A Colorado man who pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and their two daughters will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Chris Watts was sentenced to life in prison without parole for each of the three murders he confessed to committing back in August: wife Shanann Watts, 34, and daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste 3. The three sentences will run consecutively. He was also given 48 years for the life of the unborn child that Shanann was pregnant with.
Earlier this month, Watts admitted to the murders to avoid the death penalty. The agreement also required Watts to plead guilty to unlawful termination of Shanann Watts' pregnancy, a felony in Colorado. She was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death and family members have said she planned to name the boy Nico.
"You don't know what love is ... you monster. ... You carry them out like trash ... you heartless monster,” Shanann’s father Frank Rzucek told Watts in court on Monday before the sentencing.
As family gave victim impact statements, Watts sat quietly with his head down.
His mother, Cindy Watts, was among those who addressed the court, saying, “This is something we will never get over. I am still struggling to understand how and why this tragedy and occurred.”
Then she spoke directly to her son and said, “We have loved you from the beginning and we still love you now.”
He appeared to become emotional during his mother’s statement.
Cindy Watts spoke of unconditional love, saying, “We forgive you, son.”
Shanann and her little girls seemingly vanished from their home in Frederick, Colo., a small town north of Denver, in August. In the days after reporting them missing, Watts played the role of distraught husband and father pleading for their safe return in several emotional media appearances. He told police he last saw his wife and two girls at about 5:15 a.m. the day they vanished, when he left for work.
However, Watts was soon being scrutinized as the main suspect in their disappearance. On Aug. 16, three days after they vanished, police recovered the body of Shannan in a shallow grave on a property owned by Anadarko Petroleum. That same day, Watts was charged with three counts of murder and one count of obstruction of justice. Then, just hours later, the bodies of Bella and Celeste were found hidden inside of oil and gas tanks, not far from where the body of their mother was discovered.
Watts admitted to police that yes, he did hide the bodies at an oil site owned by his former employer. But, he maintained that he only killed his wife, and that he did so in a fit of rage after he caught her murdering their daughters. He claimed she killed their kids after he admitted to her that he was having an affair and wanted to "go through with a separation."
Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said that investigators never believed that Watts was being entirely truthful.
"The spotlight that he tried to shine on Shanann — falsely, incorrectly and frankly a flat-out lie — has been corrected," Rourke said earlier this month when the plea deal was announced. "The spotlight shines directly where it belongs: On him."
The coworker Watts was having an affair with, Nichol Kessinger, spoke out publicly to the Denver Post about their relationship last week. She told the newspaper that she didn’t know that he was still married until his family was reported missing on the news.
“When I read the news, I found out he was still married and his wife was 15 weeks pregnant,” Kessinger said. “I thought, ‘If he was able to lie to me and hide something that big, what else was he lying about?’ ”
Shanann’s parents, Frank and Sandra Rzucek, recently issued a statement calling their daughter a “wonderful soul,” a “faithful wife” and “the most gentle and loving mother in the world.”
“Everyone who knew Shanann knows this to be true,” their statement said. “Even Chris Watts knows this to be true. Yet Chris Watts still chose to murder Shanann, Bella, Celeste, and [their unborn son] Nico. Chris Watts still chose to dump the bodies of his own family in oil tanks. And Chris Watts still chose to lie about it until he could lie no more.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
[Photo: Associated Press]
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