FILE – In this Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 file photo, a photo that is in the midst of memories outside the house, where a pregnant woman, Shanann Watts, and her two daughters, Bella and Celeste, lived in Frederick, Colo. Colorado prosecutors want a judge to block release of the autopsy reports of a woman and two young girls found dead in an oil-yard, with the argument that the cause of their death will be “important evidence” during the trial of the man accused of killing his family. In a request filed in Weld County Court on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, District Attorney Michael Rourke said the release of information from the autopsies may influence the witnesses and its impact on future jurors. Watts, 33, was arrested and charged in August with killing his 34-year-old pregnant wife, Shanann, and their two daughters, four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
DENVER – Colorado prosecutors want a judge to block the release of the autopsy reports for a woman and two young girls who were murdered and dumped in an oil-yard, with the argument that the cause of their death will be important evidence during the trial for a man accused of the murder of his family.
The release of information from the autopsies may influence witnesses and affect future members of the jury, District Attorney Michael Rourke said in a request filed Monday.
Autopsy reports are generally public records in Colorado, but the judge can decide to seal under certain conditions. Rourke asked Judge Marcelo Kopcow rule that the release of the reports would “do great damage to the public interest” and to the coroner’s office to deny public requests for the documents.
“Shanann Watts, Bella Watt, and Celeste Watts were murdered and their bodies are moved from the first crime scene,” Rourke wrote in the request. “There is a lot of interest around this case and at this time, the cause of death has not yet been made public. Consequently, the observations and findings in the coroner’s autopsy report will be important evidence at trial.”
The judge had not yet ruled on the request.
Christopher Watts, 33, a former oil and gas employee, was charged in August with killing his pregnant 34-year-old wife, Shanann, and their daughters, ages 3 and 4.
He told the investigators that he killed Shanann Watts, because she had strangled their daughters after he told her he wanted a divorce, according to court records.
The police said Christopher Watts killed his family in their suburban Denver home drove their bodies to a oil site is the property of his former employer. The girls’ bodies were found submerged in an oil tank, and Shanann Watts’ body was found in a shallow grave.
A friend had asked the police to check on the family when they could not reach Shanann Watts per phone. The next few days, Christopher Watts did interviews with local tv stations and spoke about wanting his family to return home.
He has not formally entered a plea and is jailed without bond. Watts’ public defenders said in a recent statement that they do not comment on an ongoing criminal case.
They raised their own concerns about the media interest in the case. The lawyers sought to limit media access to Watts’ in the courtroom and asked the judge to the prosecutors to investigate possible leaks to the media.
The judge rejected that request, in writing, that he has no authority to order such an examination.