DENVER — After his pregnant wife and their two girls vanished last week, Chris Watts spoke with a local Colorado news station as a concerned father pleading for the return of his family.
Just a week later, Watts was in court Tuesday where a judge charged him with several counts of first-degree murder of his wife and his two young daughters.
The body of his wife, Shannan, was found in a shallow grave, and the bodies of their two daughters, Bella and Celeste, were found in nearby oil tanks at a company where Watts had worked, according to a court filing by prosecutors.
In another twist in the case, investigators claimed to have discovered that Watts was involved in an affair with a co-worker, according to an unsealed Weld County arrest affidavit.
Watts told police that he had told his wife that he wanted to separate on August 13.
After their conversation, he told police that he saw Shanann strangling their daughter Celeste through the baby monitor and that he saw their younger daughter, Bella “sprawled” out on her bed and blue. After seeing that, Watts told police that he went into a rage and strangled his wife to death, according to the affidavit.
He told them that he took the bodies and dumped them in three separate locations, according to the filing.
Autopsy results have not been released. Watts’ defense lawyers requested that the pathologists be required to “take DNA swabs of throats” of the deceased children, but was denied Monday. His lawyers have not commented publicly.
Multiple murder charges
The 33-year-old father was charged Monday with three counts of first-degree murder; two additional first-degree murder charges of causing the death of a child younger than 12; three counts of tampering with a body; and a count of first-degree unlawful termination of a pregnancy, said Weld County District Attorney Michael J. Rourke, who did not reveal a motive.
Watts, who was arrested last week, is being held without bond.
In an emotional address Monday, Shanann’s father, Frank Rzucek Sr., thanked authorities for finding the bodies of his family members. He said the family appreciated those who attended a candlelight vigil and expressed support.
“Keep the prayers coming for our family,” he said, holding back tears.
Frankie Rzucek, Shanann’s brother wrote on Facebook that he was thankful that he had been able to spend recent weeks, “loving, laughing, and enjoying what precious time I had with my Sister and nieces that I loved with every inch of my soul. I wish I could go back in time and be there to keep you safe from harm. Sorry uncle couldn’t save you. Absolutely heartbroken.”
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.
The location where their bodies were found on August 15 was the site of a petroleum and natural gas company where Watts had worked, authorities said. The girls’ bodies were in an “oil well filled with crude oil for several days,” Watts’ attorneys indicated in a court filing.