FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- The parents of a Colorado man are sharing their story and defending their son a week after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Christopher Lee Watts, who grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, admitted to police he killed his 34-year-old wife, Shanann in a "fit of rage," after he claimed he walked in to see his wife strangling their two daughters.
In a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to all nine charges he was facing, including the first-degree murders of his wife and two daughters, 3-year-old Celeste and 4-year-old Bella, in exchange for avoiding the death penalty
Shanann is from Southern Pines.
"It was a very hard relationship," said Cindy Watts, Chris' mother. "It was a very hard relationship (with Shanann) as far as I'm concerned. I couldn't do anything right."
The Wattses said their son changed once he met Shanann.
"He was in sports from when he was 5 until 17 years old," said Cindy. "There's not one person you can talk to that will say anything about this kid. He was normal, he didn't have a temper, he was just easy-going like his Dad. He's not a monster."
The Wattses said their son's relationship with Shanann was abusive and they felt she isolated Chris from his family in the time they were together.
"It boils down to: I just want the truth of what really happened," said Ronnie Watts, Chris' father. "If he did it all, I can live with it. If he didn't, I want him to fight for it."
Shanann was reported missing Aug. 13 by her friend Nickole Atkinson after she missed a doctor's appointment.
Chris Watts appeared to lead search efforts to find his then-missing wife. He spoke to news organizations and pleaded for his wife and children to return home--all while he knew they were dead.
The bodies of the victims were found on the property of Anadarko Petroleum, one of Colorado's largest oil and gas drillers. Records show Christopher Watts was employed by the company in 2015.
Ronnie said he believes what Chris told police -- that he killed his wife only after finding out she had strangled their daughters.
"It's hard for me to believe that he would hurt them girls no matter what," he said. "The story he told me that night, I believed it: The way he looked at me, the way he was crying, I believed it."
The Watts family said they haven't been able to talk much at all to their son since he was arrested in August.
They said they didn't know about the plea deal Chris took last week.
The deal means local authorities in Colorado would not seek the death penalty.
Cindy though doesn't see a difference.
"He's going to die in prison," she said. "There's no telling what would be done to him in prison. I just want him to fight."
The family also speculated that Chris may have taken the plea deal because he didn't want to drag his own family nor Shanann's family through a long legal process.
They are hoping someone else might step up to defend Chris.
Shanann's parents, Frank and Sandra Rzucek, issued the following statement about their daughter's relationship with Chris:
"Shanann Watts was a faithful wife, and the most gentle and loving mother in the world to her children Bella, Celeste, and Nico. She was also the best daughter any parent could ever hope for. Shanann was a wonderful soul.
Everyone who knew Shanann knows this to be true. Even Chris Watts knows this to be true. Yet Chris Watts still chose to murder Shanann, Bella, Celeste, and Nico. Chris Watts still chose to dump the bodies of his own family in oil tanks. And Chris Watts still chose to lie about it until he could lie no more. He pled guilty to murdering his family because he is guilty.
Monday evening, the parents of Chris Watts gave an interview in which they attempted to defend their son. In doing so, they felt the need to make vicious, grotesque and utterly false statements about Shanann. Their false statements, however hurtful and inaccurate, will never alter the truth about Shanann, and will never alter the truth about the crimes committed by their son, Chris Watts.
Shanann's memory and reputation deserves to be protected. And her family is fully prepared to do so."