Watts family homicides
|Watts family homicides|
|Location||Frederick, Colorado, U.S.|
|Date||August 13, 2018|
|Mass murder, Familicide|
|Deaths||4 (including unborn child)|
The Watts family homicides occurred on the early morning of August 13, 2018. While being interviewed by the Frederick Police Department, Christopher Lee Watts (born May 16, 1985) admitted to having a five week affair with co-worker Nichol Lee Kessinger, as well as killing his pregnant wife Shanann Cathryn Watts (née Rzucek) (born January 10, 1984) in their home in Colorado, and then smothering their daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, at his job site shortly afterwards. He then disposed of his daughters' bodies in oil tanks and buried his wife in a shallow grave at the job site. Watts pleaded guilty on November 6, 2018, to multiple counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to five life sentences without the possibility of parole, three to be served consecutively and two to be served concurrently.
Christopher Lee Watts and Shanann Cathryn Watts (née Rzucek), were natives of Spring Lake and Aberdeen, North Carolina respectively; they were married for six years and had two daughters: Bella Marie Watts (born December 17, 2013) and Celeste Cathryn Watts (born July 17, 2015). The family lived in a five-bedroom home in Frederick, Colorado, purchased in 2013; the couple declared bankruptcy in 2015. Chris Watts was employed by Anadarko Petroleum, while Shanann was an independent representative for the multi-level marketing company Le-vel, selling a product called Thrive. At the time of her death, she was fifteen weeks pregnant with a son they planned to name Niko Lee Watts.
Shanann returned home from a business trip to Arizona, about 1:48 a.m. on August 13, 2018, having received a ride from friend and colleague Nickole Utoft Atkinson. Chris was home with the children.
Later that day, Shanann and the two children were reported missing by Atkinson, who had become concerned when Shanann missed a scheduled OB-GYN appointment and failed to return text messages. After Shanann missed a business meeting, Atkinson went to the Watts' home at approximately 12:10 p.m. When the doorbell and knocks went unanswered, Atkinson notified Chris and called the Frederick Police Department. Officers arrived to conduct a welfare check about 1:40 p.m. Chris, who had arrived home from work, talked with the officers and discussed ways to locate his missing family. During the welfare check, Chris had also given the police permission to search the house, which was empty. The police discovered Shanann's purse, phone, wedding ring, and keys inside; her car and the children's car seats were also at the house.
The FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation joined the investigation the next day, August 14. Chris gave an interview to Denver station KMGH-TV outside his house pleading for his family's return. Investigators with cadaver and search dogs could be seen on the property during the interview.
Christopher Lee Watts
May 16, 1985
North Carolina, U.S.
|Employer||Anadarko Petroleum (former)|
(m. 2012; died 2018)
|Children||Bella (deceased), Celeste (deceased), and Nico (15-week fetus, fetal death)|
|Criminal charge||Five counts of first-degree murder, unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body|
|Penalty||Five life sentences without the possibility of parole|
|Killed||4 (including an unborn child)|
|August 15, 2018|
|Imprisoned at||Dodge Correctional Institution|
Arrest and charges
Watts was arrested late on August 15, 2018. According to the arrest affidavit, Watts failed a polygraph test and subsequently confessed to murdering Shanann. Watts asked to speak to his father before making the confession. According to the affidavit, Watts was having an affair and claimed to have asked for a separation from his wife but lied about it to begin with. During the investigation, Watts claimed Shanann had strangled the children in response to his request for separation, and in a fit of rage, he strangled her and then transported the three bodies to an oil site where he worked.
The bodies of Watts' family were located by the authorities on the property of Watts's former employer on August 16. Watts had been fired from his job on August 15, the day of his arrest. The children's bodies were found in oil tanks, while Shanann was buried in a shallow grave nearby.
On August 21, Watts was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, including an additional one count per child cited as "death of a child who had not yet attained 12 years of age and the defendant was in a position of trust"; unlawful termination of a pregnancy; and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
The case has been connected in the media to the crime of family annihilation. Many of these crimes occur in August, before school starts, which may delay detection and investigation. According to former FBI profiler Candice DeLong, cases such as Chris Watts's are rare, because "family annihilators usually commit suicide after the murders". In an interview with Dr. Phil, Watts's lawyer claimed that Chris confessed to killing Shanann after an argument regarding divorce. During the murder, Bella walked in.
Plea deal and sentencing
Chris Watts pleaded guilty to the murders on November 6. The death penalty was not put forward by the district attorney on the request of Shanann's family who didn't wish for any further deaths. They were supportive of the decision to accept the plea deal. On November 19, Watts was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On December 3, 2018, Watts was moved to an out-of-state location due to "security concerns". On December 5, 2018, he arrived at the Dodge Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison, in Waupun, Wisconsin, to serve the remainder of his life sentences.
The funeral for the victims was held in Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Many of the stuffed animals left at the memorial in front of the Watts home were repurposed by the local fire and police departments for young children in crisis situations.
In other media
In "The Devil in Disguise", a December 7, 2018, episode of the ABC News television news magazine 20/20, Shanann's parents, Frank and Sandra Rzucek, were interviewed for the first time since their daughter and granddaughters' murders.
HLN (Headline News) aired a special report show titled Family Massacre: Chris Watts Exposed in which police body cam and video recorded police interviews of Chris Watts are revealed. In a newly released Colorado Bureau of Investigation video recorded interview with Watts's mistress, she reveals his behavioral changes in the days prior the murders. It originally aired on December 13, 2018.
In "Husband, Father, Murderer: Inside The Chris Watts Case", an episode of the American talk show Dr. Phil, Dr. Phil consulted with four crime experts: former prosecutor and TV journalist Nancy Grace, former FBI profiler, Candice DeLong, law enforcement consultant Steve Kardian, and body language expert Susan Constatine. The experts analyzed the motivation, secret life and profiling of Chris Watts, which aired on December 18, 2018.
In "True Crime Exclusive: The Secret Life of Killer Dad Chris Watts", the January 15, 2019, episode of the talk show The Dr. Oz Show, commentary is provided on the Watts case. The neighbor who helped build the case against Watts is interviewed in-studio.
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