Colorado suspect says he killed wife after he saw her strangling daughter, affidavit says
Chris Watts said the couple's other daughter, Bella, 4, was already "sprawled out" on the bed and blue in the couple's bedroom, according to an arrest affidavit from Frederick police.
Watts confessed to burying his wife, Shanann Watts, 34, near two oil tanks and dumping his daughters' bodies in the tanks, according to the affidavit.
But prosecutors paint a different picture of the killing. Watts was charged Monday with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and young daughters. Two additional first-degree murder charges accuse him of causing the death of a child younger than 12.
The 33-year-old father also faces three counts of tampering with a body, and a count of first-degree unlawful termination of a pregnancy, said Weld County District Attorney Michael J. Rourke, who did not reveal a motive.
Watts, who was arrested last week, is being held without bond, with his next court appearance scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Defendant previously denied affair with co-worker, investigators say
Investigators said they learned Watts was "actively involved" in an affair with a co-worker. He had previously denied it in interviews, according to the affidavit.
Early on the morning of August 13, Watts said he told his wife he wanted to separate, and then the killings took place, court papers said.
Before Watts' confession, authorities used a drone that spotted a bedsheet in a field near the oil tanks, the affidavit said.
"The sheet matched the pattern of several pillowcases and a top sheet recovered from a kitchen trash can from [Watts'] residence early that day," the affidavit said.
In an emotional address Monday, Shanann's father, Frank Rzucek Sr., thanked authorities for finding the bodies of his family members. He said the family appreciated those who attended a candlelight vigil and expressed support.
"Keep the prayers coming for our family," he said, holding back tears.
Prosecutors: Pregnant wife was buried in a 'shallow grave'
Shanann, Bella and Celeste were reported missing August 13 from their home in Frederick, a town of about 8,600 people 30 miles north of Denver.
The location where their bodies were found on August 15 was the site of a petroleum and natural gas company where Chris Watts had worked, authorities said. Watts was terminated from Anadarko Petroleum on August 15, company communications manager Jennifer Brice said.
A court filing by prosecutors says Shanann Watts' body was "recovered from a shallow grave near an oil tank," and that "law enforcement recovered the bodies of defendant's two daughters from inside oil tanks located near the grave of their mother."
The girls' bodies were in an "oil well filled with crude oil for several days," Chris Watts' attorneys indicated in a court filing.
Autopsy results have not been released, but documents filed last week in Watts' arrest revealed some of the victims may have been strangled, along with other details.
On Monday, a judge denied several defense motions, including a request to require pathologists to swab the little girls' necks, throats and hands for DNA.
Watts' attorneys have not publicly commented on the case.
Friend recalls last time she saw Shanann
In a Monday interview on ABC's "Good Morning America," friend Nicole Atkinson said she dropped Shanann off at home about 2 a.m. August 13 after they finished a business trip.
"She went inside, turned around and waved at me and shut the door," Atkinson said.
Shanann didn't return calls later that day and missed a medical appointment at which she was expected to hear her unborn child's heartbeat, Atkinson said. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant.
Atkinson said she contacted Chris Watts, but he didn't seem as worried as she thought he should be. Atkinson said she then contacted police.
In an interview with a local news station on August 14 -- after his family disappeared but before his arrest -- Chris Watts also said his wife got home around 2 a.m.
"We had an emotional conversation, I'll leave it at that," Watts told a reporter who asked whether they'd argued. "I just want them back. I just want them to come back."
Watts said he left for work about 5:15 a.m. that day and wasn't concerned when his wife didn't respond to his texts and phone calls since she'd just returned from being out of town.
But he grew worried, he said, when one of her friends contacted him around noon and said she wasn't responding to messages.
"I walked in the house and -- nothing," Chris Watts told KMGH. "She wasn't here. The kids weren't here."
Court papers showed the couple also faced financial problems in recent years and filed for bankruptcy in 2015. Their homeowners association, Wyndham Hill Master Association, recently sued the couple, saying they owed $1,533.80, according to a civil suit obtained by CNN.
Nashville police find 2 men to question in 3 fatal shootings
Officials said they took Demontrey M. Logsdon, 20, into custody at a Nashville residence, and Lacory C. Lytle, 24, turned himself in at a precinct.
