A Colorado man in the national news for allegedly killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters almost certainly will not be held accountable for killing a fourth human being, the unborn baby.
On Wednesday, Chris Watts, 33, of Frederick, Colorado, was arrested on suspicion of murdering his pregnant wife Shanann, 34, and their two daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, ABC News 7 reports.
He is expected to be formally charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a human body this week. However, authorities almost certainly will not file charges for the unborn baby’s death. Unlike most states, Colorado does not recognize any additional crime for killing or injuring unborn babies in crimes committed against their mothers.
It is unclear how far along Shanann was in her pregnancy, but she had a doctor’s appointment scheduled to hear her unborn son’s heartbeat last week when she went missing, a friend told the New York Post.
The friend, Nickole Atkinson, reported Shanann missing on Aug. 13, and police arrested Chris Watts several days later, according to the report. Two authorities told ABC 7 that Watts later confessed to killing his wife and young daughters.
On Thursday, authorities said they found the bodies of Shanann, Bella and Celeste on the property of a petroleum company where Chris worked. The girls’ bodies were found in a tank of oil. According to reports, authorities suspect that Chris had strangled them to death.
Police have not yet released a motive, but friends said the couple had financial problems and Shanann suspected that Chris might be cheating on her.
Here’s more from the New York Post:
Shanann Watts had recently “entertained the idea” that her husband, Chris Watts, was unfaithful, because he’d been acting strange, her pal Nickole Atkinson told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“He wasn’t being the loving Chris that he normally was,” she said. “He wasn’t touching or hugging or doing stuff like that. He wasn’t being as attentive to the girls as he normally is.”
The dad of two was also being bizarre when his wife, 34, and their daughters, Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4, vanished on Aug. 13, Atkinson said.
“He just kept saying that he didn’t know where she was and that she was on a playdate. But he couldn’t give us the name of the friend,” she recalled. “Anyone in their right mind will start piecing things together and think something had happened, but you don’t want to go there. You want to believe the best in people.”
Atkinson became concerned for her friend because she wasn’t responding to messages and had missed a doctor’s appointment where she was going to hear her baby boy’s heartbeat.
Colorado pro-life leaders have attempted to pass an unborn victims of violence law for many years, but the attempts have failed repeatedly in the state legislature, the most recent being in 2015.
The bill was prompted by a gruesome crime involving Dynel Catrece Lane, who attacked a pregnant woman and cut her 7-month unborn baby from her womb. In this unbelievable act of violence, the baby died but the mother, Michelle Wilkins, survived. In 2016, a judge sentenced Lane to 100 years of prison for assaulting and attempting to murder Wilkins, but Lane was not punished for the baby girl’s death.
According to the National Right to Life Committee, 38 states recognize the unlawful killing of an unborn child as homicide in at least some circumstances.