Christopher Watts was sentenced Monday to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in the murders of his wife Shannan, 34, daughters Bella, 4 and Celeste, 3, and unborn son, Nico.
Watts sat at the defense table, expressionless but shaking his leg, as members of Shannan’s family spoke about the killings.
Shannan’s father, Frank Rzucek, told his former son in law, “You disgust me.”
Shannan’s mother, Sandra Rzucek, recalled a song Bella would sing about her father in which the 4-year-old referred to him as her hero. She told Watts, "I didn't want death for you because that's not my right. Your life is between you and God and I pray that he has mercy for you."
Watts did shed tears as his parents, Cindy and Ronnie, testified that while they were heartbroken and mystified by the murders, they loved and forgave their son.
“You are here today accepting responsibility, I want to tell you this now. I love you,” Ronnie Watts wrote in a statement read by a family representative. “We will never abandon you and we love you.”
A defense attorney told the court that Watts was “devastated” and “sorry” but when asked if he’d like to give a statement, Watts declined.
Prosecutors then laid out what they believe happened to Shannan and the girls in the early morning hours of August 13: After Shannan arrived home from a work conference in Phoenix, she and her husband had an "emotional conversation" about the state of their marriage. Watts then strangled Shannan. Prosecutors noted that this was done in a calculated manner — not in the "heat of passion" as Watts had claimed — pointing to the lack of defensive injuries on Shannan as evidence.
Watts then smothered his daughters. Prosecutors described injuries to 4-year-old Bella, who they say fought back as her father killed her. Her frenulum was lacerated and she bit her tongue multiple times as she struggled.
Finally, citing video from neighbor's doorbell cameras, prosecutors described how Watts methodically loaded the bodies of his families into his work truck and drove them to an oil field where he was employed. He buried Shannan — who was 15-weeks-pregnant at the time — then disposed of Bella and Celeste in two different oil tanks. The openings to these tanks were just eight inches wide; Bella suffered bruising from being shoved inside and a tuft of blond hair was located on one of the hatches.
The judge, noting the "vicious and inhumane" nature of the killings sentenced Watts to the maximum sentence agreed to in the plea bargain, three concurrent life sentences without parole, as well as additional time for unlawful termination of a pregnancy and tampering with deceased bodies.
Watts was dating a coworker at the time of the killings. He apparently told her his divorce had been finalized and was even texting with her the day he killed his families and methodically disposed of their bodies. When the coworker saw news reports featuring Watts' appeal for his family to return home safely, she realized he'd been lying and went to the police. He was arrested on August 15.
Watts initially told law enforcement he flew into a rage when he saw Shannan strangling one of their daughters via a baby monitor. But faced with overwhelming physical evidence, Watts admitted his guilt in a plea bargain that would save him from the death penalty.