(CN) – A Denver man who killed his pregnant wife and two young daughters was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in prison by a state judge Monday.
Christopher Watts, 33, pleaded guilty earlier this month to strangling his wife Shanann Watts, 34, and smothering his daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. After killing his family, Watts loaded their bodies into his truck and took them to an oilfield owned by his employer.
Shanann was buried in a shallow grave. He crammed his daughters’ lifeless bodies into separate oil tanks. Watts, who was having an affair with a co-worker, called her after the murders to talk about their relationship.
“I trusted you to take care of them, not kill them,” said Shannan Watts’ father, Frank Rzucek, at Monday’s sentencing hearing. “Prison is too good for you. This is hard to say, but may God have mercy on your soul.”
According to witnesses, Watts hung his head down for most of the proceeding, refusing to make a statement before Judge Marcelo Kopcow handed down the sentence.
In addition to the three consecutive life sentences, Watts was sentenced to 84 years, 48 years for unlawful termination of a pregnancy and 12 years for each count of corpse tampering.
"This is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases I have seen," Kopcow said. "Nothing less than a maximum sentence would be appropriate."
Prosecutors declined to pursue the death penalty as part of a plea deal with Watts and at the wishes of Shanann Watts’ family.
However, Shanann's family hit Watts with a wrongful death lawsuit Monday. The 8-page complaint details the facts of the case and requests economic, noneconomic and punitive damages from Watts.
The case drew national attention earlier this year when the three were reported missing. Watts pleaded for them to return home in a TV interview on Aug. 14, just one day after the murders. Before he was arrested, Watts told police that he strangled his wife after she strangled their two daughters.
According to Watts’ later confession, he had what he called an “emotional” conversation with Shanann around 2 a.m. on Aug. 13 after she arrived home from work. It was following that conversation when Watts said he strangled Shanann and smothered their two daughters.
District Attorney Michael Rourke said that Shanann had no defensive marks on her body, suggesting that she died slowly. Rourke added that the oldest daughter Bella had cuts in her mouth, suggesting that she struggled against Watts.
“Bella fought back for her life,” Rourke said at the hearing.
After the murders, Watts made a call to his daughters’ school to unenroll them and made another call to a real estate agent about selling the home.
He was arrested on Aug. 15, two days after the murder.
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