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Days before Shanann Watts was murdered by her husband Chris Watts, she wrote up drafts of a heartbreaking letter, provided exclusively to Oxygen.com from a new Netflix documentary, in which she vowed to do anything to fix their marriage.
The couple shared what seemed to be a nearly perfect romance: they got married and lived in a picturesque Frederick, Colorado home together; they had two young daughters and a baby boy on the way; they were both successful at their jobs and Shanann had an active and positive social media presence. From the outside looking in, they seemed to be deeply in love and have it all — which is why the murders of Shanann and their daughters in August 2018 shocked the country.
Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant with the couple's son when Chris strangled her to death in their bedroom. After killing Shanann, he drove her body to an oil drilling site where he worked, taking daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, with him. Once there, he smothered the girls and dumped the bodies of all three.
Parts of what appear to be drafts of the letter Shanann had written to Chris were found on her phone after her death; they were incorporated into “American Murder: The Family Next Door” — a new Netflix documentary on the Watts family murders. Filmmaker Jenny Popplewell was given access to Shanann’s phone by her family and she retrieved images of different drafts of the letter. While a copy of the letter wasn't found in the Watts household following the murders, Shanann’s texts indicate that she had given a letter to Chris just days before she was killed.
In an excerpt from one draft, provided exclusively to Oxygen.com, Shanann pleaded with Chris:
“I can’t lose you, I won’t lose you without a fight. I will fight for your love, fight for us! I can’t imagine life without you. Scares me to death every day you go to work or we are apart flying away. I will do anything always for you, us!”
Shanann felt Chris had become cold and distant about five weeks before the murders. They were apart during much of that time, as Shanann spent about a month in North Carolina visiting family. While away, Shanann began to suspect an affair and her intuition was right: though he denied it to her, Chris was indeed cheating on Shanann with one of his co-workers.
While trying to give her husband the benefit of the doubt, Shanann theorized that Chris must have been upset about a rift between her and his family. She and the girls had visited Chris’ parents early on in her North Carolina trip and Chris’ mother, Cindy Watts, bought pistachio ice cream for the visit, 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. She felt her mother-in-law hadn't been taking Celeste's allergy seriously. In turn, Cindy kicked Shanann out of the house and Shanann stopped talking to Chris' family.
A good portion of the draft letters focus on the family feud and it's clear Shanann assumes this lay at the heart of the couple's crumbling marriage.
“She doesn’t understand what she’s done,” Popplewell told Oxygen.com. “She thinks it’s because she’s fallen out with his family. She’s making offers to make it work with his mom.”
A different draft of the letter further portrays that desperation. Shanann, who Popplewell feels has been unfairly criticized as being bossy and overbearing due to her assertive nature, vows to do whatever it takes to save the relationship. It's also apparent from the letter that Chris had already told her he felt they were no longer compatible.
My dearest Chris!
I don’t know where to begin… I am so lost for words. I can’t even explain how hard this pain hurts. The last 5 weeks have been so hard. I missed everything about you. I missed your morning breath, our touch, your lips against mine. I missed everything about you. I missed your morning breath, your touch, your lips against mine. I miss holding you! I missed smelling you in the sheets. I missed talking to you in person. I missed watching you laugh and play with the kids. I love seeing their smile with you. I missed seeing you naked and on top of me making love. OMG, I missed having you around when I felt alone and upset. I just flat out missed the hell out of you.
I really don’t know how “we fell out of compatibility.” The only major thing that happened was between your mom and I. I can’t change what happened and I will work with you and them to work things out. There has to be a mutual respect from all parties. An apology from your mom personally would be nice. Our daughters [sic] life can’t be replaced. ...
“Her confidence is shattered," Popplewell remarked.
After murdering Shanann and their daughters, Chris attempted to play the role of a concerned husband and dad, fabricating a story about how his wife had vanished and taken the girls with her. He concocted a story about the couple getting into a fight and a distraught Shanann leaving to stay with a friend. Inconsistencies in his statements to investigators stoked their suspicions, however, and the facade he attempted to erect soon crumbled.
After authorities arrested Chris, he told investigators about the affair he'd been carrying on and admitted to strangling Shanann to death. But even then, he attempted to blame her for the deaths of their daughters, claiming he only attacked her after she'd murdered the girls. A day later the bodies of all three were discovered and Chris ultimately pleaded guilty to each murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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