The community of Frederick, Colorado — and the entire nation — was horrified when Chris killed his entire family in August 2018. He strangled Shanann while she was 15 weeks pregnant with their unborn son before smothering their young daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Before their bodies were discovered, Chris comported himself as a worried husband and father of a missing family, and as his lies began to surface, he cast blame on Shanann.
Chris claimed she killed the kids so he murdered her in anger, and then led investigators to their bodies. He buried his wife in a shallow grave on an oil site where he worked while he stuffed the girls into oil tanks at the location. Eventually, however, he admitted to killing the entire family himself with his bare hands.
While the gory details of the killings were horrifying enough, the public was even more shocked at how perfect the family appeared to be before the slayings. Social media clips which seemingly showed their happy life are a big part of “American Murder: The Family Next Door,” a documentary on the Watts family that will debut on Netflix on Sept. 30. Shanann gushes about her husband in one video to her Facebook followers, and in other clips, Chris appears to be a caring husband and loving dad who plays and gives affection.
However, text messages included in the documentary paint a totally different story.
During the early stages of the investigation — before Chris admitted to knowing where his family's bodies were — he claimed in media interviews that he and Shanann had “an emotional conversation” right before she vanished.
During interrogations, he pointed to six crucial weeks before the murder. During the majority of that time, Shanann was in North Carolina with the girls visiting family. Chris told investigators that the time apart made him realize that the “spark” was gone. The missing spark also coincided with Chris’ affair with his coworker Nichol Kessinger.
Text messages between the husband and wife showed just how their relationship fell apart during those six weeks. Shanann became increasingly worried that he was cheating, but before that she got into a heated fight with Chris’ family.
About two or three weeks into Shanann’s trip to North Carolina, she visited Chris’ parents. Chris’ mother, Cindy Watts, bought pistachio ice cream for the occasion, according to a 2019 interview between Chris and investigators, obtained by Oxygen.com. Celeste was allergic to nuts, which prompted Shanann to yell at Cindy about the ice cream choice. In turn, Cindy kicked Shanann out of the house, the documentary reveals.
“You should call your Dad and tell him you did not appreciate your mom putting your daughter at risk today,” Shanann told Chris in one text, included in the documentary.
He replied, “I will call him and tell him what I think about this. It’s not f--king cool at all because it is the kids. I will set this right.”
But nothing was set right. Chris’ parents didn’t show up to Celeste’s birthday party, which took place shortly after.
“I don’t ever want to see them again,” Shanann texted a friend following their no-show.
Chris told investigators, according to the interview obtained by Oxygen.com, that Shanann told him to stop talking to his parents.
“I didn’t talk to my parents from then on,” he said, “until August 6.”
Aug. 6 was just days before he killed Shanann and their children. That day, Chris told investigators that his parents admitted they weren't sure they could forgive Shanann over the drama. However, Chris’ family never liked Shanann in the first place, the documentary shows.
“My mom just never thought she was good enough,” Chris told investigators. His parents didn’t even attend their wedding for that very reason. In fact, just days before the murder, Shanann called Chris' mom "evil" in a lengthy text message, according to documents obtained by Oxygen.com.
"You and your dad are no different if you are okay with her behavior," she wrote.
Chris told investigators he now thought that if he hadn’t spent so much time cheating on his wife, perhaps he could have eased the family tension.
“I wish I could have taken more time to fix that,” he said.
Texts between the couple in the documentary show Shanann’s increasing anxiety over Chris cheating, as well as his incessant lies and excuses.
"I didn't see those FaceTimes and I'm sorry I missed those calls. I'm very very very sorry,” he texted her, after missing calls from Shanann. “The FaceTime went thru on my work phone."
Her response was, "'Not' getting my calls. You f--king call your kids when you wake up. You have not called one time since we’ve been here on your own.”
He told her he was “extremely sorry” and that he felt like a “jackass.”
“You’d think you missed us,” she texted him. ‘But guess not.”
At another point, she texted him that she felt like she was the only one putting emotion into their relationship.
Toward the end of the six-week period, Chris flew out to North Carolina to see Shanann and their girls.
"He kissed me once since he's been here,” Shanann texted a friend. “That was at airport [sic] I kissed him no grabbins [sic] my ass, hug or anything. I want yo [sic] cry.”
She added, “5 weeks away from me and not touching me.”
She expressed even more grief over texts to a friend when she felt sexually rejected by Chris.
“I’m over here crying in silence,” she texted. “He's never been like this . 5.5 ducking [sic] weeks no sex. Unless he was getting it somewhere else.”
She told that friend he shut her out in a way that he never has before. Then, when the family returned to their home in Colorado, she tried to have sex with him again.
“Well… he rejected me,” she texted a friend. “I just balled for an hour. Still trembling. Just went and room [sic] woke his sorry ass up and asked him who's [sic] he's sleeping with.”
She explained over text that he denied cheating.
Day Before The Murders
Just days before the murders, Shanann went on a business trip, leaving Chris at home with the kids. He hired a babysitter and went out with Kessinger. While he was out cheating, Shanann was reflecting on their relationship.
“He never fights with me, just goes with flow,” she texted a friend. “He and I know I like things done a certain way, but I never thought about how that may make him feel as a man.”
She added, “I belittle him without realizing it with his parents. Told him he needed to find his balls and protect his family.”
She appeared to be proactive about trying to save the marriage.
"Thank you for taking good care of the kids this weekend so I can learn and work, I appreciate it!" she texted Chris the day before the murders.
She then asked him what kind of vegetables he wanted with dinner the next day.
Watts was sentenced to life in prison in 2018.
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