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What Does Chris Watts' Life Behind Bars Look Like Years After Murdering His Family?

Watts is serving a life sentence for murdering his pregnant wife, Shanann, and their two daughters, Bella and Celeste, in 2018. 

By Cydney Contreras

Chris Watts is one of the most well-known family annihilators of the last decade. 

The Colorado man killed his wife, Shanann Watts, their two daughters, Bella and Celeste, as well as his unborn son in August 2018.  

At first, the oil company worker claimed that they had mysteriously disappeared from their Frederick, Colorado home on August 13. But as investigators and the media descended on the neighborhood, his story began to unravel. 

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It soon emerged that Chris had been having an affair with a coworker, whom he lied to about the state of his marriage. When investigators found the bodies of Shanann, Bella, and Celeste at an oil drilling site where he'd worked, he was arrested and charged with their murders. That's when Chris tried to shift the blame to Shanann, accusing the pregnant woman of suffocating their daughters, forcing him to kill her in a fit of rage. 

It was only after Chris had accepted a plea deal that he told investigators how he had suffocated Shanann, CeCe and Bella before burying his dead wife and shoving his daughters' bodies in oil wells.  

How many years will Chris Watts serve?

Chris pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and unlawful termination of a pregnancy in connection to the death of Shanann's son, whom she planned to name Nico. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for each of the murders, served consecutively, and an additional 48 years for the latter charge. 

While the prosecution could've sought the death penalty, Shanann's family explicitly requested that it be taken off the table. District Attorney Michael Rourke said that Shanann's mother, Sandra Rzucek, told him that while Chris made the choice to take her daughter's life, she didn't want to have to do the same. 

"I do not want to be in the position of making the choice to take his,” Rourke said, quoting Sandra. “That’s about as firmly as she could have said it to me.” 

Where is Chris Watts now?

Watts is incarcerated at the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin. 

He was previously held at a Colorado correctional facility but was transferred for "safety" reasons, Colorado Department of Corrections spokesman Mark Fairbairn said in 2018, according to People.com 

What is Chris Watts' life like now?

In prison, Chris has apparently found God. In the series Killer Dad: Chris Watts Speaks, his mother, Cindy Watts, read a purported letter in which Chris claimed that he's a changed man

"I’m still a Dad! I’m still a son! No matter what,” Cindy said he wrote. "Now, I can add servant of God to that mix! He has shown me peace, peace, love and forgiveness, and that’s how I live every day.”

Chris previously said that he's remorseful about the murders and wishes he could tell mistress Nichol Kessinger that he's sorry, according to footage released by the Frederick Police Department, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI in March 2019. When investigators asked if he wanted them to relay the message to Kessinger, he said yes and added, "I just hope there’s normalcy for her since she’s on the outside. I’m hoping it could get that way at some point."

Chris also told investigators that he taped photos of Shanann and his daughters to the walls of his prison cell, one of many revelations from the five-hour interview. "Every time I see pictures of them I don’t know how this could have happened. Being a dad was the best part of my life,” Watts said. 

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His comments sparked the launch of a Change.org campaign that sought to force the Wisconsin correctional officials to remove Watts' photos. However, the prison said they have "no legal basis for removing the photographs from Christopher Watts."

"Incarcerated inmates are permitted to possess certain identified items of property, including photographs,” the statement said. “Some photographs are not allowed, such as those depicting gang signs, colors, or insignias or photographs that include nudity.”

Though Chris has been called a "cold-blooded killer" by Nancy Grace and others, women continue to send him adoring letters. Back in 2018, the Weld County District Attorney's Office released documents, including love letters that Chris had received behind bars. 

"I've been watching your interview and I just became attracted to you and your story (don't ask me why) lol. [..] I would really really hope that one day you and I could meet,” one woman wrote, adding multiple hearts.

What happened to Chris Watts' house? 

The house where Chris and Shanann lived in Frederick, Colorado was put up for auction after Watts defaulted on his mortgage in 2019.  

It seemingly remained unoccupied for more than three years until it was bought for $600,000 in November 2022, according to property records reviewed by Oxygen.com.  

All profits from the sale went to Shanann's parents, Franklin and Sandra, who were awarded $6 million after a judge sided with them in their wrongful death lawsuit against Chris. The parents were awarded $1 million for each murder and an additional $3 million for the emotional pain inflicted.  

"They have suffered with anger, loneliness, sadness, and depression. For a substantial period of time following the discovery of their daughter and grandchildren’s murders, they were unable to work, leave the house, or even eat," court documents read, according to previous reporting.  

What have Chris Watts' parents said about him?

After Chris entered a plea deal, his parents sat down for an interview with a local news outlet, sharing that they think their son is innocent.

"Save his life and life in prison — to me there’s no difference. He’s going to die in prison and there's no telling what will be done to him in prison and I just want him to fight,” Cindy Watts told the outlet. “I don’t want him to not take this plea deal. I want him to plead not guilty to [killing] the children.”​​​​

His father, Ronnie Watts, added that Chris had told them that Shanann was the one who killed the girls

"I just want to make sure he's doing the right thing," Ronnie Watts said. "If he didn't kill the children, I want him to say that and let them prove it."

His mother Cindy also claimed that Shanann was controlling of Chris, accusing her of keeping him away from his family and beginning drama. "It was a very hard relationship, and as far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t do anything right," she said.

Shanann's family has disputed his parent's claims in their own respective statements and insist that their daughter was trying her best. 

"The parents of Chris Watts gave an interview in which they attempted to defend their son,” their statement read. “In doing so, they felt the need to make vicious, grotesque and utterly false statements about Shanann. Their false statements, however hurtful and inaccurate, will never alter the truth about Shanann, and will never alter the truth about the crimes committed by their son, Chris Watts.”