The Watts’ murders: how one seemingly happy family was torn apart

Emily Aiken ’20, Editor-in-Chief

It is a case that came out of nowhere. On the outside, the Watts family seemed happy and loving, but what happened behind closed doors, no one expected.

On Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at 1:48 a.m. Shannan Watts returned to her Frederick, Colorado home from a business trip in Arizona. She was dropped off by her friend, Nicole Atkinson. That was the last time Shannan would be seen alive.

At 1:40 p.m. that same day, the police were called to the Watts’ residence by Atkinson because Shannan had not answered any calls or texts. She was 15 weeks pregnant at the time and missed her doctor’s appointment to hear her baby’s heartbeat. Her husband, Chris met the police at the house, but there were no signs of foul play, and her car, purse, and phone were still there. Their two daughters, Bella and Celeste, were also missing. Chris claimed that, at first, he did not think anything was wrong. He mentioned that they were probably at a playdate, but could not provide any names.

According to Chris, he got up for work at around 5 a.m. That same day, he and Shannan had an “emotional” but “civil” conversation about their relationship. They had been having marital problems for a while and decided to split. According to Atkinson, Shannan had been emotional about it the whole time they were in Arizona. The neighbor’s security cameras picked up footage of Chris backing his truck up to the garage. He told law enforcement he was loading tools into his truck.

The next day, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI got involved. They issued a missing persons alert for all three and began their search. On the same day, Chris did an interview with a local new station, and his body language was disturbing. He seemed to have a hard time hiding his smile. He referred to his missing children as “those kids,” and not once did he mention their names. He crossed his arms defensively as the reporter asked about his missing wife and children. He talked about them in past tense, as if he already knew that they were dead. Many people quickly realized something was not right about Chris.

It turns out, those people were right. The next day, on Wednesday, Aug. 15, police suspected that the bodies were near an oil field because they began investigating with a drone and found bed sheets with a specific pattern that matched sheets from the Watts’ home. Police also discovered that Chris was having an affair with a coworker.

The neighbors, who were really close to the family, noticed how he was not forthcoming with information.“Just little things here and there, like, watching [Chris] on his phone and pacing the house and eating the pizza even. He showed zero remorse,” they said, in regards to his behavior to reporters. So, they decided to call the police. At 11:30 that night, Chris was arrested.

On Aug. 16, Chris confessed to killing his wife, and he claimed that he only killed Shannan after witnessing her strangle their daughters; however, this was found not to be true. There was no evidence pointing to this, and it was later found that Chris killed his children as well. Shannan loved her children very much.

The bodies were found in an oil field where Chris worked; he dumped his daughters’ bodies in an oil tank, and Shannan was buried in a shallow grave. Chris was charged with three counts of first degree murder and three counts of tampering with evidence. He now faces the rest of his life in prison.

Photo courtesy of People Magazine

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