Chris Watts’ parents expected to make statement at Monday’s sentencing, letter claims son was coerced into plea
WELD COUNTY — Cindy and Ronnie Watts, the parents of Frederick triple homicide suspect Chris Watts, filed an entry of appearance Wednesday in Weld District Court in hopes of making a statement at their son’s sentencing hearing on Monday.
“These rights include making a written and/or oral victim impact statement,” according to the order. “At the sentencing hearing scheduled for Nov. 19, 2018, this court will afford the paternal grandparents or their designee an opportunity to deliver a victim impact statement.”Weld District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow issued an order Thursday in response to the motion. In it, Kopow explains that as the paternal grandparents of Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, they are considered victims under state law and afforded all of the rights under the Colorado Victims Rights Act.
On Thursday, the Weld District Attorney’s Office announced the sentencing hearing, which takes place at 10 a.m. Monday, has been moved to Division 16 from Division 17. Overflow will be held in Division 17, where a feed will be set up to allow stragglers to listen to the hearing.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for two hours. It will be followed by a 1 p.m. news conference with the Weld District Attorney’s Office.
On Monday, Cindy and Ronnie Watts spoke with Denver7 by phone from their home in Spring Lake, N.C. During the interview, they said their son was not a sociopath, nor a psychopath.
Cindy and Ronnie claimed they have had little interaction with Chris since he was arrested in August on suspicion of killing his pregnant wife, Shanann, 34, and their two daughters. They believe his original story — that Chris killed Shanann, but only after watching her strangle the kids to death — and wonder if he was coerced into taking a plea deal on Nov. 6.
As part of that plea deal, which still needs to be accepted by Judge Kopcow, Watts will serve four consecutive life terms for the deaths of Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico, the couple’s unborn son. The punishments reflect three charges of first-degree murder after deliberation and one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy. Watts also faces additional sentences for two more counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
In exchange for the guilty plea, Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke took the death penalty off the table.
Also on Monday, the court received an email from a “K Almand,” an assumed representative for Cindy and Ronnie Watts. In the letter to Judge Kopcow, Almand claims the Colorado Public Defenders Office, which is defending Watts, has denied Cindy and Ronnie access to their son.
Cindy, Ronnie and an unnamed sister finally gained access to Watts for 30 minutes each the night before the sentencing hearing, Almand claims. Cindy asked her son if a plea deal is what he wanted.
“Do not ask him that or we will shut this (expletive) down now,” said an unnamed attorney before Watts could respond, according to Almand’s letter.
Almand said that type of “bullying” has been common in the Watts family’s dealings with the public defender’s office.
“It is the opinion of Mr. Watts’ family that he has been coerced, has been denied his constitutional rights and more — all in an attempt to quickly close this case,” Almand wrote. “They want to have a new attorney speak to Chris, on their behalf, to determine if this is a true confession or one that is based on inhumane treatment at the hands of the Public Defenders Office of Weld County.”
Almand closed the letter by saying Cindy Watts wanted to speak to Judge Kopcow about her son’s case and possible mistreatment. Kopcow issued an order saying he was barred from having any conversations about the case outside of the courtroom.
Attempts to reach the Watts family and the public defender’s office for comment were unsuccessful as of Friday afternoon.
Despite the claims made by Almand and by Watts’ parents, the Weld District Attorney’s Office is expecting Monday’s hearing will take place as planned, said agency spokeswoman Krista Henery.
On Friday, Nichol Kessinger, Watts’ girlfriend, spoke out for the first time in an interview with the Denver Post. Unlike his parents, Kessinger believes Watts is responsible for the murders of his family.
In the interview, Kessinger explains during their brief, two-month relationship Watts told her he was in the final stages of divorce proceedings. The two had a physical relationship, seeing each other four to five times per week. At one point, Watts asked Kessinger to help him hunt for an apartment that would be good for him and his daughters.
Kessinger became suspicious about Watts’ home life when on Aug. 13 Shanann, Bella and Celeste disappeared. She asked Watts about it by text message and said he seemed “casual” and emotionless about his family being missing, the Post reported.
The next day, Kessinger called the Weld County Sheriff’s Office to tell authorities about her relationship with Watts, the Post reported. She spoke to the FBI that same day. Watts was arrested a day after that, on Aug. 15, when the bodies of Shanann, Bella and Celeste were discovered at an Anadarko oil and gas site near Hudson.