Christopher Watts pleads guilty in deaths of wife, young daughters

Christopher Watts pleads guilty in deaths of wife, young daughters

A Colorado man has avoided the death penalty for killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters in a case with North Carolina connections.

Watts' voice was shaking, and he could occasionally be heard sniffing after each time he said "guilty".

Shanann Watts was 15 weeks pregnant when she died, according to court records.

Shanann Watts' parents, Sandra and Frank Rzucek, as well as her brother, Frank Rzucek Jr., also attended the hearing and subsequent press conference.

On Tuesday, the Weld County, Colo., district attorney's office said, Watts pleaded guilty to killing Shannan Watts, 34, and their daughters Bella, 3, and Celeste, 4, in August. Shanann Watts' body was later discovered on the property of an oil and natural gas company that Christopher Watts had worked for.

It's alleged he drove their bodies to an oil site, and police said the girls' bodies were found in an oil tank while his wife's body was found in a shallow grave.

Police said Watts admitted to murdering his wife but claimed he killed her because she strangled their children.

When Shanann Watts and her two little girls went missing from their home in Frederick, about 30 miles north of Denver, Chris Watts first told news cameras that they had gone to a friend's house.

District Attorney Michael Rourke told the court Shannan Watts' family "were strongly in favour" of coming to a resolution, which didn't see the 33-year-old sentenced to death, Fox 31 Denver reported.

A memorial outside the home of Shanann Watts in Colorado.

Rourke called those claims a "flat out lie" and said he did not believe Christopher Watts would give authorities a full, accurate and truthful statement. "I do not want to be in a position of making the choice to take his, '" Rourke said.

"I can only say that I hope there is a sense of closure (for family members of the deceased)", Rourke told reporters.

Rourke said he described "extraordinary delays" in carrying out the death penalty in Colorado since Gov. John Hickenlooper's 2013 decision to block the execution of Nathan Dunlap.

'That to me was the most important consideration in deciding how to proceed in this a case. "The spotlight shines directly where it belongs: On him".

'I don't know how I could have sat in Sandy's kitchen and asked her to commit the next 25 years of her life to the criminal justice system without any assurance that the sentence would ever actually be imposed, ' he said.

When asked how he feels, Rourke said "sick" and "saddened". "I never wanted to stand up and have a press conference like this".