WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- A plea deal will spare the life of Chris Watts but the Weld County district attorney took jabs at the governor as he explained the decision Tuesday.
Watts pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing his pregnant wife, Shanann, and their two daughters this past August. Members of Shanann's family were in the courtroom when the plea was entered.
Watts pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree murder – victim under 12 in a position of trust, one count of first-degree unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, according to Colorado court records and documents. Five of those counts made him eligible for the death penalty.
Weld County DA Michael Rourke said he spent time with Shanann's family at their home in North Carolina and during that time explained what a death penalty case could mean.
"So when the question was asked to me by their family, what is the realistic outcome of this particular case as it relates to the death penalty the best I could tell them is I don’t know," said Rourke.
He went on to say that asking for the death penalty could subject the family to years of appeals and hearings.
"We have a governor who has refused to make a decision as it relates to Nathan Dunlap. I explained that to the Rzucek family and, obviously, that gives them some pause," said Rourke.
Dunlap was sentenced to death in 1996 after killing four employees at a Chuck E. Cheese and is still on death row.
Denver7 asked Governor John Hickenlooper about Dunlap's case and the criticism directed at him by Rourke.
"So it’s not a deterrent, it costs a fortune and prolongs the suffering of the families," said Governor Hickenlooper.
He said the comments from the DA amounted to nothing more than politics.
"The bottom line is when I came in I was for the death penalty like a lot of people but when I got the facts and you see how unfair it is, it depends on which DA you get and whether they want to spend all that money. It’s very expensive, it costs baseline $15 million dollars once you get through the appeals to go through a death penalty case," said Hickenlooper.