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Would Chris Watts have confessed to killing his wife and children if it weren't for his neighbor? Discover how Watts' neighbors figured him out.

‘American Murder: The Family Next Door’ attempts to explain Chris Watts

The Watts Family Murders occurred in the early morning hours of August 13, 2018, in Frederick, Colorado. While being interviewed by police, Chris Watts admitted to murdering his pregnant wife Shan’ann Cathryn Watts by strangulation. He later admitted to smothering their daughters, four-year-old Bella & three-year-old Celeste. 

After killing them, Watts disposed of his daughters’ bodies in oil tanks and buried his wife in a shallow grave at his work-site. He pleaded guilty on November 6, 2018, to multiple counts of first-degree murder as part of a plea deal when the death penalty was removed from sentencing. Watts was sentenced to five life sentences without the possibility of parole. 

The horrific death of Chris Watts’s wife & daughters made sensational headlines across the nation. However, it took the keen observations of Watts’s next door neighbor Nate Trinastich and the help of security footage to secure Watts’s confession.

Two tapes in one

Trinastich caught Watts on his security camera the morning of the so-called disappearance of his wife & daughters. The video was played for Watts by police, resulting in a reaction that the neighbor thought was unusual. In the video footage, Watts can be seen moving his truck from its usual parking spot, he explained it was “easier to lug everything with all the tools I had to bring in.”

Watts also said that he was loading the truck in the early morning hours because he was preparing for a busy workday. But Trinastich told police that Watts was “not acting right.” Trinastich said Watts was acting “fidgety” and “rocking back and forth” during the viewing. He then insisted that the police watch the video footage again, saying, “Watch. You’ll see him get out and then he walks back and forth a couple of times.”

Dr. Oz observes

Trinastich later explained on an episode of Dr. Oz that Watts’ movements – unintentionally captured on the security footage Trinastich had set up for his own home – struck him as unusual for multiple reasons.

“He was loading tools, but I thought that was a little bit odd because I had never seen him really back the truck into the driveway ever. He always parked it out front, so I definitely thought it was kind of odd.” Trinastich also thought it was unusual that Watts appeared to be loading things into the cab of the truck rather than the back of the vehicle.

Bizarre behavior

Even more so, it was Watts’s behavior hours later in Trinastich’s home that heightened the neighbor’s suspicions further. Watts was pacing back and forth, putting his hands on his head, and appeared to be nervous during the playback of the video for police.

“The other thing I thought that was definitely weird was he wasn’t watching the footage at all,” Trinastich told Dr. Oz. “He would look at it for a second then go back to his phone, or look at it for a second and then look away. And if my family was missing, I would be glued to that TV 100 percent to see if I could see absolutely anything.”

Barrister bares all

Watts gave an interview to police from a Wisconsin prison on Feb. 18, 2019 reportedly, after finding religion while incarcerated. Steven Lambert, the attorney for Shan’ann Watts’s family, then went on Dr. Phil to talk about what Watts had said. During the televised interview, Lambert disclosed that Chris Watts strangled his wife after revealing to her that he was having an affair with a coworker and wanted a divorce. 

“And she had said something to the effect of, ‘Well, you’re not gonna see the kids again.’ As a consequence of that conversation, he strangled her to death,” Lambert said on the show.

Lambert also revealed that Watts’s four-year-old daughter, Bella, saw Watts preparing to move Shan’ann’s body, “and what he said was that, ‘Mommy is sick, we need to take her to the hospital to make her better.’” Watts then took the girls into his truck and smothered them before burying them in an oil drum.

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