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Three Big Things
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Shanann Watts’ girls may have been dead when she got home, husband’s charges show

Shanann Watts’ girls may have been dead when she got home, husband’s charges show

Shanann Watts’ father sobbed in a Colorado courtroom Tuesday as a judge recited the charges against his son-in-law -- charges that indicate detectives believe Chris Watts may have killed his children before his pregnant wife returned home from a business trip.  Chris Watts, 33, of Frederick, was charged Monday with nine felony charges: five counts of first-degree murder, including two for killing a child under the age of 12 while the defendant was in a position of trust, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body. He is being held without bail in the Weld County Jail.  The defendant faces a potential death penalty on the murder charges.  In a confession to police, Chris Watts alleged that he strangled Shanann Watts, 34, after seeing her do the same to their two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Disbelieving investigators charged him with all three murders, as well as with the death of the couple’s unborn child.   >> Related story: Colorado father charged with killing pregnant wife, 2 daughters, says wife killed children Shanann Watts was 15 weeks pregnant with a son they planned to name Niko, friends and family have said. A Change.org petition started by friends demands that Colorado adopt a new law, named “Niko’s Law,” to make the killing of an unborn baby like the Watts’ son first-degree murder. As Chris Watts sat stone-faced throughout Tuesday’s proceedings, which were streamed live by CBS Denver, Judge Marcello Kopcow advised Watts of the updated charges levied against him. Watts had been in custody since Wednesday on suspicion of murder and tampering with evidence.  Chris Watts told 9News in Denver in an interview the day before his arrest that he had nothing to do with the deaths of his family.  “Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on anything like this,” Watts said in the TV interview. “I just want people to know that I want my family back. I want them safe and I want them here.” The charges Kopcow read in court state that Chris Watts caused the death of his wife on Aug. 13, the day she and her daughters were reported missing by a friend. The charges related to Bella and Celeste, however, state that he caused their deaths “between and including Aug. 12, 2018, and Aug. 13, 2018.” Shanann Watts was out of town until early Aug. 13.  An arrest affidavit released Monday states that the friend who reported Shanann and the girls missing, Nickole Utoft Atkinson, dropped Shanann off at the Watts’ home just before 2 a.m. that day. The two women had been on a business trip to Arizona for Le-Vel, a health and wellness company that sells nutritional products.  “Nicole (sic) stated Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant and was not feeling well during the trip,” the affidavit states.  Atkinson became concerned later that morning because Shanann Watts missed a 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment and was not answering phone calls or texts. She went to the couple’s home at 2825 Saratoga Trail to check on her.  Read the charges against Chris Watts below. “(Nickole) went to Shanann’s residence and discovered her car in the garage with car seats positioned inside of it,” the affidavit says. “(She) attempted to enter the front door, but a latch prevented it from opening more than three inches.” Atkinson called Chris Watts at work and asked him to return home to check on his wife, the court document reads. She was afraid that Shanann Watts, who reportedly had lupus, had passed out or was suffering some other medical emergency.  Atkinson also called police, who arrived before Chris Watts did. Once Chris Watts arrived and allowed officers into the house, they found Shanann Watts’ personal belongings -- her cellphone, purse, wallet and medication -- inside.  They also found a pair of women’s shoes kicked off by the front door and a suitcase, apparently from her Arizona trip, at the bottom of the stairs, the affidavit states.  Chris Watts initially told investigators that around 4 a.m. that day, he told his wife he wanted a separation. He said it was an emotional conversation, with both of them upset and crying, but that it was not argumentative.  Chris Watts told detectives that when he left for work just before 5:30 a.m., Shanann Watts told him she and the girls would be going to a friend’s home later in the day. He said that he backed his work truck up into the driveway to load some tools into it before leaving.  Read the warrantless arrrest affidavit in the Chris Watts case below. The truck’s movements were captured by a neighbor’s security camera, the affidavit says.  During the investigation into the disappearance of Shanann Watts and her daughters, investigators learned that Chris Watts was having an affair with a female co-worker at Anadarko Petroleum Corp. -- an affair that he denied in previous interviews.  