Colorado father Christopher Watts pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and their two children on Tuesday after striking a deal with prosecutors which means he will not face the death penalty.
Watts had initially denied the murders which happened in August this year. Now, he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Watts’ wife Shanann, 34, and their two daughters Celeste, three, and Bella, four, were found dead in August in oil tanks days after he reported them missing and made shifty television appearances pleading for them to come home.
Shanann was found in a shallow grave in a crude oil field where her husband worked. She was 15 weeks pregnant with a baby boy who she planned to name Nico. It later emerged that Watts, 33, had been cheating on his wife.
The plea deal was approved by Shanann’s family who told the district attorney they did not want to end his life as he did their daughter’s and grandchildren’s.
They did not speak after the hearing on Tuesday but watched somberly as the DA announced the outcome of the hearing.
His lawyers refused to hand over DNA samples from his hands and feet, likely to stop prosecutors being able to match it to any found on the girls or their mother’s body.
Because the girls bodies were in oil for three days before they were found, any DNA evidence left on them is likely to have been compromised.
On Tuesday, Watts pleaded guilty to nine counts; four counts of murder (one for each child, his wife and their unborn child), unlawful termination of pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
As part of the deal, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the first four counts – murder.
During the plea hearing on Tuesday, he said the falsehood that Shannan killed the children was corrected.
‘The spotlight that he tried to shine on Shanann, falsely and incorrectly – a flat out lie – has been corrected. The spotlight shines squarely on him,’ he said.
Shanann had returned home from a business trip when she was killed.
She was reported missing by a work colleague who became worried when she did not respond to messages.
At first, Watts said he and his wife had been up all night having an emotional conversation.
He said he went off to work and only knew something was wrong when he was contacted later by her colleagues.