A Colorado man who killed his pregnant wife and two young daughters pleaded guilty Tuesday as part of a deal that allows him to avoid the death penalty, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said.
Chris Watts, 33, pleaded guilty to the nine charges he faced, including first-degree murder and unlawful termination of a pregnancy, for the August slayings of his wife, Shanann, who was found in a shallow grave, and his two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, whose remains were found in commercial oil tanks.
“I can only say that I hope there is a sense of closure (for family members of the deceased),” Rourke told reporters. “I know that that will never be fully realized because, obviously, the tragedy that sits before us today is the loss of four beautiful lives.”
Watts will be sentenced November 19 and faces life in prison. Rourke said the plea deal asks the judge to make the first-degree murder sentences consecutive.
Rourke said he flew to North Carolina a few weeks ago to discuss the possible agreement with relatives of Shannan Watts and they signed off on removing the death penalty option.
Shanann Watts’ mother, father and brother were in court but chose not to speak with the media.
Rourke said he was not willing to dismiss any charges in exchange for the promise of guilty pleas.
“I was not willing to entertain any further concessions above and beyond removing the death penalty,” he said.
In his initial interview with police months ago, Watts said that on the morning of August 13 he had told his wife he wanted to separate and then left for work.
However, in a second interview with police, Watts told police he looked at the baby monitor screen and saw Shanann strangling their daughter Celeste and that he saw their older daughter, Bella, blue and “sprawled” out on her bed, according to the affidavit.
Watts told police he went into a rage and strangled his wife, according to the affidavit. He told them he took the bodies and dumped them in three locations, according to the filing.
Investigators never believed his story, Rourke said. The district attorney said he thinks authorities have a partial motive for the killings.
Autopsy results have not been released.
Shanann, Bella and Celeste were reported missing August 13 from their home in Frederick, a town of about 8,600 people 30 miles north of Denver.