FREDERICK, Colorado — Cristine Gentert remembers going to pumpkin patches with Shanann Watts. The two women were pregnant at the same time and had great fun together. Their kids were as close as siblings.
Surrounded by a sea of candles flickering in the dark Friday, Gentert said a prayer. Her young daughter and son stood close to her, tears rolling down their cheeks. She asked God for comfort during heartbreak.
“God let us learn from this,” she prayed. “Let us get closer. Let us love deeper. God be with everyone who’s hurting right now.”
The candlelight vigil for Shanann Watts, 34, of Frederick, and her daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, began at 8:30 p.m. Friday, local time. The three had been reported missing from their home Monday. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant when she died.
Her husband and the girls’ father, Christopher Watts, 33, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with a deceased body in connection with the deaths.
Hundreds gathered by what was the family’s home in Frederick, Colorado, to honor Shanann and her children.
Stuffed teddy bears, unicorns, mermaids and lambs were strewn in front of the home. Balloons danced in the evening breeze. A small, wooden cross stuck out of the grass. Pink and red roses and bright yellow sunflowers adorned the sidewalk.
Monique Young said she worked with Shanann. Through tears, she smiled at the memory of her friend’s big heart.
Shanann didn’t take anything for granted, Young said.
“She didn’t even have to know you to just reach out,” she said.
Josh Jorgenson, a neighbor, told the Coloradoan that Bella and Celeste seemed like inseparable sisters when he first met them.
Another neighbor, Kelley Trippy, remembered the girls as bright, intuitive and energetic. Trippy said she met the family about two months ago as part of the neighborhood’s social committee and had dinner with the family a couple times.
Kristina Hapner drove about 45 minutes from Aurora to attend the vigil. When she heard about what happened on the news, she decided to make the drive. She left a flower and a small stuffed dog wearing a Santa hat on the lawn.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Hapner said.
During the vigil, someone in the crowd played an instrumental version of “Amazing Grace” with a cell phone. The faint song caught on. The crowd, made up hundreds of people, began to lift their voices and sing.
Gentert said she wants Shanann to be remembered for her smile and for how much she loved people.
“I don’t want the horror to replace how beautiful she was,” Gentert said.