GREELEY, Colo. – Chris Watts was told Tuesday at an advisement hearing in a Weld County courtroom that he faces nine felony counts, including first-degree murder and unlawful termination of a pregnancy, in connection with the deaths of his wife and two daughters in Frederick last week.
Watts, 33, faces three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, two counts of first-degree murder – victim under 12/position of trust, one count of first-degree unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
The unlawful termination of a pregnancy charge comes because Shanann Watts was 15 weeks pregnant at the time she was killed. Former Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett explained the statute in an interview with Denver7 Friday.
In court Tuesday, Watts answered questions from the judge of whether he understood the charges against him with short responses of, “Yes sir.”
Watts and his attorney waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days and asked for a status conference to be held instead. People charged with the highest-degree felonies are allowed preliminary hearings so prosecutors can show cause that the case should proceed in court. Watts' attorney and prosecutors agreed that an evidentiary and discovery hearing could be held in the case as well.
Prosecutors will have 63 days after Watts' arraignment to decide if they will seek the death penalty in the case. If they do not, Watts would face mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted on any of the murder charges.
Shanann’s father and brother, Frank Rzucek and Frank Rzucek Jr., both attended the hearing. The elder Rzucek was visibly emotional during the hearing; his son comforted him as he buried his head in his hands and wept as the charges against Chris were read.
The affidavit for Watts' arrest was ordered unsealed Monday and was released Monday afternoon. It says that he was having an affair that he had previously denied to police, and that he claimed that Shanann had strangled their daughters, Bella and Celeste, after he told her he wanted to separate.
Watts was arrested late last Wednesday and has been held without bond ever since.
A day after the three were reported missing, Chris Watts gave an interview to Denver7 in which he pleaded for the girls to come home and said he and his wife “had an emotional conversation” before he allegedly last saw her.
Shanann’s body was discovered in a field on Anadarko Petroleum Company property. Court documents show her body was found in a "shallow grave near an oil tank." Her daughter’s bodies were discovered concealed within oil tanks nearby, sources told Denver7. Court documents filed late last week show experts were advised the bodies were in tanks filled with crude oil "for several days." Chris Watts had been an Anadarko employee but was fired by the company Wednesday.
At a news conference Monday, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke declined to elaborate on the case beyond the documents that were released.
At the same news conference, Rzucek delivered a brief statement: "We would like to thank everyone in the Frederick Police Department and all the agencies involved for working so hard to find my daughter, granddaughters and [unborn child] Nico," Rzucek said. "Thank you everyone for coming out to the candlelight vigil and sending all your prayers. They are greatly appreciated. And keep the prayers coming for our family. Thank you very much.”
Watts will continue to be held without bond after Tuesday’s court hearing. His status conference was set Tuesday for Nov. 19 at 10:30 a.m.