[Court is scheduled to begin at 12:00 p.m. ET / 10:00 a.m. MT. Watch the hearing in the player above with our expert legal analysis. For a raw feed, scroll to the bottom of this article.]
Colorado man Christopher Watts is expected to be sentenced Monday in the murders of his wife Shanann Watts, and their daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.
In August, the defendant appeared on local television station Denver7 after his family went missing, and begged for them to come home. This was a ruse. According to a police affidavit, he later told cops that he murdered his wife, but only because he found her fatally strangling their daughters after he demanded a separation. Investigators claimed he led them to where he hid the bodies.
The Weld County District Attorney’s Office clearly didn’t buy his story because they charged him in all three deaths, terminating his wife’s pregnancy, and tampering with the corpses. At first, his defense team sought DNA from the children’s necks, and butted heads with the state over the autopsy records, but the defendant eventually pleaded guilty on November 6. In return, prosecutors promised not to pursue the death penalty. Under the terms of the agreement, Watts admitted to killing his daughters.
This doesn’t sit well with his parents Cindy and Ronnie Watts, who spoke with WTVD. They continue to support their son, and voiced doubt that he killed his daughters. Cindy Watts argued that Shanann was “more capable” of this murder. Shanann’s family pushed back hard on the interview, and called the Watts’ comments “vicious, grotesque, and utterly false.”
Judge Marcelo A. Kopcow on Thursday allowed the defendant’s parents or their designated representative to deliver a “victim impact statement” at Monday’s sentencing hearing because they are Celeste’s and Bella’s grandparents. He also recognized a letter dated November 12. In it, an attorney representing Cindy claimed that Christopher Watts was being isolated from his family. The lawyer voiced concern the defendant may have been coerced into a guilty plea. The judge rejected the family’s attempt to get another attorney introduced in the case, and said that he couldn’t speak to a third party about the case.
Some have described Christopher Watts’ odd behavior before and during his family’s disappearance. Tomas Hoppough, the Denver7 reporter who interviewed the defendant, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the man seemed calm, and talked to him “about North Carolina basketball, before everything.” Family friend Nickole Atkinson also told the network she saw the Denver7 interview, and knew “something was wrong.” She added that Watts had seemed distant from his daughters in the previous weeks, and that his story about the events surrounding the disappearance didn’t add up. Nichol Kessinger, who said she briefly dated him last Summer because he falsely claimed to be getting a divorce, told The Denver Post he didn’t show emotion when discussing his missing family, and that he tried to change the subject when they came up in conversation.
Krista Henery, the lead spokesperson for the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, told Law&Crime on Friday that the case remained open pending the results of the sentencing hearing, and that they were unable to discuss the specifics of the investigation until then.
Aaron Keller contributed to this report.
[Mugshot via Weld County Sheriff’s Office]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]