WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - The 33-year-old man who pleaded guilty to killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters was sentenced on Monday to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus another two life sentences to be carried out concurrently.
It was an emotional day in court for the sentencing of Chris Watts who pleaded guilty to murdering daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, and his pregnant wife Shanann Watts, 34, who was carrying their unborn son Nico.
Watts committed the crimes in August and initially the victims were thought to be missing. Watts publicly pleaded for his family's safe return but a few days into the investigation he was arrested.
"What must Bella and Celeste have experienced or thought as their father, the one man on this planet, who was supposed to nurture and protect them, was snuffing out their lives?" asked Weld County District Attorney Michael J. Rourke. "They both died of smothering. Let me say that again, the man seated to my right smothered his daughters."
Investigators found Shanann's body in a shallow grave on the property of an oil and gas company which Watts worked for before he was arrested. The children's bodies were found in oil tanks on the same property in Weld County.
"Why did this have to happen? Why did a seemingly normal husband annihilate his entire family for what?" asked Rourke.
He said Shanann came home at around 1 a.m. Aug. 13 to a discussion with her husband about their marriage.
Watts told investigators the discussion became emotional.
"The horror she felt as the man she once loved wrapped his hands around her throat and choked the life out of her must have been unimaginable," said Rourke.
The next day the prosecutor said Watts called a real estate agent and un-enrolled the girls from school.
"Why not get a divorce? You don't annihilate your family and throw them away like garbage," Rourke said.
Members of Shanann's family called Chris Watts and "evil monster" who deserved death, but said capital punishment was not realistic in this state and the victims' family was okay with life without parole.
Prosecutors had agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Watts' guilty plea, after seeking approval from Shanann Watts' family. First-degree murder charges in Colorado require a minimum sentence of life without a chance at parole for adults.
At a news conference later, Rourke was asked by CBS4's Rick Sallinger at what point they became suspicious of Chris Watts. He responded, "Almost at the beginning."
Rourke said only Chris Watts knows why he killed his family, but the motive appears to be to start a fresh life with a new woman. Investigators were informed that he had been dating a colleague of his at former workplace.
On Monday, the judge sentenced him to three consecutive life sentences, along with two other life sentences to be carried out concurrently, in addition to 48 years for unlawful termination of pregnancy for the death of the unborn child, and 12 years each for three counts of tampering with a deceased body.
The judge called it "the most inhumane and vicious crime he had ever seen."
Shanann Watts' father, mother and brother testified at the sentencing hearing, with her father giving emotional testimony and calling Chris Watts an "evil monster."
"I trusted you to take care of them, not kill them," said Frank Rzucek, Shanann's father.
Chris Watts' family spokesperson read a statement and his mother testified that she loved her son.
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