Update: Watts claims in arrest affidavit wife killed two daughters over possible divorce
In the affidavit for his arrest, Christopher Watts claims he killed his pregnant wife after discovering she had strangled their two daughters.
The affidavit, made public Monday following the filing of formal charges against the Frederick man and a news conference by the Weld District Attorney’s Office, states when Watts’ wife, Shanann, returned home early Aug. 13 from a business trip to Arizona, Watts had a conversation with her about wanting to initiate separation proceedings. During the investigation, evidence surfaced Watts was actively involved in an affair with a coworker, according to court records.
After the two cried about it for a few minutes, Watts went downstairs. When he returned a short while later to continue talking, he saw on a baby monitor 4-year-old Bella sprawled out on her bed and blue, and Shanann actively strangling 3-year-old Celeste, according to court records.
Watts told police he went into a rage and strangled his wife to death. He put the bodies of his wife and daughters in his work truck and dumped them at an oil and gas site.
On Monday, the Weld District Attorney’s Office filed formal charges against Watts, 33. He faces three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, two counts of first-degree murder of a victim under the age of 12 and by a person in a position of trust, one count of first-degree unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, all felonies.
The district attorney’s office hosted a 4 p.m. news conference to discuss the charges. Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke said he has not yet decided if he will pursue the death penalty.
Frank Rzucek Sr., Shanann’s father, also spoke during the news conference. He thanked the public for its support and for attending the vigil for Shanann and her daughters this past week. He also asked for continued prayers.
Watts’ wife and two daughters were reported missing Aug. 13 by family friend Nicole Utoft. Utoft told police she dropped Shanann off at her home in Frederick about 1:45 a.m. Aug. 13 following their work trip to Arizona. Utoft became worried later that day when Shanann, who was 15 weeks pregnant, missed a 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment and didn’t return multiple texts or phone calls.
Utoft went to the Watts home and saw Shanann’s car parked in the garage, according to court records. Fearing Shanann might be having a medical emergency from the pregnancy, Utoft tried to enter the house, but couldn’t because the front door was latched. She called the police.
Frederick police responded but also couldn’t gain entry to the home. An officer called Watts for a code to the garage door, but he insisted they wait for him to get there to let them in. Watts claimed the security pad for the garage door wasn’t working, and he was only five minutes from his house, according to the affidavit.
After Watts arrived, officers entered the home, but couldn’t find Shanann or the girls. Police also didn’t find any signs of a struggle. Watts told police about his conversation with his wife about getting a divorce and said she decided to stay with a friend. He didn’t know which friend, according to the affidavit.
After a two-day investigation, and upon authorities learning about the affair, Watts told police he was ready to tell the truth. He first spoke with his dad, who also was at the Frederick police station, before confessing to killing his wife.
Watts was arrested Wednesday night. He was booked into Weld County Jail shortly after midnight Thursday.
Police secured a search warrant for a drone flyover at the oil and gas site. It uncovered evidence of fresh movement of dirt consistent with a clandestine grave, according to court records. A bed sheet, which matched the pattern of pillow cases and a top sheet recovered from Watts’ home, was photographed in a field near a tank battery.
Hours after Watts made his first appearance Thursday in Weld District Court, the Frederick Police Department — in conjunction with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation — announced the bodies of Bella and Celeste were recovered from a nearly full oil and gas tank on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum near Hudson. Shanann’s body was recovered from a nearby shallow grave. Watts was an Anadarko employee until shortly before his arrest Wednesday.
On Friday, a judge denied a request by Colorado Public Defender James Merson, who is representing Watts, to allow a defense expert to collect DNA evidence from the necks of the young girls. The judge did, however, grant a motion directing the medical examiner to collect that evidence and provide it to the defense. Autopsies were completed Friday.
Now that formal charges have been filed, Watts is scheduled to return to district court at 10 a.m. Tuesday for a more formal advisement hearing.
Rourke, along with Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wrenn and Deputy District Attorney Patrick Roche, is prosecuting Watts.
— Tribune reporter Emily Wenger contributed to this report.