Welcome to what appears right now to be the end of the legal road in the Chris Watts case. November 19 is just three months and six days after the tragic murders that rocked the small, thriving Colorado town of Frederick in mid-August.
Today the legal journey is expected to conclude with Judge Kopcow officially accepting Chris Watts’ guilty plea [on all charges]. In exchange Chris Watts will be spared the death penalty and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
Irrespective of the legal outcome in this case, an entire family has been completely destroyed through the events that played out sometime between August 12 and 13 this year. According to the District Attorney, they have – and are satisfied with – a “partial motive” to this crime. This “partial motive” will be revealed in court today by Michael Rourke.
There’s more to it than this, of course. On November 16 the Greeley Tribune spelled some of the shenanigans out:
1. Chris Watts’ parents do not want him to accept the plea deal and have claimed they’ve been denied access to their son, and that the plea deal was/is coerced. If that’s true, the plea deal is invalid. The District Attorney has not responded to these allegations, but the Rzuceks have through an anonymous legal representative.
2. According to the Tribune:
…on Monday [November 12], 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.
3. The autopsy reports regarding the remains of Shan’ann Watts , Bella Watts  and Celeste Watts  have not been released prior to sentencing. These reports, completed on October 2, will be released after sentencing according to the District Attorney. This release of the autopsy reports will likely neutralize a civil hearing on the matter that was originally scheduled for December 21. The District Attorney’s original position on the autopsy reports was unusual in that it was claimed their release “could taint witnesses, make it difficult to seat an impartial jury and the victim’s cause of death would be critical evidence at trial”. If Rourke felt the autopsy evidence was so sensitive, then why did the defense feel they had no case to plead? Why did they make/accept the plea deal?
4. A raft of publications including the Tribune claimed in a court motion on October 12th that the withholding of the autopsy reports from public scrutiny could “cause substantial injury to the public interest.”
Welcome to a bitterly cold day in Greeley, Colorado. Minimum temperatures today were 17°F [-9°C] at 06:00 and may climb to a crisp 46 °F [7°C] by the time the press conference is scheduled at 13:00.
The day will start mostly sunny in the early morning, and remain bright and sunny throughout, a typical early winter’s day in Colorado with a slight breeze blowing over the snow-covered prairie.
This is a big change from the weekend, which saw a big cold front roll in and dump snow and drizzle over the mountains and plains surrounding Denver. On Thanksgiving Thursday, another cold front is due to move in and change the regions weather, for the worse.
It’s 05:55, one hour until sunrise. Sunrise on August 13 was at 06:08, 42 minutes earlier than today. At this time three months ago Chris Watts was on the road, driving to CERVI 319.
In ten minutes the sun will rise over the sandstone courthouse in Greeley, Colorado. Did you know Greeley was the setting for Pulitzer prize-winning historical fiction author James A. Michener’s Centennial. Michener studied in Greeley, and was so inspired by the setting and the history of the region, he used it as the backdrop for his bestseller, which was also made into a miniseries in the seventies.
The scene in front of the Weld County Centennial Center. Notice the spattering of snow in the background.
In the morning news, two large fires are under investigation, including one that started as an explosion in Aurora. The Aurora fire included reports of a gas leak days prior, and conflicting reports on whether the gas company notified residents in advance via email.
Other news making the headlines – the weather on the run up to Thanksgiving on Thursday, Black Friday sales, a shocking report on flu vaccinations, rezoning plans, a new name for a baseball team, a new Disney on ice show, getting water supply from a distant mine to Aurora, a new Marijuana store opening in Longmont [Longmont is a town close to Frederick where Chris Watts and Shan’ann worked at a Ford dealership], how to prevent peanut allergies, a surge in porch piracy, Denver-based Furniture Row Racing finishing second at the NASCAR championship, Christmas tree-cutting tips, a Christmas countdown, what teens want for Christmas according to a recent survey and lower gas prices.
Chris Dekker defense attorney: “I wasn’t surprised…I think Michael Rourke deserves quite a lot of praise. He was smart and brave, and acquiesced to their [the families’] desires.”
David Beller defense attorney: “The speed at which this deal was reached…is extremely unusual…”
Rachael Gibbs from Nags Head, North Carolina said she also spotted a rainbow this morning.
What to expect from today’s sentencing hearing in a nutshell:
Megan Lopez has tweeted a couple of photos about the media presence outside court. Wish we could see more pictures of the court building. Just a wide shot to get a sense of the whole area.
Meghan Lopez says she’ll be tweeting from outside court because no tweeting is allowed inside court. Seems excessive and extreme, doesn’t it?
So from beginning to end the sentencing hearing lasted less than 45 minutes. A total of about six people spoke, including Cindy Watts, a representative on behalf of Ronnie Watts, Frank Rzucek, Michael Rourke reading Frankie Rzucek’s statement, Sandi Rzucek, a brief 15 second statement by Chris Watts’ legal representative, and then a delineation of the evidence by the District Attorney, which lasted about ten minutes.
Throughout the proceedings Watts drummed his foot on the floor, and appeared to struggle to contain his emotions. He breathed heavily, but made no sound, and repeatedly curled his lip and bit it. At one point, while his father was speaking I believe, a single tear streamed down his cheek.
At the end, when Judge Kopcow asked him if he wished to say anything, Watts answered softly, “No sir.” His legal representative spoke briefly on his behalf, saying that he was “truly sorry”.
What was unreal was the mismatch between the crime the District Attorney and the Judge were describing, a vicious, calculated, monstrous act, and the demeanor of the defendant. Passive. Voiceless. Trying his best to be emotionless, as if a lack of emotion under these circumstances was some sort of virtue.
When he rose and walked out of the packed court, Watts looked down, not making eye contact with anyone. Not his mother. Not his father.
Welcome to a living hell.
Will Nichol Kessinger testify?
Press Conference [Updates coming soon]
Analysis of Monday’s Hearing
There were a few things that were downright weird about the hearing. No actual witnesses testified, only family members, and although each statement was emotional and tugged at the heartstrings, it did precious little to advance the narrative of the Watts case.
Rourke did that himself in a ten-minute or so summary, in which he provided a few [very few] insights into the case. He mentioned Bella biting her tongue and fighting for her life, a tuft of her hair snagged on the side of the thief hatch, and scratch marks on her buttocks incurred when she was forced into the tank.
What was more interesting in the sentencing hearing wasn’t what was mentioned, but what was left out. Nothing about time of death whatsoever. No one close to the Watts family in Colorado testified for or against him. The Thayers didn’t appear to be in court, neither did Nickole Utoft or Nichol Kessinger.
In fact the families appeared to be ushered into court via a private entrance, and ushered out privately too. It was all conducted with seamless precision. The crowds roared afterwards, justice is served!