The two young girls killed along with their pregnant mother in Colorado were strangled and their bodies submerged in crude oil for four days before authorities discovered them, local reports revealed.
Four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste were found inside an oil tank, according to court documents filed by an attorney defending the girls’ father Christopher Watts, accused of killing his children and wife. His wife’s body was found nearby.
The remains of all three victims were found at Anadarko Petroleum oil field, where Watts worked until his arrest, the Denver Post reported.
The sisters’ bodies had reportedly been submerged in crude oil for four days on the property, where 33-year-old Watts worked as an oil and gas operator, before authorities discovered the victims.
The motion filed Friday by Christopher Watts’ attorney, James Merson, also asked that DNA swabs be taken from the girls’ necks. The request quotes an expert who believes the oil would not eliminate DNA and said samples can be obtained “after strangulation.”
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Authorities separately announced that the Weld County Coroner’s Office had performed autopsies on Friday and confirmed the bodies as Watt’s 34-year-old wife Shanann, and the couple’s two young girls.
On Friday, police did not release any information about how the mother and daughters died. More testing is planned to help determine the cause of their deaths.
Richard Eikelenboom, the expert cited by Watts’ attorney, also recommended taking DNA samples from the girls’ hands and the hands and nails of their mother. Mr Eikelenboom has testified in several high-profile criminal trials, often on so-called “touch DNA” when small samples of genetic material are left on a surface.
After his wife and daughters were reported missing on Monday and before his arrest, Watts told reporters he missed them, and longed for the simple things like telling his girls to eat their dinner and gazing at them as they curled up to watch cartoons.
Authorities are expected to file formal charges Monday against Watts, who authorities said dumped his wife and daughters’ bodies on the property located just outside Frederick, a small town on the grassy plains north of Denver where fast-growing subdivisions intermingle with drilling rigs and oil wells.
Watts was fired on Wednesday, the same day he was arrested, an Anadarko Petroleu spokesperson said.
Police have not released any information about a motive or confirmed how the three were killed.
Details about what led police to arrest Watts late Wednesday night on suspicion of three counts of murder and tampering with evidence likely were to be revealed next week.
Family and friends of Shanann Watts are left searching for answers, trying to reconcile Watts’ cheery Facebook posts about her daughters, her pregnancy and her love for her husband with the pending charges.