GREELEY — A judge has sentenced Christopher Watts to three consecutive life terms in prison and 84 additional years for the murders of his pregnant wife and two daughters.
Watts received the maximum sentences for all charges Monday.
Investigators say the 33-year-old Frederick, Colorado, dad killed his wife, 34-year-old Shanann Watts, and his daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, and then disposed of their bodies on a Weld County oilfield on Aug. 13.
Watts accepted a plea agreement Nov. 6 and pleaded guilty to nine felony charges: three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree murder of a person under the age of 12 while being in a position of trust, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
Watts will serve three consecutive life sentences for the deaths of Shanann, Bella and Celeste, and 48 years for unlawful termination of a pregnancy, which will run consecutive to the three life sentences.
He received 36 years total for disposing of all three victims’ bodies, 12 years for each victim. Those terms will also run consecutively to the life sentences.
Watts was sentenced to two additional life terms for the two charges of first-degree murder of a child under the age of 12 by a person in a position of trust. These sentences will run concurrently with the three consecutive life sentences, as mandated by law.
“Prison is too good for you,” Shanann’s dad, Frank Rzucek, told the court at the hearing, also calling Watts a “heartless monster.”
As part of the plea agreement, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke agreed to not pursue the death penalty.
“We begged the district attorney to spare your life,” Shanann’s brother, Frankie Rzucek, told the court. “… because we believe no one has the right to take the life of another, even someone like you.”
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Shannan Watts’ parents, Sandra and Frank Rzucek, gave emotional testimony at Chris Watts’ sentencing for the murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters.
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In the hearing, Rourke described some of the evidence investigators found, including that the autopsies revealed Watts strangled Shanann and smothered Bella and Celeste.
Shanann didn’t have defensive injuries on her body, she only had one set of fingernail or finger print bruising to the right side of her neck.
It takes two to four minutes to manually strangle someone, Rourke said.
“Bella fought back for her life,” Rourke said, adding that she had cuts in her mouth and she bit her tongue multiple times. Celeste did not have defensive injuries.
“This is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases I have seen,” Judge Marcelo Kopcow said. “Nothing less than a maximum sentence would be appropriate.”
Watts texted a coworker the night before saying he would take care of a work issue at an oil site the following morning.
A neighbor’s doorbell camera caught Watts backing his truck into the garage and walking back and forth three times, once for each victim, to “methodically and calmly” load their bodies into his work truck about 5 a.m., Rourke said. Watts then drove the bodies of his wife and daughters to the oil site to dispose of them.
Rourke told the court Watts put each child through eight-inch openings in separate oil tanks, ensuring “they would not be together, even in death.” Investigators found a tuft of blonde hair on the hinge of one of the openings, and Bella had scrapes on her buttocks.
Shanann was buried in a shallow grave nearby.
“The defendant coldly and deliberately ended four lives… in a calculating and sickening manner,” Rourke told the court.
Watts was arrested Aug. 15 after Shanann and their daughters were reported missing Aug. 13. On Aug. 14, Watts gave an emotional TV interview, pleading for his family to come home.
In interviews with investigators prior to his arrest, Watts said he strangled Shanann in a fit of rage after seeing her strangle the girls on the baby monitor.
Rourke called Watts’ story that Shanann killed the girls a “flat-out lie.”
Investigators also discovered Watts was having an affair with a woman he worked with at Anadarko Petroleum.
Rourke said at sentencing that in the weeks leading up to the murders, Shanann texted him over and over again trying to save her marriage. While Shanann was sending those texts, Rourke said, Watts was searching the internet for jewelry and vacation spots to take his new love.
Watts’ parents, Cindy and Ronnie, addressed the court prior to their son’s sentencing.
“We are not here to ask for leniency,” the parents said through a spokeswoman, adding that they are encouraging their son to give a full confession at an “appropriate” time.
“As your mother, Chris, I have always loved you and I still do,” Cindy Watts said through tears. “I hate what has happened .. but we will remain faithful as your family .. We love you and we forgive you, son.”
Through his public defenders, Watts said he was “devastated” and that he “understands words are hollow at this point” but he is sorry.
Watts remained in Weld County Jail until the sentencing. It’s unclear where he will be moved to after sentencing.
“Deputies, I would respectfully ask that you take the defendant into custody and have him spend the rest of his life in the Department of Corrections,” Kopcow said as Watts was led out of the courtroom.
Reporter Sady Swanson covers breaking news for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter: @sadyswan.
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