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The horrific story of the Chris Watts murders is told through a gripping Netflix documentary. Here's what you should know before watching 'American Murder'.

Chris Watts Netflix doc: What to know about the murders before watching

On August 13, 2018, in the middle of the night in Frederick, Colorado, Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife Shanann Watts, their two young daughters Celeste & Bella, and their unborn son Nico. Chris disposed of the bodies at his worksite, Anadarko Petroleum, where he worked as an operator. 

The events leading up to the horrific familicide and what happened after are shown in Netflix’s new documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door. Here’s what you should know before watching. 

The last known footage of Shanann Watts

Shanann Watts was on a business trip and returned to her home in Colorado mere hours before her husband murdered her and their children. CNN released the video footage from the Watts family’s front door camera in February 2019. The last known footage of Shanann captured her walking into her house at 1:48 a.m. with her suitcase. 

Nickole Atkinson called the police

Shanann’s friend Nickole Atkinson was the last person outside of the immediate Watts family to see Shanann and the first person to call the police. The morning after the murder, Atkinson tried getting ahold of Shanann but was unable to. 

After no answer and knowing Shanann had missed her 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment, Atkinson drove to the Watts residence and noticed that Shanann’s car was in the garage with her daughters’ car seats. She called Shanann’s husband, Chris Watts, and asked him to come to the house because she was worried that Shanann may have suffered a medical episode and passed out. 

Atkinson told ABC News, “I knew [Chris Watts] had something to do with it the day I was at his house with him, but I didn’t want to think that.” 

The weight loss supplement

Shanann Watts worked as a promoter & advertiser for the marketing company Le-Vel. Le-Vel makes Thrive, a weight-loss supplement claiming to help boost energy and increase health overall. 

According to Oxygen, Chris was a regular user of Thrive and it’s patches. Chris observed that the patch DUO: BURN appeared to raise his heart rate. He said “I felt like I was working out all day even though I wasn’t.” 

After an investigator asked Chris if he felt like the patches changed him, he said, “I don’t really know. I just know I felt different on those than with any other patch. I could just go longer and longer each day and that was probably a bad thing. I don’t think I was probably sleeping more than three hours a night.” 

We don’t know how often he wore the patch or if he was wearing it during the murders

Chris Watts’s affair

Chris Watts had an affair with Nichol Kessinger during the weeks leading up to the Watts murders. According to a 2018 interview with The Denver Post, Kessinger stated she was led to believe that Chris was nearing the end of divorce proceedings with his wife. 

According to The Denver Post interview, Kessinger found out (through the news) the day Shanann Watts and her two daughters were reported missing the divorce was a lie and that Shanann was 15-weeks pregnant. She said that she suspected that Chris was to blame for his family’s disappearance because he was too calm and unemotional about the situation. She said that something “seemed off.” 

“It got to a point that he was telling me so many lies that I eventually told him that I did not want to speak to him again until his family was found,” Kessinger said. “With a pregnant woman and two children missing, I was going to do anything that I could.”

Failed polygraph test

Chris Watts met with investigators in the days following the disappearance of his wife & two daughters. Chris claimed that he had no idea where his family was.

Chris was given a polygraph test and asked a series of questions. It was determined he was lying about his knowledge of his family’s whereabouts. After being told that he failed the test, he asked to speak to his father. He confessed to his father that he strangled his pregnant wife but only because she had (allegedly) killed their daughters. 

Accusing his wife of killing their daughters

After confessing to his father, Chris then confessed to the authorities that he strangled his wife. He claimed that he only did so after seeing Shanann choking Celeste on a baby monitor while Bella was lying motionless on the bed. He said this happened after he told his wife he wanted a divorce. 

Chris continued to deny he was the one who killed his daughters. He did tell investigators he dumped the girls’ bodies in oil tanks at his job and buried their mother in a grave nearby. 

Five life terms

Chris ultimately pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and numerous other charges related to the deaths of his wife, two daughters, and unborn son in November 2018. According to CNN, Chris was facing the death penalty but instead took a plea deal that sentenced him to life in prison. 

Watts was ordered to serve five life terms without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder charges. The other prison terms were related to the tampering of dead bodies and the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. 

In an interview with CSI investigator Tammy Lee, Chris Watts eventually admitted how he killed his daughters. He said CeCe (Celeste) was first and then Bella. He confessed to putting a blanket over their heads and suffocating them before dumping their bodies into the oil tanks. Chris told Lee, “Everytime I close my eyes, I start to hear [Bella] say, ‘Daddy, no’, and that was it. I hear that every day.” 

You can watch American Murder: The Family Next Door on Netflix to learn more about this tragic & horrific event. 

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