Court denies prosecutors’ request to seal autopsies of Shanann Watts, daughters

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — A district court judge has denied prosecutors’ request to seal the autopsies of Shanann Watts and her two daughters, who were killed in August.

According to court documents, Weld County District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow denied the motion Friday. The documents also said that the Weld County Coroner’s Office must be the party that files a petition to seal the autopsy results, as the office is the custodian of the records.

Prosecutors had asked the court to keep the autopsy reports for Shanann, Celeste and Bella Watts private until the trial is underway, according to court documents filed Sept. 17.

In the filing, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke and two of his deputy district attorneys argue the reports “will be critical evidence at trial.”

Christopher Watts, 33, is charged with nine felonies, including three counts of first-degree murder after deliberation, in the deaths of his pregnant 34-year-old wife Shanann, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste.

Christopher’s attorneys had also filed a response to a request from prosecutors to obtain DNA evidence, buccal swabs and finger and palm prints.

His attorney argues giving up fingerprints and DNA samples is unconstitutional.

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

If convicted of first-degree murder, Christoper would face a mandatory life sentence in prison.

Shanann and her daughters were reported missing Aug. 13. Christopher was arrested two days later.

Later Friday, the Weld County Coroner’s Office released the following statement:

“On the afternoon of Friday, October 12, 2018, the Weld County Coroner’s Office was advised that the Weld County District Court had just entered an order denying the Weld County District Attorney’s motion to seal the autopsy reports of Shanann Watts, Bella Watts and Celeste Watts, alleged victims of a homicide.

The court’s order indicated that a petition to seal instead must be filed by the Weld County Coroner’s Office as the custodian of the autopsy records.

The Weld County Coroner’s Office is now in consultation with the Weld County Attorney regarding the filing of such a petition to seal.  Further information will be made available on Monday, October 15.  There is no further information at this time.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include a statement from the Weld County Coroner’s Office and information pertaining to its role in the possible sealing of autopsy results.

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