Logsdon was arrested on an outstanding warrant for aggravated kidnapping. Police say he accompanied another man who kidnapped a woman on Friday.
Lytle had outstanding warrants charging him with felony identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, and theft for using a stolen credit card of a victim who survived a robbery that killed two people.
The men have not been charged with any of the killings, which police say are still under investigation.
Three killings were during robberies
Two men traveling in a dark-colored Chevrolet shot the victims as they walked down a street or stood in a parking lot in the early morning, according to police. All three killings happened during robberies, authorities said.
About 3:30 a.m. Friday, Bartley Teal, 33, and Jamie Sarrantonio, 30, were fatally shot in the parking lot of the Cobra bar on Gallatin Avenue in East Nashville, police said in a news release.
They had left the bar with two other people, walked to a convenience store for snacks, and were returning to the bar when the two men confronted them in the parking lot, Aaron said at a news conference.
"Mr. Teal was told that it was a robbery," Aaron said. "He reportedly said he had nothing to give. He was then fatally shot."
Sarrantonio was shot a few moment later for unknown reasons, Aaron said.
"Detectives believe the murderers ... were randomly looking for robbery victims and targeted the four when they arrived back at the Cobra parking lot," police said in a Friday news release.
Sarrantonio and Teal died after being taken to hospitals. The two other people were not hurt. The robbers drove away and dumped the victims' belongings in an alley in north Nashville, police said.
The double murder appears to be connected to another killing that occurred a few days earlier, police said.
On August 14, Kendall Rice, 31, was shot about 4 a.m. while walking along Alta Loma Road to catch a bus to work at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Aaron said.
"According to a witness, two black men who appeared to be in their 30s, shot Rice and fled in a dark sedan," police said in a news release. "Rice died at the scene. His personal belongings were missing."
More crimes might be linked
Other robbery attempts happened August 14 that may be connected, police say.
At 4:45 a.m., a man said he drove off after two men -- one armed with a rifle -- tried to rob him at the Rivergate Meadows Apartments on Rivergate Meadows Drive, police said. At 5:15 a.m., a man was shot and critically injured during a robbery attempt at an apartment complex on East Palestine Avenue.
These shootings may also be linked to the August 8 shooting of a woman in the Inglewood neighborhood, Aaron said.
The Tennessean newspaper said the woman, 39, was walking her dogs a little after midnight when two men driving by in a small, dark car shot her. She apparently was not robbed. The woman was wounded in the back, the newspaper said.
"We obviously have to consider the August 8 case as we pursue active leads in the two homicide cases," Aaron said.
Lytle was convicted of felony aggravated assault in May. Logsdon was convicted of robbery in November. Both received five years probation.
Police were looking for them based on surveillance images, recovered evidence and observations by officers.
Two killers are finally going to prison after 35 years. Behind the scenes of a cold case plea deal
Coggins left the courtroom, where his family had been presented a plea deal that would put the second killer behind bars, and returned with T-shirts for District Attorney Ben Coker and his chief assistant, Marie Broder.
On the front was a photo of the always smiling Timothy Coggins, who was 23 when he was slain in 1983 for fraternizing with a white woman. Above his picture were the words, "At last."
The moment was a culmination of the Coggins family's long quest for justice. Six weeks earlier Coker and Broder had successfully prosecuted the first of Timothy Coggins' killers, putting him behind bars for life plus 30 years. Now the second killer would be convicted as well.
"Before we leave, I want to personally, personally thank you so much. This has been a dark cloud over my family for a long time," Tyrone Coggins said.
Coker and Tyrone Coggins shook hands. The handshake lingered as the men tamped down emotions. In Tyrone Coggins, Coker saw a brother who'd lived through decades of hell. In Coker, Tyrone Coggins saw the man who'd made it right.
"You better thank her," Coker told him, nodding to Broder.
Tyrone Coggins and Broder embraced.
"You guys did a wonderful job, man," he told the prosecutors. "I know a lot of time you put a lot of work in, hard hours, and my friend, we're grateful."
Though the prosecutors and the Coggins family have known each other since only late 2017, when Frankie Gebhardt and Bill Moore Sr. were charged with the cold case killing, they chatted and joked like old friends.
Just minutes prior, Heather Coggins, Timothy's niece, had made an unlikely confession: Gebhardt, who was convicted in June, reminded her of her grandfather.
