Murder of 15-week pregnant Shanann Watts reignites debate over Colorado's fetal homicide law

Chris Watts has been charged with unlawful termination of pregnancy but the petition demands a change in Colorado's laws to ensure he's also charged with fetal homicide

                            Murder of 15-week pregnant Shanann Watts reignites debate over Colorado's fetal homicide law
Chris Watts (Source:Getty Images)

Colorado man Chris Watts had been charged with nine counts of felony as of Monday by Weld County prosecutors. The 33-year-old was charged twith three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, two counts of first-degree murder — victim under the position of trust, one count of first-degree unlawful termination of pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, according to court documents.

Now, there is a petition calling for an additional murder charge to be slapped on Chris for the death of the fetus his wife was carrying. The three capital murder charges against the father currently are for the murders of his 34-year-old wife Shanann, and daughters four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste. Shanann was said to have been 15 weeks pregnant when she was allegedly killed by Chris with official documents stating that she "died as a result of the unlawful termination of the pregnancy."

While Chris had already facing a class two felony charge for the termination of the pregnancy, the petition, which was started by one Brittney Brasher, is titled "John Hickenlooper: Change Colorado’s Unborn Murder Law & Charge Chris Watts With 4th Count of Murder." The petition states that Colorado is one of 12 states in the country to not have fetal homicide laws. It has been signed by over 57,000 people.

Speaking to Denver 7, former Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett stated that it was "virtually impossible" under Colorado law to file a murder charge against the accused relating to a child that hasn't been born yet. "Colorado requires that the child live outside the mother’s womb independently and then be killed as a result of something that occurs then," he added. 

A statement in the petition penned by Brasher reads: "Chris Watts has admitted to killing his wife Shanann Watts. Shanann Watts was pregnant with a baby. A baby boy that they had planned to call Niko. When she was murdered, so was Baby Niko. Colorado currently does not have a law that would charge Chris Watts for the murder of unborn baby boy Niko."

"Please join our fight to have this changed and this monster charged with a 4th count of capital murder. Chris Watts has been formally charged with murder against Shannan Watts & their two born daughters, Bella and Celeste," it continues, adding later that, if the law is passed, it should be called 'Niko's Law' in honor of the slain baby.

While the post-mortem examinations have been conducted, the causes of death of the three victims have still not been made public. However, a request from the defense team suggests that they died from strangling. The prosecutors for the case are said to be weighing up their options on whether they should pursue a death penalty — which is rare in the state of Colorado — against Chris who is most likely to face life in prison.