Vicious. Grotesque. Utterly false.
That’s how Shanann Watts‘ family is reportedly describing a recent interview by her killer husband’s parents in which they defended him and claimed his marriage was “very hard” and even abusive.
Shanann, 34, “was a faithful wife, and the most gentle and loving mother in the world to her children Bella, Celeste, and Nico [her unborn child],” her parents said, according to local TV station KMGH.
They continued: “Monday evening, the parents of Chris Watts gave an interview in which they attempted to defend their son. In doing so, they felt the need to make vicious, grotesque and utterly false statements.”
These statements, “however hurtful and inaccurate, will never alter the truth about [Shanann], and will never alter the truth about the crimes committed by their son, Chris Watts,” her parents said.
Cindy and Ronnie Watts, Chris’ mom and dad, spoke out Monday for the first time about the case in an interview with KMGH.
Four days earlier, Chris, 33, pleaded guilty to murdering Shanann, his wife of nearly six years, and daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.
Shanann was 15-weeks pregnant with a son at time of her slaying. Chris admitted to first-degree murder and unlawful termination of a pregnancy, among other crimes, in the killings.
His surprise plea marked a sudden end to a case that some observers expected to drag on for years.
“He’s not a sociopath,” Cindy told KMGH from the North Carolina home she shares with husband Ronnie. “He’s not a psychopath.”
She had nothing good to say about her son’s relationship with his eventual victim: “It was a very hard relationship, and as far as I’m concerned I couldn’t do anything right.” Chris’ parents contended that while he was with Shanann, she isolated him from his family.
According to KMGH, Cindy and Ronnie still believe the explanation Chris offered police in mid August — that he killed Shanann after he watched her strangle their youngest daughter at their Colorado home when he told her he wanted to separate.
They said he told them he hid his daughters’ bodies in oil tanks away from Shanann, who was buried in a nearby shallow grave, to keep them apart.
“After what she did, I could not put them with her,” Ronnie recalled him saying.
In pleading guilty last week, Chris admitted he was lying. And yet his parents wonder.
“If this actually happened like they’re saying that it did, that he killed them, then what was the trigger?” Cindy told KMGH.
Ronnie echoed that, saying, “There’s a whole lot of unanswered questions about the case — to me everything happened too quick there, from a case status thing to a plea.”
Chris was actively cheating on his wife with a co-worker at the time of the murders, according to police. Prosecutors have said they have a “partial motive” in the case that will likely come out at or after Chris’ sentencing next week.
While a full picture of the couple’s life may never be made public, those who knew them have described a seemingly happy union possibly beset by tension. One friend told ABC News that, before the killings, Chris “wasn’t being the loving Chris that he normally was. He wasn’t touching or hugging or doing stuff like that.”
His parents said Monday they were unaware he was preparing to plead guilty, and Ronnie said he can only think it was to spare both families the pain of a protracted trial.
Cindy said she told her son: If he wasn’t a murderer, he should not plead.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Chris was spared a possible death sentence and instead will spend the rest of his life in prison, according to prosecutors.
“He’s going to die in prison and there’s no telling what will be done to him in prison and I just want him to fight,” his mom said.
“It has been so overwhelming and I feel like I have to do something not help my son, I just, I need to do something,” she said. “If he’s not going to fight, I want to fight for him.”
In their statement to KMGH, Shanann’s family also evoked her legacy, saying her “memory and reputation deserves to be protected. And her family is fully prepared to do so.”
Chris “chose to murder [Shanann], Bella, Celeste, and Nico,” her parents said.
“Chris Watts still chose to dump the bodies of his own family in oil tanks. And Chris Watts still chose to lie about it until he could lie no more. He pled guilty to murdering his family because he is guilty.”
Reached by PEOPLE, Shanann’s father declined to comment further. Chris’ parents did not return a call.
• With reporting by KC BAKER