Colorado father appears in court to face charges in family's slaying

FREDERICK, Colo. -- The Colorado man accused of killing his wife and two young daughters appeared in court for an arraignment Tuesday. The court appearance came after a newly-released court document revealed Christopher Watts claimed his pregnant wife killed the children after learning he wanted a separation because he was having an affair. He told police he erupted in rage after witnessing the killings and strangled his wife inside the family's suburban Denver home, according to the documents.

The body of 34-year-old Shanann Watts was found in a shallow grave Thursday near the oil tank where the bodies of 3-year-old Celeste and 4-year-old Bella were found submerged.

Colorado man accused of killing family says wife strangled daughters

Shanann Watts' father Frank Rzucek Sr. cried and shook visibly Tuesday as District Judge Marcelo Kopcow read the formal charges against Christopher Watts. 

Shanann's brother, Frank Rzucek Jr., rubbed his father's shoulders and glared unflinchingly at his brother-in-law. A bailiff stood between them.

Watts appeared handcuffed and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. He didn't show emotion. He said "Yes, sir," when the judge asked if he understood the murder and other felony charges against him and the penalties they carry, including the death penalty. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek death.

A judge said the prosecution has alleged the crimes were acts of domestic violence.

Watts waived his right to have a preliminary hearing within 35 days. A judge set a status hearing for Nov. 19. Watts didn't enter pleas Tuesday.

Watts, an operator with Anadarko Petroleum, said he loaded his wife and daughters' bodies into the back seat of his truck and drove to an oil work site about 40 miles east of the family's Frederick home. There, he buried Shanann Watts' body and "dumped the girls inside" an oil tank, according to the court document.

Anadarko, one of Colorado's largest oil and gas drillers, has since fired Watts.

Watts, 33, was charged Monday with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of murdering a child under 12, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body. 

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This site uses cookies, tokens, and other third party scripts to recognize visitors of our sites and services, remember your settings and privacy choices, and — depending on your settings and privacy choices — enable us and some key partners to collect information about you so that we can improve our services and deliver relevant ads.

By continuing to use our site or clicking Accept, you agree that CBS and our key partners may collect data and use cookies for personalized ads and other purposes, as described more fully in our privacy policy. You can change your settings at any time by clicking Manage Settings.