Families react to Chris Watts killing family

The mothers of Chris Watts and his wife Shanann react to Watts' killing of his daughters and pregnant wife.

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 7:00 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 7:09 AM

Before learning he would never walk out of prison Monday, Chris Watts sat at the defense table, head down and leg bobbing, as his mother told him she loved him and his slain wife's family called him a monster.

Calling it perhaps "the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases that I have seen," Judge Marcelo Kopcow handed down five life sentences -- three consecutive and two concurrent -- with no possibility of parole, in the deaths of Watts' daughters and pregnant wife.

Watts also received an additional 48 years for the death of his unborn son, who was to be named Nico Lee, and 36 more years for crimes related to his disposal of the bodies.

The 33-year-old pleaded guilty this month to first-degree murder and other charges in the killings of his wife, Shanann, 34, and their daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, before crudely disposing of them at a secluded site where he worked. With approval of his wife's family, prosecutors dropped the possibility of the death penalty.

In court, Shanann Watts' mother, Sandy Rzucek, explained, "I didn't want death for you because that's not my right. Your life is between you and God, and I pray he has mercy for you."

Watts' hands were shackled at his waist and he wore an orange jumpsuit. He rarely looked up during the proceeding -- not even when his mother turned around to face him and tearfully said, "We have loved you from the beginning and we still love you now. ... We forgive you, son."

Two families devastated

Watts' parents, who had previously defended their son and questioned his plea deal during an interview with CNN affiliate KMGH, recanted those remarks and told the court in a prepared statement that the family would not ask for leniency.

"This should never have happened. This is not condonable. This is something that we will never get over," a family representative said, reading a statement as the parents looked on.

Frank Rzucek Sr. delivered the first words on behalf of Shanann Watts' family, questioning how Chris Watts could have killed people he was charged with protecting before disposing of them like bags of rubbish.

"I trusted you to take care of them, not kill them," he said. "You have to live with this vision every day of your life, and I hope you see that every day of your life."

While he said he hoped that God had mercy on Chris Watts, he prayed the judge took the opposite tack, he said.

Frank Rzucek Jr. had Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke read his statement, saying he can't sleep and is anguished to know Chris Watts robbed him of the privilege of being an uncle. Shanann's brother wrote his statement from a motel room where his parents have cried themselves to sleep, the prosecutor said.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't cry for my family," Rourke said, reading Frank Jr.'s statement. "You don't deserve to be called a man. What kind of person slaughters the people they love the most?"

Gruesome disposal of bodies

Before Watts was sentenced, Rourke revealed horrific details of how Watts strangled his wife and smothered their daughters.

Watts strangled his wife with his bare hands, not in an uncontrolled rage as he had claimed, but deliberately and viciously for at least 2 minutes. He then suffocated Bella and Celeste. While Bella fought back, Celeste had no external injuries, the prosecutor said.

He then backed his vehicle int the driveway, loaded up the bodies in three trips and drove them to a work site, a place he suspected they'd never be found. He buried his wife in a shallow grave before stuffing his daughters into tanks, Rourke said.

"Imagine this: This defendant took those little girls, put them though a hatch 8 inches in diameter," the prosecutor said. "Bella had scratches on her left buttocks from being shoved through the hole."

When his coworkers arrived at the site later that morning, Rourke said, they described his behavior as perfectly normal. Millions across the country were riveted and local law enforcement searched for the woman and girls, while Watts was texting his new girlfriend about their future, he said.

His sentencing came days after a woman he had been dating told The Denver Post that he lied to her about being near the end of divorce proceedings. She cooperated with police before his arrest, she told the newspaper.

"You don't annihilate your family and throw them away like garbage," Rourke told the court. "Why did they have to lose their lives in order for him to get what he wanted?"

An attorney for Chris Watts told Judge Kopcow her client is "devastated," and though Watts realizes his words are hollow, he is "sincerely sorry for all of this."

The only time Watts spoke during the proceeding was when Kopcow asked him if he wished to deliver a statement. "No, sir," the former father replied.

Plea from front porch

When Shanann Watts and the two girls went missing in mid-August, Chris Watts first told reporters they had gone to a friend's house before later pleading for his family's return in an interview with CNN affiliate KMGH.

"My kids are my life," Watts said, standing on the front porch of their home in Frederick, about 30 miles north of Denver. "Those smiles light up my life."

Watts told the station his wife came home from the airport about 2 a.m., and he left for work about 5:15 a.m. He said the two had an emotional but civil conversation before he left, but he didn't elaborate.

Separately, he told law enforcement that on the morning of August 13, before leaving for work, he had informed his wife that he wanted a separation. They had not argued, but they were both upset and crying, he told police, according to an affidavit.

Brother: Shanann loved being a mother

Chris Watts claimed he had called and texted his wife about three times that morning with no reply, he told KMGH. He said he realized something was wrong when Shanann Watts' friend arrived at the couple's home around noon.

"She just got back from Arizona, and I figured she was just busy, but when her friend showed up, that's when it just registered -- like all right, this isn't right," Watts said.

Story doesn't add up

Three days later, the body of Shanann Watts,15 weeks pregnant, was found in a shallow grave. The bodies of Bella and Celeste were found in commercial oil tanks at a company where Watts had worked.

