When his pregnant wife and two daughters went missing this summer, Christopher Watts went on television and begged for their return. “Shanann, Bella, Celeste, if you’re out there, just come back,” he pleaded.
When the police investigation narrowed in on him as a suspect, he tried to turn the blame on his wife, claiming it was she who strangled their daughters — and that he strangled her out of rage.
Now, Mr. Watts, 33, of Frederick, Colo., has admitted that he killed his wife and two children.
On Tuesday, Mr. Watts pleaded guilty to nine criminal counts — including murder, the unlawful termination of a pregnancy and tampering with a dead body — in exchange for an agreement that prosecutors would not pursue the death penalty, according to the Weld County district attorney’s office.
Mr. Watts’s wife, Shanann, was 15 weeks pregnant when she and their two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, disappeared. The case drew national attention but came to a heart-wrenching end when their bodies were found on an oil site — and Mr. Watts was arrested.
Michael J. Rourke, the Weld County district attorney, said at a news conference on Tuesday that he agreed not to seek the death penalty at the request of Ms. Watts’s family.
Under the agreement, Mr. Watts will serve consecutive life sentences for each of the three deaths.
“He deserves a life sentence for each and every act on top of one another,” Mr. Rourke said. “It was important that each of those beautiful human beings be reflected in the ultimate sentence that will be imposed.”
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19.
[Get live midterm election analysis and real-time results.]
The Colorado public defender’s office, which was appointed to represent Mr. Watts, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
After Ms. Watts and her daughters went missing on Aug. 13, Mr. Watts stood on his porch in Frederick, Colo., and pleaded in an interview with Denver7 for them to come home.
“If somebody has her, just bring her back,” he said. “I need to see everybody, I need to see everybody again. This house is not complete without anybody here.”
But the police learned that Mr. Watts had been having an affair with a co-worker and had told his wife he wanted to separate during an emotional conversation the day she went missing, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Mr. Watts soon had a new story: He told the police that he had seen, via the family’s baby monitor, his wife strangling their daughter Celeste, and that their other daughter, Bella, was lying on her bed and appeared blue. He said he went into a rage and strangled his wife, the affidavit said.
While he then claimed that he did not kill his daughters, he confessed to dumping their bodies in oil tanks and burying their mother nearby, the police said.
Mr. Rourke, the district attorney, said investigators did not know if they would ever get a full and accurate statement from Mr. Watts.
But he said: “The spotlight that he tried to shine on Shanann, falsely, incorrectly and frankly a flat-out lie, has been corrected.
“The spotlight shines directly where it belongs — on him.”