GREELEY, Colo. – Chris Watts was sentenced Monday to three consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing his pregnant wife Shanann and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, after an emotional hearing that brought to an end a saga that has roiled Colorado and the nation.
Watts, 33, received life in prison without the possibility of parole, which will run consecutively, for three counts of first-degree murder for the killings of Shanann, Celeste and Bella.
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He also received two more concurrent life sentences for two other murder charges – first-degree murder by a person in a position of trust – in the killings of Bella and Celeste.
Judge Marcelo Kopcow also sentenced Watts to 48 years, which will run consecutively to the other sentences, for the unlawful termination of a pregnancy charge, which came because Shanann was pregnant with a child, whom family members called “Nico.”
Finally, Watts received 12-year sentences for three separate counts of tampering with a deceased human body, which will run consecutively to the other sentences as well.
Judge Kopcow handed down the sentences after an emotional hearing in which Shanann’s parents and brother both testified and called Watts a “monster.” Watts’ parents also testified , saying they had not received all the information about their son’s plea deal before they spoke to media, including Denver7 , last week.
Shanann’s father, Frank Rzucek, told Watts and the courtroom that he was “heartless” and “evil” and that he took Shanann, Bella and Celeste “out like trash.”
“You don’t know what love is because if you did, you would not have killed them, you monster,” Rzucek told Watts, who stared downward throughout the hearing.
Rzucek told Watts that “prison is too good for you” and that he hoped the sees his wife and daughters when he tries to sleep at night.
A family representative spoke on behalf of Shanann’s brother, Frankie Rzucek Jr., who said that Watts wasn’t worth the time it took to put pen to paper and that he prayed Watts would “never have a moment’s rest.”
Shanann’s mother, Sandra Rzucek, thanked law enforcement and prosecutors for their “exceptional work” on the case and after admonishing Watts for breaking theirs and Shanann’s trust, acknowledged that she and the rest of the family had asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty for Watts – a request that was granted by prosecutors.
“I didn’t want death for you,” Sandra said. “Your life is between you and God now, and I pray that he has mercy on you.”
19th Judicial District Attorney Michael Rourke told the court of new details in the case that had not been publicly released before in attempting to show the court how Watts, 33, “totally and deliberately ended four lives” in a calculated manner.
He noted that Watts had smothered both 3-year-old Celeste and 4-year-old Bella, and that Bella had fought back against him. He said that he didn’t think Watts would ever tell the truth about what truly happened but that they had enough information to piece the case together.
After killing all three, Rourke said, Watts planned which oil and gas site he would dump their bodies at. Rourke said “Bella and Celeste were thrown away” and put in different crude oil tanks so they could not be together even in death. Rourke also noted that Watts had to shove his daughter’s bodies into the tanks and that investigators found scratch marks on one of the girl’s bodies and tufts of hair on the opening to one of the oil tanks – all in an attempt to show the court how careless Watts was in his actions.
“Prison for the remainder of his life is exactly where he belongs for murdering his entire family,” Rourke told the judge before the final sentences were handed down.
They said they were not in court to ask for leniency for their son but rather to honor Shanann, Bella and Celeste as well as the Rzuceks, and to speak to their son one final time.
They thanked prosecutors for the opportunity to speak at the hearing and acknowledged that they did not have all the information they needed when they spoke to media last week, including Denver7, and supposed that their son may have been induced into pleading guilty in the case.
The representative said that Ronnie and Cindy were “not intending to cause pain to anyone” and that they accepted that Watts had committed the murders.
The representative also said that Watts’ parents are looking for an explanation and a confession from their son and said they were looking for “an appropriate time and manner” for that to occur so both families “can have peace to understand details they need answered.”
“We hope [Chris] embraces that moment,” the representative said.
Through the representative, Watts’ parents said they appreciated that the death penalty was taken off the table to ease the pain and suffering on the families and community. They said they hoped Watts would “spend every breath he has left in atonement for what he has done.”
Cindy Watts also spoke separately, saying she was “still struggling to understand how and why this tragedy occurred” and asking for “peace and healing” for both families.
She addressed her son directly, though he did not look up at her or acknowledge her.
“We have loved you from the beginning and we still love you now,” she said. “This might be hard for some to understand how I can sit here under these circumstances and tell you all we are heartbroken. We love you. Maybe you can’t believe it either.”
Both she and her husband said they forgave their son and that they would never abandon him.
After Rourke spoke, Judge Kopcow took the opportunity to go back over the charges and said Watts should face the maximum penalty because it was the worst case he’d seen in his time on the bench.
“I’ve been a judicial officer starting my 17th year and could objectively say that this is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases that I have seen, and nothing less than a maximum sentence would be appropriate,” Kopcow said.
For more information about the case, click here.
Denver7 will be updating this story throughout the day and will have more coverage from the Watts sentencing hearing coming up.