After authorities found the bodies, Chris Watts changed his story, telling police he had strangled Shanann Watts in a fit of rage after seeing his wife choking Celeste.

On November 6, Watts pleaded guilty to nine charges, including three counts of first-degree murder and unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

Shanann Watts had gender reveal party planned

Authorities aren't sure why he killed his family.

After the plea deal was announced, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke told reporters that authorities have a partial motive. He would offer more thoughts after Watts is sentenced, he said.

Other woman tells her side of story

According to an unsealed Weld County arrest affidavit, investigators say they discovered Watts was "actively involved" in an affair with a co-worker.

It's not clear if that was Nichol Kessinger, 30, who told The Denver Post she met him while working for the environmental department of a petroleum contractor.

"We had just met," Kessinger told the newspaper. "I barely knew him."

He wasn't wearing a wedding ring when they were introduced, and she thought he was attractive, soft-spoken and a good listener, she said. When they first met outside of work in late June, he told her he was in the final stages of a divorce. She never met any of his relatives or friends, Kessinger told The Post.

Watts sent her a text August 13 to say his family had disappeared, and she was confused about why the media was at his house.

"When I read the news, I found out he was still married and his wife was 15 weeks pregnant," Kessinger told the newspaper.

She peppered him with questions via phone calls and text, she said, and he changed his story about the divorce, showed little emotion about his family's disappearance, and tried to change the subject.

"It got to a point that he was telling me so many lies that I eventually told him that I did not want to speak to him again until his family was found," she told the paper, explaining that she called police on August 15 to report Watts' lies.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 39133

Reported Deaths: 1514
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12597787
Ramsey4963229
Dakota242192
Stearns241419
Anoka2266109
Nobles16726
Olmsted114715
Washington113740
Mower9602
Rice8488
Scott7624
Clay59138
Kandiyohi5781
Blue Earth4942
Wright4835
Todd4012
Carver3951
Lyon3272
Sherburne3255
Freeborn2970
Watonwan2380
Steele2371
Benton2203
St. Louis19615
Nicollet17312
Martin1715
Cottonwood1360
Goodhue1318
Winona12915
Crow Wing10812
Le Sueur1081
Pine1070
Chisago1021
Otter Tail1001
McLeod920
Dodge880
Carlton870
Unassigned8537
Polk822
Chippewa791
Isanti750
Waseca710
Douglas650
Murray650
Itasca6412
Meeker611
Morrison611
Faribault600
Pipestone592
Becker570
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pennington520
Renville362
Beltrami340
Brown342
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha330
Rock310
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston270
Swift221
Wilkin213
Norman200
Redwood190
Koochiching181
Grant170
Roseau170
Cass162
Aitkin150
Big Stone150
Kanabec151
Wadena150
Marshall120
Pope120
Lincoln100
Mahnomen101
Clearwater90
Hubbard80
Lake60
Stevens50
Traverse50
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32064

Reported Deaths: 731
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6739181
Woodbury326044
Black Hawk232358
Buena Vista171911
Johnson13408
Linn130482
Dallas129129
Marshall106019
Scott84510
Story8063
Pottawattamie74512
Dubuque74222
Wapello70830
Crawford6783
Muscatine64944
Sioux4810
Tama46829
Wright3851
Louisa36313
Jasper32517
Plymouth3245
Warren2911
Dickinson2663
Webster2484
Washington2459
Cerro Gordo1901
Hamilton1891
Boone1501
Clay1370
Allamakee1334
Clarke1333
Mahaska11717
Shelby1170
Clinton1131
Poweshiek1078
Carroll991
Pocahontas981
Bremer957
Franklin950
Des Moines912
Emmet870
Henry863
Cedar851
Hardin810
Taylor800
Monona770
Cherokee761
Floyd732
Marion710
Benton681
Guthrie684
Jones640
Sac640
Jefferson620
Osceola620
Buchanan601
Butler592
Hancock551
Humboldt551
Calhoun542
Harrison540
Lee542
Iowa530
Delaware511
Monroe517
Fayette500
Madison482
Lyon450
Clayton443
Davis411
Mitchell410
Palo Alto410
Grundy400
Mills390
Winneshiek390
Kossuth360
Howard340
Jackson340
Union340
Lucas314
Chickasaw290
Greene290
Winnebago290
Cass240
Ida230
Appanoose213
Keokuk211
Van Buren210
Page200
Worth200
Adair160
Audubon161
Unassigned160
Ringgold150
Decatur120
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont80
Rochester
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 74°
Mason City
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
Albert Lea
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Austin
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Charles City
Few Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 75°
Heat Advisory in effect until 7pm
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Reopening NIACC Safely

Image

Social Justice Program Gets Underway

Image

Group gathers to pray for racial justice

Image

Prep athletes eager to get back into the weight room

Image

Sean's 6pm Weather 7/8

Image

Bishop writes to ask for clemency for Dustin Honken

Image

Catch a ride to stay cool

Image

Free masks in Rochester

Image

Boys & Girls Club back open

Image

Rochester Elementary School releases plans

Community Events