A Colorado man accused of killing his pregnant wife and their two daughters has reached a surprise plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, according to the Weld County District Attorney.
In the high-profile case, Christopher Watts entered the plea in Weld County District Court on Tuesday, his voice shaking as he spoke the words "guilty" nine times in response to the various counts.
In August, Watts initially told reporters his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, 34, and daughters Celeste, 3 and Bella, 4, disappeared without a trace.
His guilty plea marked the end of a months-long string of lies: First, when claiming his wife and kids had gone missing of their own accord in August and, later, alleging (according to an arrest affidavit) that he strangled Shan'ann in a "rage" after watching her strangle their younger daughter.
Prosecutors said a possible death penalty was dropped with the agreement of victims' family members.
Watts appeared in court Tuesday and pleaded guilty to all nine counts against him, including five counts of first-degree murder, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
Rourke blamed Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper for refusing to allow executions while he is in office.
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The judge set sentencing for November 19 at 10 a.m. The two girls were submerged in oil tanks, and Shanann Watts was in a shallow grave nearby.
'I don't know how I could have sat in Sandy's kitchen and asked her to commit the next 25 years of her life to the criminal justice system without any assurance that the sentence would ever actually be imposed, ' he said. Her mother and brother were also there.
Watts could face three consecutive life sentences. If it goes as planned, Rourke said he will not fight the release of the autopsy reports for Shanann Watts and her daughters.
"[Shan'ann's mother] said it very, very poignantly to me", Rourke recalled. He will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
"I do not want to be in the position of making the choice to take his", Rourke said, quoting Sandra.
While Rourke said he followed standard procedure in this case, acting no differently despite its notoriety, the clear wishes of Shan'ann's family's were unavoidable. I never wanted to have to stand up and have a press conference like this.