A Colorado man who publicly begged for the safe return of his missing pregnant wife and their two daughters on Tuesday pleaded guilty to killing them, in a deal the prosecutor said spares him the death penalty.
In the high-profile case, Christopher Watts entered the plea in Weld County District Court on Tuesday, his voice shaking as he spoke the words "guilty" nine times in response to the various counts.
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.
Shanann Watts' parents, Sandra and Frank Rzucek, as well as her brother, Frank Rzucek Jr., also attended the hearing and subsequent press conference.
Chris Watts and his attorneys have reached a plea deal in the highly-watched murder case out of Frederick. Shanann Watts' body was later discovered on the property of an oil and natural gas company that Christopher Watts had worked for.
The children's bodies were found in oil tanks by their mother's shallow grave.
Initially, Watts told police that he killed his wife in a rage; that she had strangled the daughters after he had acknowledged an affair and his intention to separate.
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In a later interview, the arrest affidavit says, Watts claimed that he had seen on a baby monitor that his younger daughter appeared dead and his wife was strangling his older daughter.
Watts had faced the possibility of the death penalty if convicted, but under his plea agreement prosecutors pledged to not seek the death penalty, Steve Wrenn, chief deputy district attorney for Weld County, told the judge. But he said: "I know that will never be fully realized, because the tragedy that sits before us today is the loss of four handsome lives".
"That, to me, was the most important consideration in deciding how to proceed with this case", Rourke said. "I do not want to be in a position of making the choice to take his, '" Rourke said.
Rourke called those claims a "flat out lie" and said he did not believe Christopher Watts would give authorities a full, accurate and truthful statement.
Rourke said he described "extraordinary delays" in carrying out the death penalty in Colorado since Gov. John Hickenlooper's 2013 decision to block the execution of Nathan Dunlap. The spotlight shines squarely on him, ' he said.
"He deserves a life sentence for each and every act", Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said.
'No one wins today. He did not look at member of Shanann Watts' family. I never wanted to have to stand up and have a press conference like this.