously suggested that the daughters—who were submerged in crude oil for days—had also been strangled, documents show.
According to the arrest affidavit, Watts said that Shan’ann came home from a business trip around 2 a.m. Monday and he broached the subject of separating about three hours later.
“Chris said he woke up around 5:00 AM and began talking to Shanann about marital separation and informed her he wanted to initiate the separation,” the affidavit states. “Chris stated it was a civil conversation and they were not arguing but were emotional.”
Court papers also show that Watts admitted to being “actively involved in an affair with a coworker which he denied in previous interviews.”
After previously denying any foul play to the police, Watts eventually admitted to Frederick police that he killed his wife in a rage after seeing her strangling their two daughters via the baby monitor, moments after he asked to break up, according to court documents.
Watts was previously scheduled to appear for a status hearing in his case next month, but the court date was moved to Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Weld County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to The Daily Beast.
“Everyone liked him,” one high-school friend, Brandi Smith, told The Daily Beast. “It’s actually amazing how many people that knew him have completely turned on him and think he’s this monster when he hasn’t even been convicted.”
Authorities did not say why the court date was moved but that Watts had waived his right to a preliminary hearing at an earlier court appearance.
Watts’ faces a two-hour sentencing hearing on November 19, which will be livestreamed after the court was unable to accommodate the media for Tuesday’s hearing.