Sentencing set for man after guilty plea in family killings

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado man is set to be sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and their two young daughters and dumping their bodies on an oil work site.

Christopher Watts pleaded guilty on Nov. 6 to three charges of murder in the deaths of his wife, Shanann Watts, and their young daughters. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of murdering a child, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.

Prosecutors have said they agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Watts' guilty plea, after seeking approval from Shanann Watts' family. First-degree murder charges in Colorado require a minimum sentence of life without a chance at parole for adults.

Watts will have an opportunity to make a statement during the hearing Monday in Weld County, but it's not clear if he will speak. Watts is represented by the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, which does not comment on pending cases.

Prosecutors have said Shanann Watts' family members may decide to speak during the sentencing hearing.

Judge Marcelo Kopcow also ruled Thursday that Christopher Watts' parents are considered victims of the crime because they are the girls' grandparents. Victims are allowed to give a statement or provide written comments during sentencing hearings in Colorado.

A friend asked police to check on Shanann Watts on Aug. 13 when she could not reach her and grew concerned that the 34-year-old who was pregnant with a third child missed a doctor's appointment. Local police initially handled the search and soon sought support from Colorado investigators and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Meanwhile, Christopher Watts spoke to local television reporters from the front porch of the family's home in Frederick; a small town on the plains north of Denver where drilling rigs and oil wells surround booming subdivisions. Watts pleaded for his family to return home, telling reporters their house felt empty without four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste watching cartoons or running to greet him at the door.

Within days, the 33-year-old was arrested and charged with killing his family.

