The petition urges authorities to forbid family murderer Chris Watts from displaying photos in his cell of his pregnant wife and two daughters, whom he murdered in 2018

By KC Baker and Greg Hanlon
April 16, 2019 01:27 PM
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Prison officials have responded to an online petition urging authorities to forbid family murderer Chris Watts from displaying photos in his cell of his pregnant wife and two daughters, whom he murdered in 2018.

In a statement to PEOPLE, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections said it “has no legal basis for removing the photographs from Christopher Watts,” who was transferred to a Wisconsin prison from one in Colorado in late 2018 because of security concerns.

The statement says, “Incarcerated inmates are permitted to possess certain identified items of property, including photographs. Some photographs are not allowed, such as those depicting gang signs, colors, or insignias or photographs that include nudity.”

Watts, 33, is serving multiple life sentences after pleading guilty last November to the August 13, 2018, murders of his pregnant wife, Shanann, 34, and the couple’s two young daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.

Chris Watts
CBI

The petition, which has more than 15,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning and was launched by a group identifying itself as the Seek the Truth and Armchair Detective Group, states: “Allowing a murderer to keep a trophy of his victims goes against the purpose and mission statement of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, which emphasizes public safety and victim advocacy.”

In an interview from inside prison on Feb. 18, Watts gave chilling details of the murders to authorities from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He said his wife Shanann “may have been” praying as he strangled her to death, and said Bella saw him smother Celeste and screamed “Daddy, no!” to her father before he then killed her.

“I hear it every day, when Bella was talking to me,” Watts told detectives. “When she said, ‘Daddy, no!’”

Shanann and Chris Watts
Facebook

He also said he speaks to the photos of his family in his cell and reads a book to his daughters every night.

Celeste and Bella Watts
Facebook

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Those details sparked outrage for members of the group which started the petition.

“Wisconsin inmate Chris Watts DOC# 674796 should not be allowed a photograph of his murder victims, in accordance with DOC purpose and mission statement,” the petition reads. “We, the public and taxpayers, demand that any pictures of Watts’ murder victims are confiscated and that he does not receive favorable treatment due to the publicity of his criminal case.”