The murder of the Watts family quickly received national attention. Chris Watts’s pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and his two young girls four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste were reported missing by a close friend on August 13th, 2018.
Shanann had missed an OB-GYN appointment, failed to return text messages, and missed a meeting that day, all behaviors that were grossly out of character for the bubbly young mom.
Chris Watts’s behavior around his missing and pregnant wife raised red flags for those following the case instantly. While everyone grieves in their own way, Watts’s pleas for his family’s safe return felt hollow. It was only days later that the real story began to unfold.
A perfect surface
Chris Watts and Shanann Rzucek met in 2010. Both native to North Carolina, they married in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina in 2012. In 2013, the couple bought a large, five-bedroom home in Frederick, Colorado prior to the birth of their first daughter, Bella. The couple’s second daughter, Celeste, was born the same year they filed for bankruptcy, 2015.
Chris Watts worked for Anadarko Petroleum, while Shanann sold products for the multi-level marketing company, Le-vel. Shanann’s work had her extremely active and responsive on social media, constantly reaching out and connecting to friends, posting about her life, her family, and the products she sold. On the surface, Shanann’s life looked perfect.
A crumbling marriage
Prior to her August death, Chris Watts’s pregnant wife, Shanann packed up their two daughters and headed back to her parents’ home in North Carolina. Throughout her time away from the family’s home in Colorado, Shanann texted friends about her troubled marriage.
According to Shanann’s texts, she felt like she barely knew who Chris was anymore. He was unhappy about her pregnancy, and she worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle a third child. Chris had reportedly told Shanann he didn’t believe that they were compatible anymore and had refused couples’ counseling.
Meanwhile, with his pregnant wife and children across the country, Chris Watts began an affair with Nichol Kessinger, a contractor at his work. Watts told Nichol that he and his wife were in the process of divorcing (they were not), and that she frequently bad-mouthed him in front of their daughters (a claim that was never corroborated).
By August, Watts was telling Kessinger that he loved her and that he was looking for a two-bedroom apartment, and planned to sell his current home.
Shanann, Bella, and Celeste disappear
On August 13th, Shanann Watts returned from a business trip to Arizona with her friend
Nikole Atkinson called and texted Shanann that morning, looking for updates on the doctor’s appointment, and anticipating their meeting. Atkinson was instantly alarmed when Shanann never responded, and at around 12 noon, she went to the Watts house to look for her friend.
Finding Shanann’s car in the garage with the girls’ car seats inside, but no one at home, Atkinson called Chris Watts and the Frederick Police Department to report her concerns. Chris Watts returned home from work and allowed officers to search his home. Inside were Shanann’s purse, car keys, wedding rings, and phone.
Authorities quickly looped in both the FBI and the CBI, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Chris Watts made multiple pleas to news outlets for the safe return of his pregnant wife and children.
Chris Watts confesses
Police quickly saw through Chris Watts’s claims that he had nothing to do with his family’s disappearance. He was arrested on August 15th, 2018, and confessed to killing Shanann almost immediately after failing a polygraph test.
Chris Watts’s first confession claimed that he was having an affair, and had asked Shanann for a separation. Chris Watts then claimed his pregnant wife strangled their children in response to his request for a separation, and he strangled Shanann after she killed their daughters.
He admitted to taking their bodies to a remote oil storage site belonging to his former employer (Anadarko Petroleum fired Chis Watts when he was arrested). Police found the bodies of Bella and Celeste hidden in oil tanks, and Shanann was buried nearby in a shallow grave. Bella and Celeste had been smothered, and Shanann strangled by the person they loved the most.
Chris Watts has changed his story around the murder of his pregnant wife and daughters multiple times, and now serving three life sentences for their brutal murders, he may be shifting the story again.
In a disturbing letter that The Daily Mail received a copy of, Chris Watts claimed that he tried to murder his daughters before killing Shanann.
For further details on Chris Watts’s horrendous acts against his family, check out Lifetime’s movie, Chris Watts: Confessions of a Killer.
If you’re a massive true crime stan, do sign up for our newsletter. We promise only to send you the most relevant news, contests, quizzes, and polls.