It was, he knew, likely a meaningless thing to say. But Chris Watts said it anyway: He was sorry for murdering wife Shanann and their two young daughters.
Moments after his brief statement was shared by one of his attorneys, the judge in Chris’ murder case sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole — the maximum penalty under a deal with prosecutors, in which he admitted guilt in exchange for avoiding an execution.
“Mr. Watts has asked us to share this morning that he is devastated by all of this,” his public defender told the court on Monday morning in Weld County, Colorado, two weeks after he pleaded guilty to his charges.
“Although he understands that words are hollow at this point, he is sincerely sorry for all of this,” his attorney said.
Asked by the judge if he wanted to make a statement himself, Chris, 33, declined.
Prosecutor Michael Rourke described for the court how Chris strangled 34-year-old Shanann, his wife of nearly six years, with his bare hands not long after she returned home from a weekend work trip.
Bella and Celeste, the couple’s two young daughters, were smothered by their father, Rourke said — with Bella fighting for her life as Chris murdered her.
“I’ve been a judicial officer now for starting my 17th year and I could objectively say that this is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases that I have seen,” said Judge Marcelo A. Kopcow.
“Nothing less than a maximum sentence would be appropriate, and anything less than that maximum sentence would depreciate the seriousness of this offense,” Kopcow said.
At Chris’ sentencing, for the first time, prosecutors confirmed several key pieces of information about the murders. Rourke, the Weld County district attorney, told the court how Shanann, Bella and Celeste were killed. Chris then loaded their bodies into his truck and hid them at a remote oil work site: his wife buried in the ground and their daughters submerged in two nearby oil tanks.
Chris’ motive “was simple,” Rourke said. “He had a desire for a fresh start, to begin a new relationship with a new love.” (Police have said Chris was cheating on Shanann with a co-worker when he murdered her.)
Rourke also described the “stark contrast,” in the lead up to the homicides, between Shanann’s efforts to save her marriage and Chris’ disinterest.
“None of this answers the question of why, however,” he said. “If [Chris] was this unhappy and wanted a new start, get a divorce. You don’t annihilate your family and throw them away like garbage.”