Sandra Rzucek, Shanann Watts' mother, wore a purple ribbon in honor of her and her children at the sentencing of their killer, Chris Watts

For all of the pain he had brought to her family, when Sandra Rzucek stood up on Monday morning at the sentencing for triple murderer Chris Watts, she spoke mostly of affection, peace and gratitude.

“I want the world to know that our daughter and her children were so loved by us,” she said in court in Weld County, Colorado, of her slain daughter, 34-year-old Shanann Watts, and her grandchildren, Bella and Celeste, and Shanann’s unborn son, Nico.

“They will always be protected by God and his mighty angels,” Rzucek said.

She wore a purple ribbon in honor of Shanann and her kids, whom Chris, Shanann’s husband of nearly six years, murdered before sunrise in their Frederick home on Aug. 13. (Local TV station KMGH previously reported on Rzucek’s subtle tribute.)

“I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has prayed for our beloved family, who have sent gifts, cards to us from all over the world,” Rzucek said. “I know God will put the evil people where they need to be. I also want to take the time to thank the town of Frederick, Greeley, [the] FBI, the DA’s office, the CBI, for exceptional work. We thank Nickole Atkinson [who reported Shanann missing], Shanann’s neighbor Nathan and his family. To me their our heroes, they really are. God bless.”

Since the slayings, which attracted international media attention, the town of Frederick has distributed purple ribbons to remember Chris’ victims, placing them on local signs and light posts.

The town announced the tribute in August, to plaudits.

“I can’t imagine how much this means to Shananns family and friends!!!” one follower wrote on Facebook. “Such [a] beautiful tribute for a beautiful mother and her children.”

On Monday Chris, 33, was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes, two weeks after he surprisingly pleaded guilty to all of his charges in exchange for avoiding the death penalty.

Prosecutors said he was motivated by a selfish desire for a “fresh start” with an unwitting mistress he had met at work. He strangled Shanann by hand and smothered his girls. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant at the time.

Watts sentenced to life
Sandra Rzucek at the sentencing for Chris Watts, who murdered Rzucek’s daughter and grandchildren
| Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty

At Chris’ sentencing, each of Shanann’s immediate family members gave emotional statements — ruing their loss and excoriating Chris for what he’d done.

Her mother said that family had been her daughter’s entire world.

“Shanann put a crown on your head, but unfortunately the day that you took their life, God removed that crown,” Rzucek told Chris, who sat largely stoic during the hearing, his leg sometimes shaking beneath the table.

“We loved you like a son. We trusted you, your faithful wife trusted you, your children adored you and they also trusted you,” Rzucek continued. “Your daughter Bella Marie sang a song proudly — and I don’t know if you got to see it, but it was, ‘Daddy you’re my hero.’ ”

“I have no idea who gave you the right to take their lives, but I know God and his mighty angels were there in that moment to bring them home to paradise,” Rzucek said.

Though the murders qualified Chris for the death penalty, Shanann’s family adamantly opposed an execution and prosecutors agreed to allow him to plead guilty at their insistence.

Rzucek explained on Monday: “God gives us free will, so not only did you take the family of four — your family of four — you took your own life. … I didn’t want death for you because that’s not my right. Your life is between you and God now, and I pray that he has mercy for you.”