FREDERICK, Colo. (AP) — The bodies of two young girls were submerged in crude oil for four days before authorities discovered them on Thursday, according to court documents filed Friday by an attorney defending the girls’ father against accusations that he killed his children and wife.
The motion filed Friday by Christopher Watts’ attorney, James Merson, also asked that DNA swabs be taken from the girls’ necks. The request quotes an expert who believes the oil would not eliminate DNA and said samples can be obtained “after strangulation.”
Authorities separately announced that the Weld County Coroner’s Office had performed autopsies on Friday and confirmed the bodies as 34-year-old Shanann, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste Watts.
Police did not release any information about how the mother and daughters died. More testing is planned to help determine the cause of their deaths.
Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant, was reported missing Monday along with her two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.
Her husband, Chris Watts, was taken into custody Wednesday night and is being held in the Weld County Jail, north of Denver.
The Frederick Police Department said the coroner’s office identified the bodies but hadn’t determined the cause of death for each family member.
The woman’s body was found on the property of a petroleum and natural gas exploration company, Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper told reporters Thursday. The company said Watts used to work there, but declined to say when his employment ended.
Chris Watts, 33, was arrested on three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, a Weld County District Court judge said during Watts’ court appearance on Thursday. Prosecutors have until Monday to formally charge Watts.
Authorities have not revealed a possible motive or other details in the case. A judge sealed the arrest affidavit, which might have provided that information.
What Chris Watts told reporter
CNN affiliate KMGH aired video showing Chris Watts’ pickup truck being towed from the family’s home overnight, as well as investigators removing items from the house in garbage bags.
In an interview with KMGH before his arrest, Chris Watts said his wife got home from a business trip about 2 a.m. Monday. The couple lived in Frederick, a town of about 8,600 people around 30 miles north of Denver.
When asked by the reporter whether they argued, Watts said, “We had an emotional conversation, I’ll leave it at that. I just want them back. I just want them to come back.”
Watts said he left for work about 5:15 a.m. that day and wasn’t concerned when Shanann didn’t respond to his texts and phone calls because she was probably busy with her job, having just returned from being out of town.
But he said he became worried when one of her friends contacted him around noon and said Shanann wasn’t responding to messages.
“I walked in the house and — nothing,” Chris Watts told KMGH. “She wasn’t here. The kids weren’t here.”
“She said she was going to a friend’s house with the kids and that’s the last thing I heard, and that was it. It was very vague,” he told reporters.
FBI involved in case
An unidentified friend told CNN affiliate KDVR that she dropped off Shanann Watts at home about 2 a.m. Monday after they returned from a work trip, and watched her go into the house.
The two planned to meet later, but Watts, 34, didn’t answer her phone or show up for a doctor’s appointment, the friend said.
Police said they conducted a welfare check after Watts’ friend called and requested one.
The FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation were involved in the arrest, Frederick police said.
When asked whether other people were involved, Camper said, “In terms of any danger to the community, we’re not concerned about that at all.”
Brother posts on Facebook
Frankie Rzucek, who is identified on Shanann Watts’ Facebook page as her brother, posted overnight on his page saying he just wanted “to know why.”
“I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath. May Satan have mercy on his soul,” Rzucek wrote. “Doesn’t take a genius to know who was suspect.”
Le-Vel, a “health and wellness” company Shanann Watts worked for, according to her public Facebook page, has posted a message regarding Watts and her two daughters.
“Our hearts are broken for the loss of our dear friend Shanann Watts and her children. Shanann was an amazing woman, mother, friend, and overall person. She lit up every room and was a joy to be around. … Shanann and her children will be dearly missed. We honor them on this sorrowful day.”
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation spokeswoman Jennifer Brice said Watts is a former employee, but declined to say when he left the company.
“We are heartbroken by this, and our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones and friends of the Watts family. We will continue to support law enforcement in its investigation. He is no longer an employee and given that the investigation is ongoing, please direct all questions to law enforcement.”