‘American Murder: The Family Next Door’: What it got wrong about the Chris Watts murders
In 2018, Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife, Shanann, and their two daughters, Bella & Celeste. An investigation began when Shannan and the two girls disappeared and eventually concluded in Watts’s arrest.
The new documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, is a recent film on Netflix that gives an in-depth look into the Watts family murders and the investigation that followed. The documentary follows much of the case and exposes audiences to the disturbing information about the murders.
While the documentary is effective at telling the viewers the story, there are some important details American Murder leaves out.
One detail shown in American Murder was that Shanann had recently landed a great job with an impressive salary, making her the breadwinner in the house. This new job required Shanann to go on many business trips, leaving Chris at home to take care of the kids while she was away working.
The media speculated this monetary situation may have led to Chris feeling jealous or resentful towards his wife. However, what was not shown in American Murder is the couple was bankrupt before Shanann landed her job.
According to Digital Spy, their bankruptcy was not mentioned in the documentary, which could have been a major reason for the murders. Shanann & Chris “had filed for bankruptcy in 2015, with court documents showing that Chris was the main earner for the family at the time.”
The couple also had “credit card debt, student loan repayments, and outstanding medical bills.” In text messages discovered to be from Shanann, she said during her business trips, Chris would not call to check in very often, and when Shanann would return home, he had little interest in her.
This could be because he had begun a romantic relationship with Nichol Kessinger about a month before the murders occurred. According to Kessinger, Chris said that he was already separated from his wife. The prosecution’s argument against Chris was that he “murdered his wife and his children to start over with his new love interest.”
According to Digital Spy, Chris was arrested two days after his family’s disappearance due to his horrible scores on a polygraph test in which he participated. He continued to say he did not have an affair and that he had no involvement or knowledge of his family’s disappearance. Chris’s polygraph result was “an abysmal -18” which is ridiculously low considering a -4 is an indicator of when someone is lying.
American Murder: The Family Next Door showed some recordings of the polygraph test; however, much of it was missing. According to Hello! magazine, the test was shown in “a small amount of time” for timing purposes. The test actually lasted for “seven hours.”
Chris eventually confessed to the murders and revealed the locations of where he buried his wife & daughters. While Chris did consistently change his story even after pleading guilty, he would later confess to what supposedly happened.
According to Digital Spy, Chris originally claimed he had killed his wife and kids in a heat of the moment decision, but later “admitted in letters to Cheryln Cadle (later published as a book) that he had been planning it.”
American Murder: The Family Next Door is currently streaming on Netflix for those who want to find out all of the details on this case for themselves.