Judge denies defense’s DNA request in deaths of Shanann Watts, daughters

GREELEY, Colo. — A judge has denied a request by a defense attorney for a man accused of killing his pregnant wife and two daughters to have its own experts collect DNA from the necks of the young girls.

The judge did approve a motion compelling the pathologist to take DNA swabs of the necks of the children and to provide those results to the defense team.

Autopsies were completed Friday on Shanann Watts, 34, and her daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste.

The coroner's office said that time was of the essence when it came to the autopsies,  especially for the children, because of "the period of time their bodies were submerged in oil," according to court documents.

The cause of their deaths has not been made public. The motion seeking the DNA samples from the girls' necks suggested that they may have been strangled.

Police arrested Chris Watts, 33, late Wednesday on suspicion of killing his wife and children.

Their bodies were found on Thursday on property owned by Andarko Petroleum, one of Colorado's largest oil and gas drillers, where Watts worked as an operator.

RELATED: Full coverage of deaths of pregnant mother, two daughters

Weld County prosecutors said Watts was jailed in protective custody and that charges were expected to be filed on Monday.

Outside the family's home in Frederick, north of Denver, a memorial of stuffed animals, balloons, flowers and messages grew and a candlelight vigil drew dozens of people Friday night.

"This is to celebrate, mourn and get closure for a family that didn't deserve this," said vigil organizer Kelley Trippy. "This is a horrible, horrible, horrible story. It's affected us all whether you do know them or don't know them."

Christine Gentert said a prayer, adding that she wanted Shanann Watts to be remembered for her smile and her love for others.

"I don't want the horror to replace how beautiful she was," Gentert said.

Ashley Bell, a friend of Shanann Watts, said Shanann had planned a party Saturday to reveal the gender of her baby. Frankie Rzucek said his sister planned to name her baby boy Niko.

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