Chris Watts, the man who murdered his wife and two children, has allegedly experienced some kind of religious conversion. Last August, Watts murdered his pregnant wife, Shanann Cathryn Watts, along with their two children, in a homicide case that shocked the nation. In November 2018, the former oil worker received five life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Since being incarcerated, however, the lawyers representing Shanann’s parents have said that Chris has claimed to have experienced a religious conversion. Appearing on Dr. Phil, attorney Thomas Grant said that Watts “is claiming that he is remorseful, and he has found God,” according to KCNC-TV.
Shanann Watts’ parents, Frank and Sandy Rzucek, appeared on the Dr. Phil show with the hope that they could clear their daughter’s name, as some still believe Chris Watts’ original story that his wife killed their kids before he murdered her. However, in new audio clips recorded in a Wisconsin prison Feb. 17 and released by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Chris allegedly explained that his 4-year-old daughter, Bella, witnessed him wrapping up her mom’s body.
“[Bella asked] ‘What are you doing with Mommy?’” said lawyer Steven Lambert of the Grant & Hoffman Law Firm, who representing Shanann’s family. “What he said was, ‘Mommy is sick. And, we need to take her to the hospital to make her better.’ From our understanding, Bella did not witness the actual killing of her mother.”
Grant said that Shanann’s parents “100 percent know their daughter was not capable of hurting those kids, and would never do that.”
“Now, to hear him admit it, is important to them,” he added.
According to Shanann’s parents’ lawyers, after their daughter returned home from a weekend away, Chris confessed to her that he had engaged in an affair, and said that their marriage was over. Shanann then replied with something to the effect of “well, then you’re never gonna see the kids again.”
“As a consequence of that,” Lambert said, “he strangled her to death.”
After murdering Shanann, Watts loaded up her body into his truck and took his two young kids out to the oil fields where he worked. There, he killed his two daughters, aged just three and four.
“He walks over, takes CeCe’s favorite blanket, and smothers her. Then, he takes her body, takes it out of the vehicle. At this point, Bella had unbuckled herself from the vehicle. He went back to the vehicle,” Lambert said. “Bella said, ‘Please, Daddy, don’t do to me what you just did to CeCe.’”
“There was a struggle from Bella. I believe there were signs that she fought for her life,” Lambert continued. “Of the things that have been hard for the Rzuceks to comprehend and to accept in this reality, what happened to Bella in those last moments has been the hardest.”
While some have speculated that Watts might be releasing details of his crimes in order to attain better living conditions while incarcerated, the lawyers don’t believe this is the case.
“We don’t believe he has been offered anything, or [that] there is really anything that could be given to him, or traded,” Grant said.
Instead, the legal team believe that a religious experience has caused him to share additional information.
Over the years, innumerable criminals convicted of heinous crimes have laid claim to something of a personal or spiritual renewal either during a lengthy period of incarceration or before they were put to death. Indeed, among those who have been issued the death penalty, declarations of conversion and the forgiveness of sins are actually extremely common.
A recent analysis of the last words uttered by the over 500 people executed in the State of Texas since 1982 indicated that the most cited words from their final statements included “Sorry,” “God,” “Forgive,” “Peace,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” and “Father.”
“Even though I lay on this gurney, seconds away from my death, I am at total peace. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with me,” declared Mark Stroman, who was put to death in July 2011 after going on a racist killing spree following the September 2001 terror attacks.
Interestingly, over double the number of those who professed innocence actually chose to admit their guilt or express remorse during their final moments.
“I would just like to apologize to the victim’s family for what I did,” said Jeffrey Dillingham, who murdered 40-year-old Caren Koslow in 1992 and was executed in 2000.
“I take full responsibility for that poor woman’s death, for the pain and suffering inflicted on Mr. Koslow. Father, I want to thank you for all of the beautiful people you put in my life. I could not have asked for two greater parents than you gave me. I could just ask for two greater people in their life now. It is a blessing that there are people that they love so much but even more so, people that I love so much.
I thank you for all the things you have done in my life, for the ways that you have opened my eyes, softened my heart. The ways that you have taught me. For teaching me how to love, for all of the bad things you have taken out of my life. For all the good things you have added to it. I thank you for all of the beautiful promises that you make us in your word, and I graciously received every one of them. Thank you Heavenly Father for getting me off of death row and for bringing me home out of prison. I love you, Heavenly Father, I love you, Jesus. Thank you.”
Does conversion make criminals any less guilty?
While many of these final words can appear extremely compelling, obviously, under the law, these individuals were still very much guilty of their crimes. Despite his eloquent words of admission and the profession of faith, Jeffrey Dillingham was not allowed to walk free. He still received the deadly injection and, for many, justice was still served.
With that being said, it is important to note that, as Christians, we must understand the Gospel-centered reality that Jesus Christ can forgive any and all sins, no matter how heinous they may appear. This might seem scandalous, and that’s because it is from a purely logical perspective. The Bible teaches us that no matter the severity of your sins, you can be forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed for you.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” reads Acts 3:19.
Ultimate justice comes from God
Whatever your views are on the death penalty or long-term incarceration, as Christians we must know that these man-made systems and rulings can only serve a partial justice. Only God can (and will) issue the final judgment.
As for the authenticity of last-minute conversions, we never truly know the heart of anyone else but ourselves. Whether or not Chris Watts or these series of condemned criminals really experienced a heartfelt, Bible-based Christian conversion is impossible to know.
However, for our own sins, we can and must take absolute responsibility. Today, let us truly grasp that, through the Lord Jesus, there is absolute forgiveness, unending hope, and the indestructible promise of eternal life available to us in this very moment.