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Why did murderer Chris Watts kill his pregnant wife?

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 Nickole Atkinson, who dropped Shanann off at her home at around 1:45 am. The next day would be a full one for Shanann, with an OB-GYN appointment to check on her pregnancy with the couple’s first boy, a work meeting, and time catching up with her girls after her trip.

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.

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  • How did this guy think he was going to get away with murder he had it planned what a freaking jerk plus his mother how dare her blame his wife he will burn in hell his daughters loved him so much its a awful thing rest in peace all of u you didnt deserve this

    May 10, 2020
    • He didn’t plan it.
      Honestly seems he snapped and killed the wife first in the heat of the moment(and by that I mean the moment to him was dealing with this new affair, but being stuck in this boring marriage with a wife engaged in MLMs). Once that was done, he was fully in fight of flight mode to find a resolution to what he now did. He’s gotta make the wife’s body disappear, and then what about his daughters…well the immediate solution popped into his head to make it seem like they just up and left by making all of them disappear. So he killed the kids too and tried to hide them.

      His failure is that he did it all in the heat of the moment making tons of mistakes and running it on the fly so to say, let alone that trying to commit such an act around people you are connected to on the 1st degree is nearly impossible to get away with.

      May 18, 2020
      • While I kind of agree with you on this, in terms of Chris Watts’ inability to plan the attack on his family out well enough to get away with it (even for a few days)–I think he was completely out of touch with himself. He seems to have very little ability to think introspectively and such a low level of emotional maturity that a “good plan” for anything would probably be impossible for him.
        Sure, he didn’t want to deal with an angry wife. Well, it’s not as if he couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag, should someone have put one on his head. I mean he could have “left for a pack of cigarettes” and just stonewalled his way out of all of his responsibilities as a father and a husband. Kind of the way a man in the 1940’s or 50’s is said to have used for a default for such escapes into a “new life” with a mistress (in case you are unfamiliar with the running to the store and never returning bit).
        So not dealing with an angry wife is a pretty weak excuse. If he really, really didn’t want anyone to look at him poorly or deal with anger, then he wouldn’t have decided to start *banging* Nicole Kessinger. (Rando co-worker.)
        And if he was bored with their sex life, he could have found a better way to deal with that–if he had given it a second or two of thought. A sex worker, for example, would not have created the on-going complication of emotional connection. Any adult can figure that one out.
        I think he had no idea about who he was. What he did or didn’t want. Little insight and emotional maturity, but perhaps he also has an incredibly low level of intelligence overall. Just my .02.
        Long story short, he appears to be an idiot IMHO.

        June 8, 2020
      • He did plan it, fully – he sent letters from prison explaining how and why he planned it.

        Look up the book ‘Letters From Christopher’. Way worse than he let on at first even at confession.

        June 18, 2020
  • What a horrible monster! He Murdered his own children. He deserves to die!

    May 17, 2020
  • He claims he is now a Christian after taking the lives of three beautiful living family members plus an unborn son, he will surely root in HELL, the devil will like his companionship!

    May 21, 2020
  • Who’s Chelsea? I think the author meant Celeste.

    June 3, 2020
    • Whoops! Thanks for catching the typo.

      June 24, 2020
  • He is definitely a narcissistic psychopath. Anyone who can kill one daughter in front of the other is completely devoid of empathy, conscience or even a soul for that matter. He is a classic case and fits it to a T.

    August 6, 2020
  • This man is evil and selfish. His wife did nothing for him to snap. He was 35yrs old, he knew that having sex with his wife could get her pregnant. You get a divorce, you do not kill your family! We Americans always make excuses for evil!

    August 27, 2020
  • Stop making excuses for evil. He could have gotten a divorce and moved on. Obviously, how he felt about a situation was more valuable than his daughters and his wife’s life. He had no mental issues, he was extremely selfish and that led to his evil actions.

    To kill your family because you want to be with someone else and/or collect insurance money is evil.

    September 21, 2020
  • He doesn’t deserve to be in jail, he needs death and a very slow painful death, evil pos doesn’t deserve to breathe , burn in hell you pathetic monster!!!

    September 22, 2020
  • This is so sad in society today!! The statics alone should be an awaking for all women!!! 3 woman a day get kill by an ex partner or partner in the USA alone!!! How many in the Whole WORLD daily!!!! I took Psychology in University and he sounds like one of those men that don’t want to have to pay child support and matrimonial support. So instead he did something so sadistic and EVIL just so he could start another life cause he was having an affair!!!! These men look perfect on the outside but are mental and selfish and have little care about anyone in their life. He only is serving 35 years for this crime ; he will be out at 71… I think he should never be let out and that he should ROT in JAIL forever… He took 4 precious lives, I don’t think he should be ever allowed any life unless its behind BARS!!!

    September 30, 2020
    • No he is never getting out, he got 5 life sentences, so he got 125 years. This monster will never see the light of day.

      December 31, 2020
  • why men and woman getting married and have children and kill them it so wrong. people should know the cost about have sex and lead to be pregnant and children. he must love watch kill his wife and kids now he had to heard his kids voice said ‘no daddy,

    October 6, 2020
  • Just because Chris did not plan it all out perfectly does not mean he didn’t plan it. He already admitted that he planned it out so there is really no debate there. Further, had he not done some planning he would have botched things much worse. I find it incredibly interesting how some focus on his inability to get away with it or how his marriage was”boring” and how he “messed it up” without even touching on the fact that he murdered his pregnant wife and 2 beautiful innocent daughters. All of them had a right to live out their lives!!! He was a coward. If his marriage was so “boring” then he should have grown a pair and been straight forward and honest about things, rather than string his wife along as well as his mistress.

    October 7, 2020
  • I think his mother is delusional how can she say the marriage toxic? she would say that wouldn’t she now her son is a pysco. I do think he snapped and maybe he should spend time in a mental hospital. he does though deserve what he gets. he wanted a clean break no debt no kids and no wife that was I suppose overbearing. but to do what he did nothing but, a coward.

    October 10, 2020
    • If he really had to kill someone in his family, he should have started (and ended) with his mother.

      October 23, 2020
  • Shannan was a psycho bully bitch from hell who tormented a gentle vulnerable man and drove him to actions completely out of character.

    August 8, 2021
  • How can you kill innocent girls that has nothing to do with anything and they only know how to play, to be loved,to say papa and mama.And his wife, why?Did she has an affair with another man?Is she not good enough for not supporting the family financially?Is she not good enough for giving love and caring to your daughters?

    August 21, 2022

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