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Christopher Watts is in court for his arraignment hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on August 21, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. Watts faces nine charges, including several counts of first-degree murder of his wife and his two young daughters. (Photo by RJ Sangosti - Pool/Getty Images)

‘Entire persona’

Man accused of killing his pregnant wife and daughters appears in court with outlandish defense

August 22, 2018

A Colorado accused of killing his pregnant wife and young daughters appeared in court on Tuesday, where he admitted to killing his wife, as police said he had done in a confession made last week. But he claimed he did so only after he witnessed her strangling their two young girls to death. After 34-year-old Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant, was reported missing last week by a friend, Chris Watts, 33, said that his wife and daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, had suddenly disappeared — even going so far as to appear on several local news stations to plead with the supposed kidnappers for the safe return of his family. But he was arrested after investigators found the bodies of his wife and children on the property of the oil company where he worked. Shanann’s body was found in a shallow grave near an oil tank, while the children’s corpses were hidden inside mostly full oil and gas tanks.

According to a police affidavit, Watts initially told police that had an “emotional” but “civil” conversation with his wife about his desire to separate, and that she told him she would be “going to a friend’s house that day.” But after authorities reportedly uncovered evidence that Watts as having an affair with a coworker at the oil company, his story shifted. In his final police interview, he claimed that he and his wife had actually had an argument over his desire to end the marriage. Following the argument, he said, he “walked downstairs for a moment” before returning to the bedroom where he saw, via a baby monitor, his daughter Bella “sprawled” and “blue” on her bed while Shanann was allegedly “actively strangling Celeste.” Seeing this, he claimed, he “went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death” before loading the bodies into his work truck and concealing them.

In the courtroom, Shanann Watts’ father, Frank Rzucek, could be seen sobbing uncontrollably as Chris Watts was formally charged with two counts of murdering a child under 12, three counts of unlawful tampering with a body, and a final count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy. Watts has yet to enter a plea.

Frank Rzucek, the father of Shanann Watts, was in court for Christopher Watts arraignment hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on August 21, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti – Pool/Getty Images)

Friends of the couple said that Watts appeared to be the quintessential “family man and they were stunned he could allegedly commit such a heinous crime, according to PEOPLE. “His entire persona was as a family man, talking about his wife and his girls,” Kristin Landon said. “I believed until the other day that his entire life was those girls, and that he would die for them.”

Watch video coverage of the story below.

Read the full story at ABC News and PEOPLE magazine.


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