It was the family of Chris Watts‘ three murder victims — his pregnant wife, Shan’ann Watts, and their girls, Bella and Celeste — who asked Colorado prosecutors not to seek the death penalty against him for his crimes. And it was once he would not face a possible execution that Chris agreed to plead guilty, on Tuesday, to all of the charges against him.
Speaking to reporters later Tuesday afternoon, after Chris’ surprising plea, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke described some of his office’s discussions with Shan’ann’s family leading up to the deal and how the decision was reached to take the death penalty off of the table.
“I will be the first to tell you I truly appreciate the Rzuceks being present not only in the state of Colorado but in this room,” Rourke said at the news conference.
He said the subject of a possible execution for Chris, who was arrested on Aug. 15 in the murders of his family, was a key topic of discussion.
“When the question was asked of me by their family, ‘What is the realistic outcome of this particular case as it relates to the death penalty?’ — the best I could tell them is, ‘I don’t know.’ “
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 had in my mind from the day this occurred steps in the process that I felt were due diligence in order to come to this decision,” he said. “I don’t think any elected district attorney ever wants to have to make a decision about whether or not to seek the death penalty as it relates to an individual.”
“But,” he continued, “when I have a family who has been so incredibly supportive and so incredibly firm in their belief that the death penalty not be sought, I don’t know how I would have said to them, ‘I’m going to do it anyway.’ “
“[Shan’ann’s mother] said it very, very poignantly to me,” Rourke recalled. “She said, ‘He made the choice to take those lives, but I don’t want to be in the position to take his.’ “
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SOURCE: People – KC BAKER and ADAM CARLSON