New court documents suggest that two Colorado children who were allegedly murdered by their father may have been strangled, according to multiple news outlets.
Denver NBC affiliate 9News reports the two motions were filed on Friday morning in Weld County court by defense attorneys representing Chris Watts, 33, who has been accused of murdering his 34-year-old wife Shanann — who was 15-weeks-pregnant at the time — as well as their two young daughters, Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4.
In the motions, attorneys asked that DNA samples be taken from both the two children as well as from the mother during their autopsies, which were scheduled to begin on Friday, reported CBS4.
DNA expert Richard Eikelenboom claimed in the filings that DNA samples “would remain on the necks of the decedent children,” according to ABC affiliate Denver 7. The motion also asked that DNA samples be taken from the hands and nails of the girls’ mother.
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Attorney James Merson wrote in the docs that while the bodies of the two children had “been in an oil well filled with crude oil for several days,” Eikelenboom believed “DNA would still be present,” according to 9News.
The DNA expert was also quoted in the motion saying he believed that samples can still be obtained “after strangulation,” according to Denver 7.
However, the outlet went on to report that in 2016 the Denver District Attorney’s Office released a statement discrediting Eikelenboom after “a Denver prosecutor got Eikelenboom to admit that he had no direct DNA extraction or analysis experience.” Eikelenboom has disputed the claim.
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Shanann and her two daughters were reported missing by a friend on Monday afternoon, about 12 hours after returning from a business trip. Before he was taken into custody, Chris had given multiple interviews pleading for their safe return.
During one such appearance, he said that shortly she disappeared, he and Shanann had an “emotional conversation.”
Without providing any further information on the subject, he added, “I’ll leave it at that.”
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Following her husband’s arrest, Shanann’s body was found Thursday on the property of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, an oil and gas company where Chris had worked. Remains believed to be daughters Bella and Celeste were located later Thursday near Shanann’s body, officials said.
Chris was arrested Wednesday on three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a body.
While investigators have not publicly confirmed a motive, a family friend previously told PEOPLE that there was marital discord between Chris and Shanann and public records show they had faced financial issues in the past, including a bankruptcy in 2015.
Chris is next scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, where he will face formal charges.
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