The Weld County District Attorney’s Office likely has weeks to determine whether to seek the death penalty against Chris Watts, who is accused of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters.
The deadline to file charges is on Monday. Chris Watts is being held without bond for three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
Prosecutors alleged in court Thursday that Chris Watts killed his wife, Shanann Watts, and two daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, inside of their Frederick home. The day before he was taken into custody, Watts spoke to 9NEWS and said it was “earth-shattering” to not have his family there.
"Everyone is going to have their own opinion on this,” he said. “I just want people to know I want my family back. I want them safe. I want them here. This house is not the same.”
Shanann Watts and the girls were reported missing on Monday. Their bodies were recovered on Thursday in “close proximity” to each other. Earlier in the day, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper said Shanann Watts’ body was found on Anadarko property, but he would not say where.
Chris Watts was an Anadarko employee up until the day of his arrest.
A law enforcement source told 9Wants to Know that Chris Watts confessed to killing his wife and two young daughters; however, previous cases have shown that this does not necessarily mean that he will be found guilty should he stand trial.
In the past, according to 9NEWS Legal Expert Scott Robinson, confessions have been suppressed if the suspect was coerced or not read their rights.
Details about Watts’ confession and whether he cooperated with law enforcement were not released.
For Colorado prosecutors to seek the death penalty, what’s known as “statutory factors” are required, according to Robinson.
“For example, killing a pregnant woman when you know she’s pregnant: that’s death penalty eligible,” Robinson said.
Shanann Watts was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, and was planning a gender reveal party for later that week, her friends told 9NEWS.
Robinson said killing a child under the age of 12 also qualifies for the death penalty, as well as “any first-degree murder that’s committed under particularly heinous or grave or cruel circumstances.”
But, he reiterated that it’s too early to say what will happen.
Chris Watts will first be arraigned, and after that, there will be a hearing to determine if the case will go to trial at all.
Once that happens, prosecutors have seven weeks to decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty.
Recent efforts to do so in Colorado have failed. An Arapahoe County jury was not unanimous in its decision to sentence the Aurora theater shooter to death, meaning that he received life in prison with no possibility of parole.
That same year, a Denver man who faced death for stabbing five people inside of a bar also received a life sentence.