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Prosecutors ask judge to block public release of autopsy reports in Chris Watts case

Prosecutors claim that publicly releasing the autopsy results in this case could result in tainting witnesses and impacting the potential jury pool.

KUSA — Prosecutors have asked the judge to seal the coroner’s autopsy reports in the case of the Frederick man accused of killing his pregnant wife and their two young daughters, according to a motion filed by the 19th Judicial District Attorney’s Office Monday.

Chris Watts, 33, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder in wake of the deaths of his wife Shanann Watts, 34, and their daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. He is also charged with tampering with a dead body and unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

PREVIOUS STORY | Chris Watts appears in court, faces minimum of life in prison if convicted of murder

According to the arrest affidavit, Chris Watts confessed to police that he killed his wife on Aug. 13 – but only after he saw her strangle their two young daughters.

RELATED| Childhood friend talks about Shanann and the girls

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The bodies of Bella and Celeste Watts were found in oil wells owned by Chris Watts’ former employee, Anadarko, and Shanann Watts was found nearby.The day before he was arrested, Chris Watts appeared on 9NEWS and begged for his wife and daughters’ safe return.

In Monday’s motion, District Attorney Michael Rourke cited the “great deal of interest” surrounding the case as a reason for not releasing the autopsy reports, saying that the information contained in them “will be critical evidence at the trial.”

Rourke said publicly releasing Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts’ cause of death could result in tainting witnesses and impacting the jury pool. In another filing, Chris Watts' public defenders asked that their DNA expert take samples from the necks of his daughters.

Autopsy reports in Colorado are presumed public unless a judge rules otherwise. Judge Marcelo Kopcow has not made a ruling on the prosecution's request on the Chris Watts case as of Tuesday afternoon.

RELATED | Coverage: Frederick man accused of killing wife, daughters

Monday’s motion is the latest in a series of legal maneuvers filed by both teams in recent weeks. Chris Watts’ attorneys accused the prosecution of leaking information to the media – a motion that the judge overruled, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to implement any sanctions.

During a court appearance on Aug. 20, Chris Watts waived his right to a preliminary hearing, but his public defenders could revisit the issue during a status conference in December.

As of late last month, Rourke said it was too early to say if his office will pursue the death penalty.

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