Ronnie and Cindy Watts are frustrated.
The parents of Chris Watts, the Colorado man who pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to killing his wife, Shanann Watts, and their daughters, Bella, 4, and 3-year-old Celeste, told ABC7 in Denver that they are not convinced that the public knows the whole story of what happened that August morning at their son and daughter-in-law’s Frederick home.
Watts’ parents said in an interview from their North Carolina home that they were not allowed to get all the answers in the case before their son entered his guilty plea.
“I asked Chris, ‘If you did not do this, do not confess to something you didn’t do,’” Cindy Watts told ABC7. “(His defense attorney) shut me down. She completely shut me down.”
“If he didn’t kill the children, I want him to face that and let them prove it,” Ronnie Watts told the news station.
Chris Watts entered a guilty plea to nine charges last week: three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree murder of a child under the age of 12 by a person in a position of trust, one count of unlawful termination of pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased body.
Shanann Watts, 34, was about 15 weeks pregnant with a son they planned to name Nico.
The Coloradoan in Fort Collins reported that Chris Watts held back tears as he pleaded guilty, his voice wavering each of the nine times he uttered the word. Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke took the death penalty off the table -- at the request of Shanann Watts’ family.
The minimum sentence on all five murder counts is life in prison without parole, according to Watts’ signed guilty plea. Unlawful termination of a pregnancy carries a sentence of 16 to 48 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.
Tampering with a body carries a sentence of four to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000, the document said.
Chris Watts is scheduled for sentencing Monday.
Even prior to the guilty plea, Chris Watts admitted strangling Shanann Watts, 34, to death Aug. 13. He claimed that Shanann Watts strangled their young daughters after he asked for a separation, prompting him to do the same to her while in a rage.
Shanann Watts returned home from a business trip around 2 a.m. the morning of the slayings. According to Chris Watts’ arrest affidavit, he initially told investigators that the couple woke around 5 a.m., at which time they had an emotional conversation about splitting up.
He said he loaded some tools into his truck around 5:30 a.m. and went to work at his job for Andarko Petroleum Corp., at which time Shanann and the girls were still alive. He claimed that Shanann said she was going to take the girls to visit a friend later in the day.
A friend of Shanann Watts reported her and her daughters missing later that day when she could not locate them.
A two-day investigation determined that Chris Watts was having an affair with a coworker, the affidavit said. During subsequent questioning -- and after speaking to his father -- Watts admitted to killing his wife.
Chris Watts claimed he told Shanann he wanted a separation that morning. He said he went downstairs for a moment and, upon returning upstairs, he saw his wife killing their children.
“While in the bedroom, via baby monitor located on Shanann’s night stand, he observed Bella ‘sprawled’ out on her bed and blue, and Shanann actively strangling Celeste,” the arrest affidavit said. “Chris said he went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death.”
Chris Watts told investigators he loaded the bodies into his truck and drove them about 60 miles to a tank battery belonging to Andarko, where he buried Shanann in a shallow grave. Bella and Celeste were found submerged in crude oil in two nearby oil tanks.
The autopsy results on the victims have not been released to the public.
The charges against Chris Watts indicated that his daughters may have been dead before Shanann Watts returned from her business trip Aug. 13.
Ronnie and Cindy Watts told ABC7 they wonder if their son was coerced into confessing to killing the children.
“To me, all they wanted to do was save his life, just save his life,” Cindy Watts told the news station. “Save his life and life in prison, to me there’s no difference. He’s going to die in prison. I just want him to fight. I don’t want him to take this plea deal. I want him to plead not guilty to the children.”
Cindy Watts told Fox31 in Denver that she can not imagine her son killing his entire family.
“I don’t know how he could do that. I want to stop it before it’s too late," Cindy Watts told the news station. “I want to talk to him; we haven’t been able to talk to him. I know I raised a good man and he was such a good person, such a good person. He was not a sociopath or psychopath or kill animals or anything like that ... didn’t do any of these things people are saying he did.
“He’s not that monster people are portraying to him to be. I love my son no matter what. I want to fight for him. I don’t want him to go down for something he didn’t do.”
Shanann Watts’ family issued a statement in response to Ronnie and Cindy Watts’ interview, in which they accused their former in-laws of making “vicious, grotesque and utterly false statements about Shanann.”
“Their false statements, however hurtful and inaccurate, will never alter the truth about Shanann and will never alter the truth about the crimes committed by their son, Chris Watts,” the statement said, according to Fox31. “Shanann’s memory and reputation deserves to be protected. And her family is fully prepared to do so.”
“Shanann Watts was a faithful wife, and the most gentle and loving mother in the world to her children Bella, Celeste, and Nico,” her family wrote. “She was also the best daughter any parent could ever hope for. Shanann was a wonderful soul.
“Everyone who knew Shanann knows this to be true. Even Chris Watts knows this to be true. Yet Chris Watts still chose to murder Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico. Chris Watts still chose to dump the bodies of his own family in oil tanks. And Chris Watts still chose to lie about it until he could lie no more. He pled guilty to murdering his family because he is guilty.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.