The parents of Colorado father Chris Watts say they want him to retract his guilty plea for killing his pregnant wife and their children.

They claim he was in an "abusive" relationship with her, was "railroaded" into taking a plea deal to avoid being executed and it was Shanann who strangled their young daughters.

Ronnie and Cynthia Watts said their son isn't a "sociopath" despite him killing his 34-year-old wife Shanann when she was 15 weeks pregnant in August then hiding her body in a shallow grave and putting their young daughters' bodies in oil tanks.

Ronnie and Cynthia Watts have finally broken their silence just a week after their son, Chris Watts, pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and their two children. Photo / Denver Channel
Ronnie and Cynthia Watts have finally broken their silence just a week after their son, Chris Watts, pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and their two children. Photo / Denver Channel

Watts was arrested in August after making shifty television appearances pleading for them to return home when they were still missing. Once he was in custody, he told authorities that Shanann had strangled the girls in retaliation after he told her he was going to leave her for another woman, the Daily Mail reports.

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He claimed he strangled his wife in a vengeful "rage" then hid all of the bodies afterwards.

Last week, he suddenly changed his mind and pleaded guilty to all three murders in a deal which takes the death penalty out of the equation but will likely see him spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Now, his parents say that was a mistake and that there is more to the story than has been revealed, including the nature of their son's marriage and how his wife "isolated" him from them.

"I know he confessed, but he was railroaded into it," Cynthia Watts told the Denver Post on Monday in one of multiple interviews the couple took part in.

She said her son "changed" when he met Shanann and that their marriage was "hard".

"It was a very hard relationship. It was a very hard relationship with her as far as I'm concerned.

"I couldn't do anything right," his mother told ABC in a separate interview.

Christopher Watts pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife Shanann and their two children Bella and Celeste.
Christopher Watts pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife Shanann and their two children Bella and Celeste.

Ronnie Watts added: "Shanann, she was, you have to get to know her to be around her. Put it that way."

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They said their son had always been "easy going" and did not have a temper despite him admitting killing Shanann.

"He was in sports from the age of 5 up until he was 17 years old.

"There is not one person you can talk to who will say anything bad about this kid.

"He was normal. He didn't have a temper. He was just like his dad - easy going, just rolls off his back.

"This is my son. He is not a monster," Cynthia said.

They said they do not think he killed his wife and daughters.

"It's hard to me for believe that he would hurt those girls no matter what. The story, that he told me that night, I believed it," Ronnie Watts said.

"The way he was crying and everything... I believed it," he said, referring to the story Watts gave him once he was arrested days after the girls were last seen alive.

They recalled what Watts told him after his arrest.

"He said, 'I'm sorry. I lost — I went into a rage, and I killed her.' And he said, I am so sorry. I ruined your life. I ruined my life", his mother said.

Christopher Watts is escorted into the courtroom before his bond hearing at the Weld County Courthouse. Photo / AP
Christopher Watts is escorted into the courtroom before his bond hearing at the Weld County Courthouse. Photo / AP

"After the fact with the bodies, he said, 'Dad, I could not put the girls with her after what she did — I could not put her with her'," Ronnie Watts added.

"If he didn't kill the children, I want him to face that and let them prove it," he added.

His mother added that she had tried to talk him out of the guilty plea and ask him why he took it but that she was "shut down" by his defence attorney.

"I asked Chris, 'If you did not do this, do not confess to something you didn't do'," said Cindy Watts.

"[Chris Watts' defence attorney] shut me down. She completely shut me down."

She said the only upside to the deal was him not being executed but that the alternative - life in prison - was as bad.

They admitted that they still do not have all the answers including why he hid the bodies and appeared on national television afterwards claiming he had no idea where they were.

"Everything happened too quick there, from a case status to a plea," Ronnie Watts added.

"It has been so overwhelming. And I feel like I have to do something to help my son.

"I just need to do something. If he's not going to fight, I'm going to fight for him.

"He's going to die in prison. I just want him to fight."

"I don't want him to take this plea deal. I want him to plead not guilty to the children," his mother added.

Their comments about her were met with fury by her family who said their attempt to clear their son's name at the expense of her memory was "grotesque".

Shanann called Chris Watts 'the best dad us girls could ask for'. Photo / Supplied
Shanann called Chris Watts 'the best dad us girls could ask for'. Photo / Supplied

"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," the family said in a statement.

Shanann, Celeste and Bella were found dead in August days after they were reported missing.

She was 15 weeks pregnant with a baby boy who she planned to name Nico. It later emerged that Watts had been cheating on his wife.

The plea deal was approved by Shanann's family who told the district attorney they did not want to end his life as he did their daughter's and grandchildren's.

They did not speak after the hearing last Tuesday but watched sombrely as the DA announced the outcome of the hearing.

When the bodies were found, Watts changed his story to say his wife killed the girls after he told her he was leaving her.

He claimed he then killed her in a vengeful rage for murdering them.
As part of his defence, his lawyers refused to hand over DNA samples from his hands and feet, likely to stop prosecutors from being able to match it to any found on the girls or their mother's body.

Watts appeared on NBC's Today show and made an emotional plea for the safe return of his family. Photo / Supplied
Watts appeared on NBC's Today show and made an emotional plea for the safe return of his family. Photo / Supplied

Because the girls' bodies were in oil for three days before they were found, any DNA evidence left on them is likely to have been compromised.

Last Tuesday, Watts pleaded guilty to nine counts; four counts of murder (one for each child, his wife and their unborn child), unlawful termination of pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.

As part of the deal, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the first four counts of murder.

Sentencing will begin for the other crimes on November 19.

Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke revealed after the hearing that Shanann's family did not want her husband to be executed.

He said her mother Sandra Rzucek told him: "He made the choice to take those lives.

"I do not want to be in the position of choosing to take his."

Rourke added that a factor in the decision was the impending gubernatorial election which could determine whether or not a governor would even enforce the death penalty if it applied.

Taking a stab at Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who had repeatedly opposed the execution of another death row inmate Nathan Dunlap, Rourke said: 'We explained to them the extraordinary delays that currently exist in the state of Colorado as a result of in part the actions of our current governor.

"They were very strongly in favour of a resolution in this case short of the death penalty.

"That to me was the most important consideration in deciding how to proceed in this a case.

From left, Bella Watts, Celeste Watts and Shanann Watts. Photo / AP
From left, Bella Watts, Celeste Watts and Shanann Watts. Photo / AP

"I don't know how I could have sat in Sandy's kitchen and asked her to commit the next 25 years of her life to the criminal justice system without any assurance that the sentence would ever actually be imposed," he said.

Rourke said they had established a partial motive but would not say what that was.

The victims' autopsy reports remain under seal. Rourke said he was "sick" and "saddened" over the case.

"No one wins today. I never wanted to have to stand up and have a press conference like this. There is no cause for celebration."

During the plea hearing on Tuesday, he said the falsehood that Shanann killed the children was corrected.

Watts looks down during his bond hearing at the Weld County Courthouse. Photo / AP
Watts looks down during his bond hearing at the Weld County Courthouse. Photo / AP

"The spotlight that he tried to shine on Shanann, falsely and incorrectly - a flat out lie - has been corrected. The spotlight shines squarely on him," he said.

Shanann had returned home from a business trip when she was killed.

She was reported missing by a work colleague who became worried when she did not respond to messages.

At first, Watts said he and his wife had been up all night having an emotional conversation. He said he went off to work and only knew something was wrong when he was contacted later by her colleagues.