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Shanann Watts and her two daughters killed in Colorado
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Shanann Watts and her two daughters killed in Colorado
A photograph sits amid the tributes as they grow outside the home where a pregnant woman, Shanann Watts, and her two daughters, Bella and Celeste, lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband, Christopher Watts, has been arrested on suspicion of killing his family. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Christopher Watts, 33, arrested on suspicion of murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters, in Frederick, Colorado, U.S., is shown in this handout photo provided August 16, 2018. Weld County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
GREELEY, CO - AUGUST 21: Frank Rzucek the father of Shanann Watts was in court for Christopher Watts arraignment hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on August 21, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. Christopher Watts faces nine charges, including several counts of first-degree murder of his wife Shanann and his two young daughters, 4-year-old Bella, and 3-year-old Celeste. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
This photo combo of images provided by The Colorado Bureau of Investigation shows, from left, Bella Watts, Celeste Watts and Shanann Watts. The Frederick Police Department said Chris Watts was taken into custody. Watt's pregnant wife, 34-year-old Shanann Watts, and their two daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste were reported missing Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. The police said on Twitter early Thursday that Chris Watts will be held at the Weld County Jail. He has not yet been charged. (The Colorado Bureau of Investigation via AP)
Photo: Facebook
GREELEY, CO - AUGUST 21: Frank Rzucek the father of Shanann Watts was in court for Christopher Watts arraignment hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on August 21, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. Christopher Watts faces nine charges, including several counts of first-degree murder of his wife Shanann and his two young daughters, 4-year-old Bella, and 3-year-old Celeste. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo: Facebook
Christopher Watts is escorted into the courtroom before his bond hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Greeley, Colo. Watts, of Colorado, whose wife and daughters disappeared this week was arrested on suspicion of killing them. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP, Pool)
FREDERICK, CO - AUGUST 16: Terry Warren, of Frederick, taks a moment at a makeshift memorial to Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts, who have been missing since Monday, is seen outside the family home on August 16, 2018 in Frederick, Colorado. Frederick police have arrested Shananns husband Christopher Watts on suspicion of murdering the three. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
GREELEY, CO - AUGUST 21: Frank Rzucek the father of Shanann Watts, left, and her brother Frankie Rzucek were in court for Christopher Watts arraignment hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on August 21, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. Christopher Watts faces nine charges, including several counts of first-degree murder of his wife Shanann and his two young daughters, 4-year-old Bella, and 3-year-old Celeste. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo: Facebook
Judge Marcelo A. Kopcow speaks to the attorneys during the bond hearing for Christopher Watts at the Weld County Courthouse Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Greeley, Colo. Watts, of Colorado, whose wife and daughters disappeared this week was arrested on suspicion of killing them. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP, Pool)
Photo: Facebook
Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke waits for the bond hearing for Christopher Watts to begin at Weld County Courthouse Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Greeley, Colo. A judge has ordered Watts of Colorado who is accused of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters held in jail without bail. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP, Pool)
Baltasar Gutierrez, left, joins his daughter, Irene Montoya, in talking to reporters after they left a tributes outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
From left, 4-year-old Liberty Bell joins her mother, Ashley, and father Steven as they put a tribute with others outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FREDERICK, CO - AUGUST 16: Frederick Police Department Chief Todd Norris talks to media on August 16, 2018 in Frederick, Colorado. Frederick police have arrested Shananns husband Christopher Watts on suspicion of murdering the three. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo: Facebook
FREDERICK, CO - AUGUST 16: Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper talks to media on August 16, 2018 in Frederick , Colorado. Frederick police have arrested Shananns husband Christopher Watts on suspicion of murdering the three. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo: Facebook
Ashley Bell places flowers with the growing number of tributes outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
FREDERICK, CO - AUGUST 16: Colleen Hendrickson and her grandson Ezra Reed, 3, who lives down the street, place flowers at a makeshift memorial to Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts, who have been missing since Monday, outside the family home on August 16, 2018 in Frederick, Colorado. Frederick police have arrested Shananns husband Christopher Watts on suspicion of murdering the three. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo: Facebook
Christopher Watts glances back at a Weld County Sheriff's Deputy as he is escorted out of the courtroom at the Weld County Courthouse Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Greeley, Colo. Watts, of Colorado, whose wife and daughters disappeared this week was arrested on suspicion of killing them. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP, Pool)
Photo: Facebook
A pump jack sits near the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
Tributes grow outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
Tributes grow outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook
Ashley Bell reacts after leaving flowers among the tributes growing outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
A photograph sits amid the tributes as they grow outside the home where a pregnant woman, Shanann Watts, and her two daughters, Bella and Celeste, lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband, Christopher Watts, has been arrested on suspicion of killing his family. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook
Tributes grow outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook
Tributes grow outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook
Irene Montoya of Aurora, Colo., places a bouquet of flowers as tributes grow outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Bella goes Zip Lining today on Field Trip! 😱 Celeste’s pigtails 😂😂😂
Picked up this cutie from school for mommy/daughter lunch. She was excited to tell her daddy all about it.
My sweet princess! I love her so much. She went with me this morning to Rise and Thrive and we had a blast!
These two little girls are my world! I love them so much, even when they drive me crazy! Tomorrow is the last day Celeste is in 2yr old PreSchool and Bella is in PreK 1. Growing up so fast.
Happy Husband Appreciation Day! I couldn’t imagine a better man for us. You spoil us with love an attention! You put up with 3 impatient, demanding women in the house. 🤣🤣 You Work so hard everyday to provide for us. I love you so much and so grateful you hung around when I tried pushing you away in the beginning! 🤣🤣 #HappyHusbandappreciationday
Ashley Bell, left, is consoled by her husband, Steven, and 4-year-old daughter Liberty as the woman places a tribute outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Wind 💨 Be Crazy 😜 today! #colorado #windblownhair #windy #beautiful #crazy
My world and heart all wrapped up in this photo! . . . . #myworld #myheart #myloves #love #chris #age33 #celeste #age2 #bella #age4 #family #mygirls #instagram #instaphoto #instapic #spring #colorado
I love this man more than words can say! He’s my Rock, my love, my biggest fan, supporter and my husband! I couldn’t of hand picked a better man to call my husband and father to our girls! He dreams Big with me, he runs hard with me and he is just flat out friggin awesome! I love you Chris so much! Happy Valentines Day! #8yearsandcounting #love #valentinesday #myman #mylove #forever #sappy
Kids are napping, now it’s time for me to brace myself for a Costco Run! 😜😎🤪 thank goodness we Thrive! 🙌🏽Mood Support is being tested this week! Who’s kiddos still nap? 😴 #naptime #thrive #sickkids #christmas #busy #love
Love my snuggles! #rarewithcece #wild #fearless #fulloflove #fulloflife #loveher #daughter #blessed
FREDERICK, CO - AUGUST 16: Neighbors, who did not want to give names, bring a stuffed dog to a makeshift memorial to Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts, who have been missing since Monday, is seen outside the family home on August 16, 2018 in Frederick , Colorado. Frederick police have arrested Shananns husband Christopher Watts on suspicion of murdering the three. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo: Facebook
An unidentified young boy places a bouquet of flowers on a pile of tributes outside the home where a pregnant woman and her two daughters lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband has been arrested in the disappearance of the woman and children. Authorities say that they have found the woman's body and believe to know the whereabouts of the two girls. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Christopher Watts looks down during his bond hearing at the Weld County Courthouse Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Greeley, Colo. Watts, of Colorado, whose wife and daughters disappeared this week was arrested on suspicion of killing them. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP, Pool)
A photograph sits amid the tributes as they grow outside the home where a pregnant woman, Shanann Watts, and her two daughters, Bella and Celeste, lived Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Frederick, Colo. The woman's husband, Christopher Watts, has been arrested on suspicion of killing his family. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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According to court records, Watts admitted to police that he killed his wife. Watts told investigators that he strangled her in "a rage" when he discovered she had strangled their two daughters after he sought a separation.

Prosecutors have since called Watts' account "a flat-out lie."

Authorities have not released autopsy reports or any information about how the mother and daughters died. Prosecutors have said the reports would be released after Christopher Watts' sentencing.

The girls' bodies were found submerged in an oil tank, on property owned by the company Christopher Watts worked for until his arrest. Shanann Watts' body was found buried nearby in a shallow grave.

Police also learned that Christopher Watts was having an affair with a co-worker. Watts had denied that before being arrested.

The killings captured the attention of media across the country and became the focus of true crime blogs and online video channels, aided by dozens of family photos and videos that Shanann Watts shared on social media showing the smiling couple spending time with their children and each other.

Courts records, though, showed the couple's lifestyle caused financial strain at times. They filed for bankruptcy in June 2015, six months after Christopher Watts was hired as an operator for the large oil and gas driller Anadarko Petroleum at an annual salary of about $61,500. At the time, Shanann Watts was working in a children's hospital call center for $18 per hour.

They reported total earnings of $90,000 in 2014 but $70,000 in unsecured claims along with a mortgage of nearly $3,000. The claims included thousands of dollars in credit card debt, some student loans and medical bills.

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