34-year-old Shanann Watts, her unborn child and her two daughters, 4-year-old Bella Watts and 3-year-old Celeste Watts, were honored at a candlelight vigil outside their family home in Frederick, Colo. on Friday, Aug. 17.
FREDERICK — Cristine Gentert remembers going to pumpkin patches with Shanann Watts. The two women were pregnant at the same time and had great fun together. Their kids were as close as siblings.
Surrounded by a sea of candles flickering in the dark Friday, Gentert said a prayer. Her young daughter and son stood close to her, tears rolling down their cheeks. She asked God for comfort during heartbreak.
“God let us learn from this,” she prayed. “Let us get closer. Let us love deeper. God be with everyone who’s hurting right now.”
The candlelight vigil for Shanann Watts, 34, of Frederick, and her daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, began at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The three had been reported missing from their home Monday. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant when she died.
Her husband and the girls’ father, Christopher Watts, 33, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a deceased body in connection with the deaths.
Hundreds gathered by what was the family’s home in Frederick to honor Shanann and her children.
Stuffed teddy bears, unicorns, mermaids and lambs were strewn in front of the home. Balloons danced in the evening breeze. A small, wooden cross stuck out of the grass. Pink and red roses and bright yellow sunflowers adorned the sidewalk.
Monique Young said she worked with Shanann. Through tears, she smiled at the memory of her friend’s big heart.
Shanann didn’t take anything for granted, Young said.
“She didn’t even have to know you to just reach out,” she said.
Josh Jorgenson, a neighbor, told the Coloradoan that Bella and Celeste seemed like inseparable sisters when he first met them.
Another neighbor, Kelley Trippy, remembered the girls as bright, intuitive and energetic. Trippy said she met the family about two months ago as part of the neighborhood’s social committee and had dinner with the family a couple times.
Kristina Hapner drove about 45 minutes from Aurora to attend the vigil. When she heard about what happened on the news, she decided to make the drive. She left a flower and a small stuffed dog wearing a Santa hat on the lawn.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Hapner said.
During the vigil, someone in the crowd played an instrumental version of “Amazing Grace” with a cell phone. The faint song caught on. The crowd, made up hundreds of people, began to lift their voices and sing.
Gentert said she wants Shanann to be remembered for her smile and for how much she loved people.
“I don’t want the horror to replace how beautiful she was,” Gentert said.
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The case so far
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Frederick Police Department announced Thursday evening that they had located two bodies whom they believe are Celeste and Bella Watts.
The girls and their mother, Shanann Watts, were reported missing Monday from their Frederick home.
The body of Shanann Watts was found Thursday on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the state’s largest oil and gas drillers, where her husband Christopher Watts used to work, police said.
Court documents filed by the defense, which were obtained by 9News and shared with the Coloradoan Friday, suggest Bella and Celeste were strangled and had “been in an oil well filled with crude oil” for four days.
Authorities previously would not disclose where the bodies they presume are the children were discovered, but confirmed that they were located “in close proximity to the other body” whom officers believe is Shanann Watts, according to a town of Frederick Facebook post.
Christopher Watts has not yet been formally charged, and the Weld County District Attorney’s Office said they anticipate filing formal charges on Monday.
“We wish we had a different outcome,” Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said after Christopher Watts’ court appearance Thursday. “We wish would’ve been able to locate them alive.”
He is currently being held in the Weld County jail without bond and is set to appear in court again on Tuesday.
All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in court. Arrests and charges are merely accusations by law enforcement until, and unless, a suspect is convicted of a crime.
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