Chris Watts is behind bars after being accused of murdering his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and their young daughters, Bella and Celeste.
Shanann, 34, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, went missing on August 13 after the 15-weeks-pregnant mother returned home to Frederick, Colorado, from a business trip in Arizona with a friend. Three days later, local authorities announced that all three were found dead on a property belonging to Chris’ former employer. Chris, 33, was charged with nine felonies, including five counts of first-degree murder, on August 20.
Here is everything we know so far about the case.
Shanann and her daughters were reported missing just before 2 p.m. on August 13. The FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation joined the search effort to help the Frederick Police Department in its investigation. Chris told police that his wife’s purse, keys and cellphone were all left at home. He pleaded for the safe return of his family during multiple TV interviews. When asked if he had an argument with Shanann before her disappearance, Chris told Denver7 News, “We had an emotional conversation. I’ll leave it at that.”
The Arrest and Discoveries
Chris was taken into policy custody late August 15. Police announced that he faced six charges: three for first-degree murder and three for tampering with evidence. The next day, authorities confirmed during a press conference that Shanann’s body was found in a shallow grave on the property of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, where Chris worked until he was fired the day of his arrest. The company said in a statement to Us Weekly that it was “heartbroken” by the news and sent its “thoughts and prayers” to the Watts family. Later that day, investigators discovered the remains of Bella and Celeste hidden in oil tanks near their mother’s body.
Chris was formally charged on August 20 with five first-degree murder counts, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body. Prosecutors said in court documents obtained by Us that they brought two murder charges each for Bella and Celeste’s deaths as the girls “had not yet attained 12 years of age and the defendant was in a position of trust.” A stoic and shackled Chris appeared in court the next day to hear his charges, which carry a minimum of life in prison and a maximum of the death penalty. Shanann’s father, Frank Rzucek, sobbed throughout the hearing.
An arrest affidavit obtained by Us on August 20 said Chris told police that he had an “emotional” but “civil conversation” with Shanann when she returned home from her business trip. “He informed Shanann he wanted to go through with a separation, and they were both upset and crying,” the document read. Chris claimed to authorities that he later witnessed “Shanann actively strangling Celeste” on a baby monitor in their bedroom. According to the affidavit, “Chris said he went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death. … Chris said he loaded all three bodies on the back seat of his work truck. … Chris said he buried Shanann near two oil tanks and dumped the girls inside the oil tanks.” The document also revealed that a two-day investigation led police to conclude that Chris was allegedly “involved in an affair with a coworker.”
Prosecutors filed court documents on September 18 to obtain inked footprints from Chris after discovering “developed possible bare foot impressions” among “items of evidence,” according to The Denver Post. The exact pieces of evidence were not identified at the time, but they were found at the site where Shanann, Bella and Celeste’s bodies were located.
Chris pleaded guilty to all nine counts in the deaths of Shanann and their two daughters on November 6. The Weld County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to Us that, with the victims’ family’s agreement, Chris will not face the death penalty.
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