Sitting before a judge in an orange jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled, Chris Watts, 33, listened quietly as the judge read the charges against him for allegedly killing Shanann, 34, daughters, Bella, 4 and Celeste, 3, and their unborn son, who they planned to name Niko.
Chris is charged with three counts of first-degree murder with deliberation, two counts of first-degree murder of a child under the age of 12 by someone who is in a “position of trust” over them, one first-degree count of unlawful termination of pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased body.
As the judge recited the charges, Chris sighed heavily, while Shanann’s father, Frank Rzucek, sat bent over in his seat with his hands covering his eyes, sobbing.
His son and Shanann’s brother, Frankie Rzucek, comforted his father by putting his arm around him while he stared coldly at his brother-in-law.
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When the judge asked Chris if he understood the charges and the sentence he could possibly face, which possibly includes the death penalty, Chris quietly replied, “Yes sir.”
Chris did not enter a plea. He is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 19.
Chris waived a right for a preliminary hearing within 35 days to give his public defenders time to review discovery materials.
Chris was arrested last Wednesday — two days after his wife Shanann was reported missing after she returned to Colorado following a work training event in Arizona.
Shanann’s remains and those of her daughters were found last Thursday on property belonging to Chris’ former employer, an oil and gas driller for whom he’d worked as an operator before being fired Wednesday, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE. The girls’ bodies had been concealed “inside oil tanks,” while Shanann had been buried in a shallow grave, according to an arrest affidavit that was unsealed and released Monday.
Chris Allegedly Had Affair With Co-Worker
The bombshell affidavit revealed that Chris was allegedly “actively involved in an affair with a co-worker,” which he had denied in previous interviews with police.
The explosive document also revealed that Chris allegedly admitted he killed Shanann — but only after, he claimed, he “went into a rage” when she strangled one of their daughters.
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Chris initially told an officer that he had talked to Shanann on Monday after waking up about 5 a.m. after she got home from her work trip just before 2 a.m., telling her he wanted a separation in their marriage, the affidavit alleges.
But when Chris later spoke with a detective, he said he’d told Shanann he wanted to separate at 4 a.m. — seemingly conflicting with his earlier assertion that he broached the separation after waking up at about 5 a.m., the affidavit alleges.
While authorities searched for Shanann and her girls when they were considered missing, Chris pleaded for the safe return of his wife and daughters in local TV interviews, saying the house felt “empty” without them.
Finally, in another police interview, after law enforcement allegedly uncovered the affair, Chris spoke with his father at the police station and returned to say he would now “tell the truth” about the deaths, the affidavit states. He then claimed to police that after speaking with Shanann, he saw, via a baby monitor, that daughter Bella was “sprawled” and “blue” on her bed — apparently already dead — while Shanann was allegedly “actively strangling Celeste,” the affidavit states.
He claimed he subsequently flew into a rage and killed Shanann. He allegedly admitted to dumping the bodies of the deceased where they were later found.
Chris’ public defender has not responded to PEOPLE’s multiple requests for comment. He is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 19 for a status hearing. He remains in custody without bond.