Prosecutors seek DNA samples, fingerprints from Chris Watts: Search for ‘smoking gun’ could mean accused family killer could be facing death penalty, expert says

Prosecutors in the Chris Watts murder case have requested DNA and fingerprints from the triple homicide suspect, in what appears to be an effort to determine his involvement in the alleged strangulation of his wife and daughters.

Watts is charged with nine felony counts, including three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his pregnant wife Shanann Watts and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, an arrest affidavit shows that Watts confessed to strangling his wife, but claimed that he attacked her in a “rage” after seeing her strangling the couple’s daughter Celeste via a baby monitor. He claimed to also see Bella appearing limp and blue, sprawled on a bed.

The charges indicate that investigators did not believe Watts’s claims. And now, a month after his arrest, prosecutors have requested swabs to obtain DNA samples, the suspect’s fingerprints and and palm prints, and photographs of his hands, according to News 5 Cleveland.

The news station interviewed legal experts about the implications of the prosecution’s request, and one speculated that it could mean Chris Watts is being uncooperative.

Phil Danielson, a forensic science expert and professor of molecular biology at the University of Denver, told News 5 Cleveland that he believed Watts may have refused to provide a DNA sample. He and others interviewed for the article noted the unusual delay in the prosecutor’s requests for samples — a full month into the investigation.

“[Prosecutors] have to have probable cause and … they may not have felt they had enough probable cause or whatever reason they didn’t collect it. It is surprising that we’ve gotten this far in the case,” Danielson said.

District Attorney Michael Rourke told News 5 Cleveland that he believes prosecutors may still be considering pursuing the death penalty for Watts.

“If, in fact, Mr. Watts’ DNA is found on the necks of his children, the ability to explain that or explain that away is going to be a lot more difficult than if that DNA wasn’t present,” he said. “Is it a smoking gun? It’s hard to say because we don’t know the other evidence, but … that would be a very bad fact for the defense and a very good fact for the prosecution.”

A defense lawyer interviewed for the article said he expects the court to grant the prosecution’s request. A judge could rule on the request as early as Friday.