Chris Watts was taken into custody Wednesday night, at which time Anadarko fired him. In a subsequent police interview Thursday, after being allowed to speak to his father, Chris Watts admitted strangling Shanann Watts the morning of Aug. 13, the affidavit states.  “Chris stated after he told Shanann he wanted a separation, he walked downstairs for a moment and then returned to his bedroom to speak with Shanann again,” the affidavit states. “While in the bedroom, via baby monitor located on Shanann’s nightstand, he observed Bella ‘sprawled’ out on her bed and blue and Shanann actively strangling Celeste. “Chris said he went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death.” Chris Watts told detectives that, when he backed his truck into the driveway, it was his wife and daughters’ bodies he loaded into the back seat, the affidavit states. He said he drove the bodies to an Anadarko work site just north of Roggan, an unincorporated area of Weld County about 40 miles from the family’s home in Frederick.  A Google Maps search using the coordinates of the site, which are included in the affidavit, shows a desolate area in which a dirt road leads to a couple of large oil tanks.  Chris Watts told investigators buried Shanann in a shallow grave near the tanks and dumped his daughters’ bodies inside the tanks.  “Chris was presented an aerial photograph of the tank battery area and identified three separate locations in which he placed the bodies,” the affidavit reads. Prior to Watts’ alleged confession, investigators did a drone search of the site and spotted a bedsheet in a field near the tank battery, the document says. The sheet matched the pattern of pillow cases and a top sheet discovered stuffed into a trash can in Watts’ kitchen earlier Thursday.  Shanann Watts’ body was found that afternoon, buried in a shallow grave near the oil tanks. Bella and Celeste were found inside the tanks, which were almost completely full of crude oil.  The girls’ bodies had been submerged in oil for four days, according to court documents filed by Chris Watts’ defense lawyer. The attorney, James Merson, sought to have defense experts at the autopsies of the victims, and to have DNA swabs done on the necks of the children, an apparent bid to prove that Shanann Watts killed her daughters.  Kopcow on Friday denied the motion to have defense experts present at the autopsies, but granted the request to for DNA swabs of Bella and Celeste’s necks. He denied the defense’s request that their expert take the swabs, however.  “Furthermore, defendant’s request to order prosecution to collect evidence in the manner described by defense expert is denied,” the order reads. “This court cannot order the prosecution and/or coroner how to conduct their investigation.” Kopcow said there was no indication that prosecutors or the coroner would destroy evidence, improperly collect it or fail to collect it.  The disappearance and killings of Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts have captured national attention, and inspired gut-wrenching emotion from those who knew them. Shanann Watts’ father, Frank Rzucek, tearfully spoke publicly Monday ahead of the news conference at which Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke announced the charges against Chris Watts.  “We would like to thank everyone in the Frederick Police Department and all the agencies involved for working so hard to find my daughter, granddaughters and Niko,” Rzucek said. “Thank you, everyone, for coming out to the candlelight vigil and saying all your prayers. They are greatly appreciated. “Keep the prayers coming for our family.” Rzucek has also been active on his Facebook page, posting photos of Bella and Celeste smiling and playing together. In one post, he uploaded the song “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.” “Dear Bella and Celeste and Nico,” Rzucek wrote. “Pop Pop loves you. God bless you.” He also posted several photos of Shanann Watts.  “Dad loves you,” he wrote on one. On another, he wrote, “We got you, baby.” Family friends who let Chris Watts stay in their home after his wife and daughters went missing expressed shock over the accusations against him -- and apologized for taking him in and defending him against swirling rumors.  “Had we had any inclination that we thought he was involved at all, no way would I have let him in my house with my wife and kid,” Nick Thayer told 9News Thursday, the day Watts confessed and the bodies were found.  “They were family,” his wife, Amanda Thayer, told the news station. “They spent Thanksgivings with us and Fourth of Julys and all the holidays. It’s just unreal.” The couple, who also took in the Watts family’s dog, Deeter, until Shanann’s family could pick him up, is now left figuring out how to tell their 5-year-old daughter that her playmates are dead. They are also struggling to understand the crime themselves, 9News reported.  “I’m so sorry. We didn’t know. We thought we were doing the right thing,’ Nick Thayer said. “It’s all we can do is say we’re sorry that we defended him on social media. We really had no idea that he was capable of doing something like we’ve.... I hate it. I hate all of this.”

Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges, says he paid Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal at Trump's direction

Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges, says he paid Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal at Trump's direction

President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight charges, including multiple counts of tax evasion and a campaign finance charge stemming from so-called “hush money” payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal. >> Read more trending news Cohen, 51, entered a plea deal Tuesday with prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Update 6:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: 'There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen,' Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement after Cohen entered his plea Tuesday. 'It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen's actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time,' Giuliani said. Cohen said in court Tuesday that he coordinated with Trump to pay hush money to Daniels and McDougal, who both claim they had affairs with Trump years before he was elected. Cohen did not name Daniels, McDougal or Trump in court. Update 6:10 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, told MSNBC that he and his client have been “vindicated” after Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges including tax evasion and a campaign-finance violation. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Read the documents from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea 'A lot of this stems from her courage,” Avenatti said. “We're going to get to the bottom now in connection to the civil case as to what the president knew, and what he knew about it, and when he knew and what he did about it.' Daniels claims that she had sex with Donald Trump in 2006, more than a decade before he became president. She is suing Trump and Cohen, seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen said in federal court in New York that he paid Daniels, who was not named, $130,000 in exchange for the nondisclosure agreement to influence the election. The payment was made at the direction of Trump, who also was not named, Cohen said. Update 5:40 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami said after Cohen entered his guilty plea Tuesday that he submitted false invoices to the Trump’s company to obtain reimbursement for unlawful campaign contributions made in the form of payments to Daniels and McDougal. In his plea, Cohen did not name the two women or even Trump, recounting instead that he worked with an 'unnamed candidate.' But the amounts and the dates all lined up with the payments made to Daniels and McDougal. Cohen said in federal court in New York on Tuesday that he made the payments  in coordination with Trump to influence the election. Both women claimed Trump had affairs with them, which he denies. The other charges Cohen pleaded guilty to involve bank fraud and income tax evasion. As part of his plea agreement, Cohen agreed not to challenge any sentence from 46 to 63 months. Khuzami said Tuesday that Cohen’s “lies and dishonesty” were particularly egregious because of his profession. “(He) decided he was above the law and for that he’s going to pay a very serious price,” Khuzami said. Update 5:10 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: At a hearing Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York, Cohen said he made payments to Daniels and McDougal on behalf of Trump, who was not named, “to influence the election,” according to The Associated Press. Daniels said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. She signed a non-disclosure agreement shortly before voters went to the polls for the 2016 presidential election in exchange for $130,000 from Cohen. McDougal claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president in 2006 and 2007. The rights to McDougal’s story were bought in August 2016 by American Media Inc., the company that publishes the National Enquirer, The Wall Street Journal reported, but her story was never published.  Update 4:55 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: Cohen admitted in court Tuesday to working at Trump’s discretion to silence Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president in 2006 and 2007, according to The New York Daily News. He also told the court that he paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election “with and at the direction of the same candidate (Trump),” the newspaper reported. The money went to Daniels in exchange for her signing a non-disclosure agreement that barred her from talking about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump in 2006, a decade before he was elected to office. A judge set Cohen’s bond at $500,000, according to Reuters. He is expected to appear in court for sentencing on Dec. 12. Update 4:40 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: The charges Cohen pleaded guilty to Tuesday include five counts of tax evasion, according to The New York Daily News. Update 3:45 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: An unidentified source told The Washington Post that Cohen's plea deal came Tuesday after prosecutors 'claimed he risked more than dozen years in prison.' Unidentified sources told Fox News that Cohen’s plea included three to five years of jail time. Update 3:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 21: It was not immediately clear whether Cohen agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation surrounding Trump as part of the agreement, The Washington Post reported. Cohen surrendered Tuesday afternoon to FBI officials, according to the newspaper. Original report: Two unidentified people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that Cohen’s attorneys were in negotiations with prosecutors earlier Tuesday. Cohen has been under investigation for possible fraud related to his businesses, the AP reported. Officials with the FBI raided his hotel room, home and office in April, seizing his computer, his phone and hundreds of thousands of records, The Washington Post reported. >> FBI sought records related to Trump 'Access Hollywood' tape in Cohen raid: reports Authorities sought details on Cohen’s efforts to stave off negative publicity about Trump, CBS News and The New York Times reported. Among other things, authorities sought information on the release of an infamous tape in which the president could be heard on a hot mic making derogatory comments about women and payments Cohen made to a pair of women who claim they had sexual relationships with Trump, The New York Times reported. Adult film star Stormy Daniels said she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate, claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president in 2006 and 2007. Officials also sought details on the role that the publisher of The National Enquirer played in keeping the women’s stories from going public, according to The Times. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read the documents from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea

Read the documents from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer plead guilty to eight criminal charges in a federal court on Tuesday, as Michael Cohen told a federal judge that he paid money to two women – to keep them quiet just before the 2016 elections – at the direction of a specific candidate for federal office, and coordinated “with one or more members of the campaign.” While the name of that candidate was not revealed in open court, or in any documents, it was very obvious that it was President Trump, referred to as “Individual-1.” “On or about June 16, 2015, Individual-1 began his presidential campaign,” read documents submitted by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. “In so doing, he coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments,” the documents stated.

Read the documents from Michael Cohen’s guilty plea

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer plead guilty to eight criminal charges in a federal court on Tuesday, as Michael Cohen told a federal judge that he paid money to two women – to keep them quiet just before the 2016 elections – at the direction of a specific candidate for federal office, and coordinated “with one or more members of the campaign.”

While the name of that candidate was not revealed in open court, or in any documents, it was very obvious that it was President Trump, referred to as “Individual-1.”

“On or about June 16, 2015, Individual-1 began his presidential [More]