Weld County man sentenced to life for killing family; autopsy reports released
GREELEY — Christopher Watts will spend the rest of his life in prison after Weld District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow on Monday sentenced him to three life sentences without the possibility of parole for killing his pregnant wife, Shanann, 34, and daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.
Watts also received 48 years for unlawful termination of a pregnancy and the maximum of 12 years for tampering with the bodies. Kopcow called it the “most inhumane” crime he has seen in his 17 years on the bench, saying Watts deserves “nothing less than the maximum sentence.”
Autopsy reports released Monday afternoon reveal in the greatest detail so far what, exactly, Christopher Watts pleaded guilty to, and why he’ll serve the rest of his life in prison.
The reports show Watts killed his family intimately, by strangling Shanann and smothering his two daughters even while Bella fought back, biting her tongue and cheeks in the process.
When it was all over, Watts stuffed Bella’s 38-pound body through an 8-inch hole in an oil tank, scraping her arms and legs in the process. She was found three days later, in a pink, pajama-style top featuring hearts and butterflies.
Her sister, Celeste, was found in a pink top and diaper in another oil tank, according to the report.
Questions had swirled about the exact nature of the crime after Watts’ initial defense, that he witnessed his wife strangling Bella and Celeste, and he killed her in a fit of rage. The defense went so far as to request the coroner conduct DNA swabs of the necks of the children, a request Judge Marcelo Kopcow denied.
Indeed, the children were apparently smothered, according to the autopsy reports.
The times of death was not determined in the reports, but the three were last seen alive Aug. 13, and all were found and pronounced dead Aug. 16.
Watts showed up to work the next day within feet of his two daughters, and Shanann, who was buried in a shallow grave not far from Watts’ Anadarko job site.
“You took them out like trash,” Shanann’s dad, Frank Rzucek said at the Monday morning hearing.
Shanann had paper bags around each of her hands. Her baby was covered in dirt and sand.
The girls, Bella and Celeste, sitting for days in oil tanks containing unprocessed crude oil, had the stuff in their throats and stomachs and lungs.
Watts had no injuries of his own from the killings, but Shanann had bruising around her neck consistent with strangulation.
Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke during the sentencing hearing Monday described the horror Shanann must have felt as Watts, the person she loved — the person who was supposed to love her — strangled her to death.
“It takes 2 to 4 minutes to strangle someone,” Rourke said at Monday’s hearing.
Read more at GreeleyTribune.com.
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