DENVER — A Colorado man was sentenced Monday to life in prison for killing his pregnant wife and their two young daughters and dumping their bodies on an oil work site.
Prosecutors have said they agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Christopher Watts’ guilty plea, after seeking approval from Shanann Watts’ family.
Watts had pleaded guilty to three charges of murder in the deaths of his wife, Shanann Watts, and their young daughters. He also pleaded guilty on Nov. 6 to two counts of killing a child, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
The 33-year-old will not be eligible for parole.
A friend asked police to check on Shanann Watts on Aug. 13 after not being able to reach her and growing concerned that the 34-year-old expectant mother had missed a doctor’s appointment. Officers initially handled the search and soon sought support from Colorado investigators and the FBI.
Meanwhile, Christopher Watts spoke to local television reporters from the front porch of the family’s home in Frederick, a small town on the plains north of Denver where drilling rigs and oil wells surround booming subdivisions. Watts pleaded for his family safe return, telling reporters their house felt empty without 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste watching cartoons or running to greet him at the door.
Within days, he was arrested and charged with killing his family.
Court records revealed that Watts acknowledged to police that he killed his wife. Watts told investigators that he strangled her in “a rage” when he discovered she had killed their daughters after he sought a separation.
Prosecutors have since called his account “a flat-out lie.”
Police learned that Christopher Watts was having an affair with a co-worker. He had denied that before being arrested.
Authorities have not released autopsy reports or any information about how the mother and daughters died. Prosecutors have said the reports would be released after Watts was sentenced.
The girls’ bodies were found submerged in an oil tank, on property owned by the company Watts worked for until his arrest. Shanann Watts’ body was found buried nearby in a shallow grave.
The killings captured the attention of media across the country and became the focus of true crime blogs and online video channels, aided by dozens of family photos and videos that Shanann Watts shared on social media showing the smiling couple spending time with their children.
But courts records showed the couple’s lifestyle caused financial strain at times. They filed for bankruptcy in June 2015, six months after Christopher Watts was hired as an operator for the large oil and gas driller Anadarko Petroleum at an annual salary of about $61,500. At the time, Shanann Watts was working in a children’s hospital call center for $18 per hour.
They reported total earnings of $90,000 in 2014 but $70,000 in unsecured claims along with a mortgage of nearly $3,000. The claims included thousands of dollars in credit card debt, some student loans and medical bills.