It’s life in prison for Chris Watts, with no possibility for parole. The sentence was handed down Monday morning after Watts pled guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters.
Prosecutors had taken the death penalty off the table in exchange for a guilty plea.
Coloradan’s don’t seem to be trigger happy when it comes to capital punishment and Shanann Watts family was no different allowing prosecutors to take it off the table.
“We beg the district attorney to spare your life, because, despite everything, we believe that no one has the right to take the life of another. Even someone, even someone like you,” said Michael Rourke, the Weld County District Attorney reading a statement from Frankie Rzucek, Shanann Watt’s Brother.
“I respect that decision to ask the district attorney to not seek the death penalty in this case, so the court is going to accept this plea bargain under the circumstances. I have been a judicial officer for now 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 I have seen,” said 19th Judicial District Judge Marcelo Kopcow.
Less than two dozen states have abolished the death penalty for criminals. Of the states that still do capital punishment, only five have three or fewer inmates currently on death row.
Here in Colorado since the year 1800, Colorado has only executed just over 102 people. There are currently three inmates on Colorado’s death row with the longest-serving inmate being Nathan Dunlap at 22 years; however, his execution was put on hold indefinitely in 2013 by Governor John Hickenlooper said he had doubts about the fairness of Colorado’s death penalty.
He stopped short of converting Dunlap’s death sentence to life in prison and said he would leave it to his successor to address the case.
The average death penalty trial costs $3.5 million versus about $150,000 for a trial for life without parole meaning the average cost of sending someone to death row is 20 times more, according to information aquired by ACLU and other groups.
Family members of both Shanann and Chris Watts spoke in a northern Colorado court room Monday morning, while the defendant sat with his head down.
The family of Shannan Watts, reading their statements at their son in-law’s sentencing.
“You heartless monster you have. You have to live with this vision every day of your life and I hope you see that every time you close your eyes at night,” said Frank Rzucek, father of Shanann Watts.
The defendant, Chris Watts, sitting in court with a hanging head as he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His parents also speaking in court on Monday.
Cindy Watts saying she can’t imagine what lead her to this day. Then taking a moment to look back at her son who kept his head down.
“We love you and we forgive you, son,” said Cindy Watts, Chris’ mother.
At the time of the murders, Chris reported his family missing even going on camera to plead for their safe return. Days later, investigators found his children’s bodies inside an oil tank near his work, and his wife’s body was buried nearby.
Judge Marcelo Kopcow said nothing less than a maximum sentence would be appropriate.
While a motive for the killings still isn’t known prosecutors did reveal new details on how the victims died.
Shanann was strangled and the two girls were smothered. The oldest girl — Bella — bit her tongue several times trying to fight back.
Frankie Rzucek Shannan’s brother said his blood was boiling and Chris wasn’t worth the time and effort it takes to write a statement but he did anyway. Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke reading it aloud:
“What kind of person slaughters the people that love them the most. Did you really think you would get away with this. Did you really think that this was your best option to throw away your family like they were garbage. They deserve better and you know it,” said Michael Rourke.