"From the chubbiness, from the eyebrows, to the bald head to ... his mannerisms, he reminded me of granddaddy," she told Coker and Broder. "It's so hard not to feel sorry for him because he looked just like granddaddy, except for white granddaddy."
A more problematic case than the first
On August 8, the prosecutors summoned the Coggins family to the Spalding County Courthouse in Griffin, about 40 miles south of Atlanta.
Upon their arrival, the eight family members were taken into the same courtroom where Coker and Broder had successfully prosecuted Gebhardt. The Cogginses took seats in the jury box from which the foreman had pronounced Gebhardt, 60, guilty of murder.
Publicizing the plea deal could jeopardize it, so these conversations tend to happen behind closed doors. But Broder allowed a CNN reporter into the room on the condition he not report the plea until it was entered into court the following week.
Broder's hair was down. It had been up through the trial. Her mother jokes she means business when she puts her hair up.
Coker was casually perched at the table from which he and Broder, his chief assistant, had called a white supremacist, a child molester and other jailhouse snitches to testify they had heard Gebhardt brag about killing "the n****r" who'd made the mistake of socializing with his "old lady" back in 1983.
"The case against Bill Moore is a lot different than Franklin Gebhardt's case, and Gebhardt's case was not easy. Bill Moore's will be even harder," Coker said.
Unlike in the Gebhardt case, there was no physical evidence from Moore's property -- no knife, no thick chain, no clothing. Nor did Coker have a raft of witnesses who say they heard Moore brag about stabbing and mutilating Timothy Coggins and then dragging him behind a truck.
Complicating things further was the media attention on Gebhardt's trial. Moore could now be granted a change of venue, which didn't sit well with Coker, he told them.
But he had what he felt was good news: Moore was ready to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and concealing a death. It was not a murder conviction, but it was a good deal, Coker said.
"I've got to be honest. I can't plea him to the charge of murder because nobody will accept that without a trial," he told the family. "What (the plea deal) does is it ensures that he is punished for the crimes that he did and it brings about some closure. We don't have to put y'all back through another trial."
The family had questions about the plea
The deal: Moore will serve 20 years in prison on the voluntary manslaughter charge and another 10 for concealing a death.
The Coggins family took the news with a mix of relief and doubt. The night before, Timothy's oldest sister, Peggy Richards, had worried the plea deal wouldn't be sufficient retribution.
"So, would he confess?" Richards' daughter, Heather Coggins, who has acted as family spokeswoman since the arrests, wanted to know.
"He'll have to get up here in front of the court and plead guilty to the charges, but as far as outlining what he did, I wouldn't expect that," Coker said.
Another family member asked: How long will the court appearance last?
An hour at most, Broder replied.
"Thirty years straight?" Heather Coggins asked.
That's to be determined by the parole board, Coker explained.
"I want y'all to know that I've got y'all's best interests at heart," Coker told the family. "It's a strong plea, and based on the evidence we have, it's a good plea."
Heather Coggins assured him, "Honestly, we've never thought anything other than you guys had our best interest at heart."
"I hope so," he said. "It's been a life-changing event for everybody in this room. It's humbled me. It's been a pleasure really to work with y'all and to represent y'all and I hope we done y'all proud."
A chorus of yeses rose from the jury box.
"Like I said, I'm a fighter," Coker continued. "I don't want this to look like we're giving up. This is the best move we can make."
"It's also the only admission of guilt that you all will have," Broder added. "It's the only time that somebody's going to stand up and look at a judge and say 'I'm guilty' -- and that's powerful."
"So when will we know if he accepts it?" Heather Coggins asked.
"He already has," Coker replied with a smile, accentuating his Southern drawl.
There was a chorus of ohhhs from the jury box before Heather Coggins affirmed the family was on board. The first trial was painful for her -- "I didn't know what to expect; I definitely didn't expect that" -- and the family was ready to put a period -- nay, exclamation point -- on a saga that has haunted them for decades.
"We wish the best for them two," Heather Coggins said, "and we just hope that they repent to whoever they believe and they get forgiveness one day."
"That's part of being a Christian," Coker said.
"I think that says a lot about y'all," Broder said.
On the brick walkway outside the courthouse, Richards, with whom Timothy Coggins was living when he was killed, was no longer worried whether the plea deal represented justice.
