KUSA — The public defenders representing the Frederick man accused of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters have accused the Weld County District Attorney’s Office of leaking information to the press about the case, which has received media attention from around the world.
It’s an assertion that District Attorney Michael Rourke’s vehemently denied in a response to the motion from Chris Watts’ legal team filed earlier this month.
Watts, 33, has been 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 has also been charged with tampering with a dead body and unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and is being held without bond due to the severity of the accusations against him.
According to an 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. The bodies of Bella and Celeste were found in oil wells owned by Chris Watts’ former employer, Anadarko, and Shanann Watts’ body was found nearby. It’s a story that prosecutors apparently did not buy, as he’s been charged with killing his daughters in addition to his wife.
The day before he was taken into custody, Chris Watts appeared on 9NEWS and begged for his wife and daughters’ safe return.
In a public court filing, the DA’s office argued that information obtained by the media about Bella and Celeste dying by strangulation came from a defense motion, rather than leaks from the prosecution or law enforcement.
The DA’s office also claims that additional information about the case came from the unsealed arrest affidavit for Chris Watts.
In the motion, Rourke outlined the efforts his office made to prevent leaks, but acknowledged instances where media outlets “allegedly obtained information from sources within law enforcement.”
“Such conduct only works to undermine the public’s confidence in law enforcement,” the motion reads.
Nevertheless, the DA’s office argued that it would be extremely difficult to determine the source of potential leaks, and that it would require interviews with hundreds of government employees and thousands of pages of phone records.
“Who would staff and fund such an investigation?” Rourke’s motion says.
It’s unclear what leaks, exactly, prompted Chris Watts’ legal team to pursue sanctions against the prosecution in the first place.
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 November.
Information about what prosecutors will argue motivate the crime has not been entirely released.
In the affidavit, investigators say they learned that Chris Watts was having an affair with a coworker, and that the morning his wife was killed, he said he wanted a separation.
As of late last month, Rourke’s said it was too early to say if it would pursue the death penalty.