Colorado girls found dead in oil well may have been strangled, according to court documents

New court documents filed by defense attorneys for the Colorado man accused of killing his pregnant wife and daughters suggest the young girls were strangled before they were left in an oil well on the property of one of the largest oil and gas drillers in the state.

Chris Watts, 33, was arrested this week on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a deceased body in connection with the deaths of his pregnant wife, Shanann, and their children, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste.

The Weld County coroner’s office confirmed bodies found on the grounds of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. — where Watts used to work — are those of Shanann and the missing girls. Court documents obtained by 9 News revealed the children’s remains were discovered in an “oil well filled with crude oil for several days.”

RELATED: Shanann Watts and her two daughters disappear in Colorado

The official cause of death for each family member remains pending, though motions filed by defense attorney James Merson request the pathologist take DNA samples from the girls’ necks during their autopsies. He noted that he sought out the opinion of DNA expert, Richard Eikelenboom, who maintained that evidence can be preserved despite the bodies being left in oil.

“In my opinion, the presence of oil will not destroy the DNA,” he said, separately referencing techniques used to preserve DNA “after strangulation,” according to the Coloradoan.

Police have not released information on a motive or any additional information in the case. Ahead of his arrest Wednesday, Watts told reporters how much he missed his family — recalling simpler times like when they would go out for dinner and how he’d watch them as they watched cartoons.

In an interview with KMGH, he said his wife returned from a business trip to their home in Frederick around 2 a.m. Monday. When he was asked by a reporter whether or not they argued he said they “had an emotion conversation.”

“I just want them back,” he added. “I just want them to come back.”

Formal charges are expected to be filed on Monday by Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke. Watts is being held at the Weld County Jail, just north of Denver.