Detectives: Chris Watts tried to blame wife for daughters' death

FREDERICK, Colo. (KKTV) - A Colorado man charged with murdering his family has reportedly confessed to killing his wife but claims he only did so after watching her strangle their young daughters.

In Chris Watts' version of events, detailed by newly unsealed arrest papers, he saw Shanann Watts choking their 3-year-old daughter Celeste on a baby monitor and killed her in a fit of rage. Afterward, he said he drove the three bodies to an oil field, dumped his daughters inside two oil tanks and buried his wife in a shallow grave near the tanks.

Prosecutors say it was Watts himself who killed Celeste and 4-year-old Bella, as well as 34-year-old Shanann, who was 15 weeks pregnant with the couple's third child. Charges were filed against Watts Monday: five counts of first-degree murder, unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and three counts tampering with a deceased human body.

Shanann, Bella and Celeste were reported missing from their northern Colorado home Aug. 13. Early on, Watts presented himself as despondent over their disappearance, pleading on television for their safe return. Arrest papers say he cooperated with law enforcement, consenting to them searching the family's home and taking Shanann's phone.

Less than 72 hours later, Watts was arrested as the sole suspect in his family's murder. Their bodies were found Aug. 16 exactly where Watts said they would be.

From grieving husband to murder suspect

At the start of the investigation, arrest papers say Watts admitted to detectives he had approached his wife about a marital separation early on the morning of Aug. 13. He claimed it was an emotional, but civil conversation, and then he left for work 30 minutes later. Surveillance video from a neighbor's home confirms he did drive off just before 5:30 that morning.

Watts reportedly denied having an affair.

But according to the arrest affidavit, by Aug. 15 investigators had determined Watts was indeed having an affair with a coworker.

Watts then allegedly changed his story:

"In a subsequent interview, Chris ... asked to speak with his father, who was present at the police department. Chris said he would tell the truth after speaking with his dad. After being allowed to speak with his father, Chris stated after he told Shanann he wanted a separation he walked downstairs for a moment and then returned to his bedroom to speak with Shanann again. While in the bedroom, via baby monitor located on Shanann's night stand, he observed Bella "sprawled" out on her bed and blue and Shanann actively strangling Celeste. Chris said he went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death. Chris said he loaded all three bodies onto the back seat of his work truck and took them to an oil work site."- Excerpt from the arrest affidavit

Watts was presented with an aerial photograph of the oil field and showed detectives where he left his wife and daughters' bodies, the affidavit says.

What's next in the case?

Watts was formally charged in a court appearance Tuesday morning, which can be viewed below thid arrticle.

Watts appeared emotionless as the judge read the list of crimes he was accused of. His father-in-law could be seen sobbing in the row behind him.

Watts' attorneys requested the next hearing be set for November, leaving it unclear if Watts will have a preliminary hearing prior to his trial. New evidence often is brought to light at the preliminary stage.

If Watts does not have a prelim, his case will go straight to trial.

Watts remains in jail without bond.