"Hallelujah! Thank you, God. Thank you, God," she told CNN. "We cried, we cried, we cried, we cried for (35) years, but now, we're here. We're here now."
'I'm so glad justice was served to y'all'
The family still misses Timothy Coggins. They miss his "big, joyful laugh" and his bright smile that showcased his "beautiful, pearly white teeth," other family members said. They reminisce how the mama's boy who could befriend anyone looked out for his sisters and how, according to one of his aunts, "he'd dance anywhere," especially if Frankie Beverly was jamming.
Moore's plea also meant an end to the fear the family has experienced since Timothy Coggins was killed. Spalding County was not exactly a racially harmonious place in the 1980s. The Ku Klux Klan held rallies and parades there, family members testified in the Gebhardt trial.
Shortly after Timothy Coggins was slain, the family received notes warning they could be next, Timothy's sister, Telisa Coggins, testified. One of the notes arrived with a severed dog's head, she told the court.
Court was bustling Thursday as the family filed into the room. It was a normal court day, and Moore's was but one proceeding on the docket. Broder's hair was back up. Immediately, the plea hit a snag.
Moore no longer wanted to serve 10 years in prison for concealing a death. He wanted probation instead. After a discussion, the family lent its support.
A deputy rolled Moore and his wheelchair before Judge Fletcher Sams. At 59, he's said to be in poor health. Wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt under his prison scrubs, Moore spoke only to say "yes, sir" or "no, sir" to Sams' questions. Eyeglasses dangled from his shirt collar.
Heather Coggins, who was 6 when her Uncle Tim was killed, approached the bench. She didn't face the judge. She turned to Moore, standing over him as she addressed him directly.
"When you took Tim away from our family, my grandparents suffered, and our family never recovered. My grandparents went to their death not knowing what exactly happened to Timothy that night," she told Moore, pushing back tears.
"It's been a long time coming for this, for our family, to finally have some closure to what happened to Tim 35 years ago," she said. "We are a family of faith. We're Christian people, and we forgive you. ... We also hope that whoever you pray to forgives you, and we hope that you will just ask for forgiveness and spend the rest of your living life behind bars."
Asked afterward if Moore responded in any way, Heather Coggins told CNN, "He just looked at me."
Three others are charged with obstruction of justice for their alleged actions after the case was reopened. They await trial. But on August 8, that was a matter for another day.
As the family congregated outside the courthouse, sharing their thoughts with a documentary crew that has been working on a film about Timothy Coggins' death, a passerby called out.
"Are y'all the family?" the white woman with long gray hair asked.
They said they were.
"I'm so glad justice was served to y'all," she said. "Nineteen eighty-three -- my goodness, I'm so sorry. I'm so glad it's over for y'all."
Chicago police chief calls 58 shootings in 3 days 'tragic, senseless and cowardly'
That was the sobering reality in Chicago this weekend, when at least 58 people were shot, police said.
"We had another unacceptable, violent weekend," Chicago police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said. "These acts are tragic, senseless and cowardly."
Six of those shooting victims died -- including two teenagers found dead in a field with multiple gunshot wounds.
Police found their bodies late Sunday night after their cell phones pinged near Golden Gate Park, CNN affiliate WBBM reported. They were reported missing Friday. Authorities are still investigating the motive for the killings, but say robbery is a possibility.
Another five people were injured in a shooting after a softball game Sunday night, CNN affiliate WGN reported.
Players and their friends had gathered after the game near 74th Street and Dante Avenue when a man inside a black van suddenly showed up and started firing at the group.
This latest rash of violence happened despite an additional 600 officers on the streets of Chicago this weekend -- part of a surge in police presence that started earlier this month.
"But the simple fact of it is, the police department can't do it alone," Johnson said.
He called on witnesses and anyone who knows who's responsible to speak up and break the culture of silence.
Despite the challenges, detectives are making progress on this weekend's wave of violence, Johnson said.
"We already have three persons of interest in custody from weekend incidents," with more expected, the police chief said Monday.
He also said that since Friday, 83 illegal guns have been taken off the streets, and 29 people have been arrested on gun-related charges.
"But we really have a lot more work to do," Johnson said, "and we need everyone -- everyone -- to come to the table."