FREDERICK, Colo. (CBS4) – Lawyers for the parents of Shanann Watts held a news conference Wednesday, saying the parents strongly object to the movie the Lifetime channel is making about the murders of their pregnant daughter and their two young granddaughters by their son-in-law, Chris Watts.
The Lifetime channel and A+E Networks announced back in August that it was making a movie, with the working title “The Chris Watts Story.”
“Lifetime has greenlit the new movie, The Chris Watts Story [working title], revealing the months that led up to the horrific crime and piecing together the mysterious motives that made this doting father turn into a cold-blooded killer,” the network website stated.
On Wednesday, three attorneys representing Shanann’s parents, Frank Rzucek and Sandra Rzucek, spoke publicly on their behalf.
“The problem with it is that if people are wanting to watch in order to see an accurate depiction of their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren’s lives, they need to look elsewhere,” one of the lawyers stated.
“That’s the problem. People are out there defaming Shanann, Bella, Celeste and Nico. The dead can’t fight back,” attorney Steven Lambert said.
The legal team expressed that Shanann’s parents are concerned about outside parties profiting off their tragic losses “when this has been so difficult for them to get through,” attorney Tom Grant stated.
Lawyers said Lifetime did not consult with Shanann’s family about the production to get an accurate portrayal of the family. The attorneys said the Rzuceks did not profit from television appearances about the case and have been harassed in the past and are concerned the release of the new movie will rekindle that activity.
“[The family is experiencing] both anger and hurt. But, it leans more toward pain. They have indicated how horrible it is to relive that,” Grant said. “[The family texted me saying,] ‘We woke up this morning and watched a depiction of our daughter being strangled.’ And, it brings everything back up to the surface again.”
“I think the parts that disturb the family a lot… people who are armchair detectives, going out there trying to find scraps of evidence that say, ‘Oh, Chris wasn’t really the killer, it was ‘X’ or his original confession was the true confession and Shanann did have a hand in this. Or there’s some kind of conspiracy to it. That kind of stuff bothers them a lot,” one attorney explained.
“I think certainly the most hurtful things are… anything where they implicate Shanann and refer back to the original confession and talk about that she was somehow involved in this and blaming the victim and somehow asserting that she had something to do with the murder of her children. Clearly that’s the most offensive thing to the family,” another lawyer reiterated.
Shanann’s husband, Chris Watts, initially denied involvement in the disappearance of his wife and children, and expressed concern about their well-being to a local news station.
“When Chris Watts tearfully pleaded to television cameras for the safe return of his missing pregnant wife Shanann and their two young daughters, dark secrets loomed just beneath the surface,” network officials stated in a press release about the upcoming movie.
Chris Watts later confessed to murdering his wife at their home in Frederick, and smothering their children on the property of an oil and gas company he worked for. He also confessed to having an affair with a co-worker, Nichol Kessinger.
Investigators found Shanann’s body in a shallow grave on the oil and gas company’s property. The bodies of Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, were found in oil tanks on the same property in Weld County.
Judge Marcelo Kopcow said the most despicable act was the way the bodies were disposed of in this case.
“This is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases I have seen,” Judge Kopcow told the court.
In November 2018, a judge sentenced Watts to three consecutive life sentences, along with two other life sentences to be carried out concurrently, in addition to 48 years for unlawful termination of pregnancy for the death of the unborn child, and 12 years each for three counts of tampering with a deceased body. Shanann’s family did not want prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
The movie is expected to premiere in 2020.
According to A+E, the movie stars Sean Kleier (Odd Mom Out) as Chris, Ashley Williams (How I Met Your Mother), as Shanann and Brooke Smith (Bates Motel, Ray Donovan) as FBI agent Tammy Lee.
“As part of Lifetime’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, a PSA will run following the movie’s debut, driving viewers to resources on domestic abuse, crisis help lines and other valuable information,” the network website stated.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)