The family of a pregnant Colorado woman slain by her husband, along with their two young daughters and unborn child, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against their former son-in-law.
The Denver Post reported that Frank and Sandra Rzucek filed the lawsuit in Weld County District Court on Nov. 19, the day that Christopher Lee Watts was sentenced to multiple life sentences after pleading guilty to killing his wife, Shanann, 34, and their daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Also slain was the couple’s unborn son, who was to be named Nico.
The lawsuit seeks relief on behalf of Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts, but also on Nico’s behalf. The Post reported that relief on Nico’s behalf is being sought under a Colorado law that allows a woman to sue anyone who unlawfully terminates her pregnancy.
Because Shanann Watts is dead, her father can sue as the representative of her estate, the newspaper said. The lawsuit seeks compensation for the family’s grief stemming from the triple murder.
“(The) defendant’s actions have caused plaintiff’s pain and suffering, emotional trauma and the loss of the society and companionship of Shanann, Bella and Celeste,” the lawsuit said.
Prosecutors last week submitted a notice of restitution that Chris Watts is expected to pay his wife’s surviving family. The total currently sits at nearly $42,000, though prosecutors anticipate the amount might increase.
The lawsuit seeks money to help cover funeral expenses, the loss of Shanann Watts’ income and compensate for the family’s “permanent and continuing emotional distress” due to the killings, according to the newspaper.
Prosecutors said Shanann Watts was strangled to death in the couple’s home Aug. 13, shortly after she returned from a brief business trip to Arizona. Bella and Celeste, who remained home with their father while their mother was gone, were killed Aug. 12 or 13.
Police investigating the young family’s disappearance soon learned that Chris Watts had been having an affair. During questioning, he admitted that he’d killed his wife, but said he did so in a rage after Shanann Watts strangled the girls.
Their autopsies showed, however, that Bella and Celeste were suffocated, prosecutors said. Bella bit through her tongue multiple times as she fought for her life.
“(Watts’) initial ‘confession’ was patently false, absurd, and grotesque,” the lawsuit said.
Chris Watts disposed of his family at an oil tank battery belonging to the company he worked for. Shanann Watts and Nico were buried in a shallow grave and Bella and Celeste were shoved into two tanks of crude oil on the property.
Investigators found their bodies after Chris Watts told them where he had hidden them.
Text messages released last week by authorities showed the disintegration of the couple’s marriage in the weeks before the murders, five weeks of which Shanann Watts, Bella and Celeste spent with Shanann’s family out of state. While she visited family and worried about the future of her marriage, Chris Watts reportedly went on several dates with his mistress, who came forward to police after learning her boyfriend’s wife and children were missing.
In the texts, Chris Watts indicated he did not love his wife like he once did and indicated he did not want a third child.
“I don’t know how you fell out of love with me in 5.5 weeks, or if this has been going on for a long time, but you don’t plan another baby if you’re not in love,” Shanann Watts texted her husband on Aug. 5.
Chris Watts, 33, responded the next day that he did not want to erase eight years together.
“l’m not sure what’s in my head,” he wrote.
Watts, who pleaded guilty to nine separate charges in the murders, was transferred Monday from county jail to the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, where he will undergo evaluations to determine which the Colorado Department of Corrections facility he will be housed in.