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What motivated Chris Watts to kill his entire family? Delve into what motivates family annihilators and if they can be stopped.

Chris Watts murders: Why did he kill his own family?

There’s something especially chilling about family annihilators. Those individuals who just kill their entire family and don’t even appear the least bit sorry for it. From the Amityville murders to the Van Breda murders, they’re all equal parts chilling and horrifying. Because you’re supposed to love and trust your family, right? How could someone just kill their family like that? Without a second thought?

The Watts family murders are the most recent famous case of familicide. In 2018, Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife and two daughters in cold blood. The aftermath of it shocked and horrified the town of Frederick, Colorado, and the rest of the United States. Why did Watts do it? What kind of motive did he have to justify killing his entire family? Here’s what we know. 

The case

Here’s a basic refresher of the Watts family deaths for those of you who need a bit of a memory jog. On Aug. 13, 2018 at around 2am, Shannan Watts returned home from a business trip to Arizona. Later that same day, Shannan and her two daughters were reported missing by her friend and colleague, Nickole Utoft Atkinson after Shannan missed a doctor’s appointment and failed to return texts. 

Initially, Chris told authorities that he had no idea where his wife and daughters were. He said the last time he saw Shannan was when he left for work at 5:15am on Aug. 13. He gave interviews as well, begging for the return of his family. On Aug. 15, Watts was arrested after failing a polygraph test and confessing to the murders of his family. So why did he do it?

The motive, according to Chris Watts

Watts’ reason for killing his whole family: an affair. He, initially, said he only killed Shannan. How this testimony goes is that Watts asked for a separation from Shannan, who, in a fit of rage, strangled their daughters. In a similar rage induced state, Watts said that he strangled his wife and transported the bodies to a remote oil storage facility where he worked.

During this time, he was having an affair with his co-worker Nichol Kessinger, who was unaware that Chris Watts was still married. He told her that he and Shannan were in the process of divorcing.

The motive, according to others

This was where their bodies were discovered. The two little girls were found in oil tanks while Shannan was buried in a shallow grave nearby. During an appearance on Dr. Phil, the lawyer for Shannan Watts’ family said that he killed Shannan after an argument regarding divorce. That’s when one of his daughters walked in, where he claimed Shannan was sick. He loaded Shannan’s body and his two daughters into his truck.

After this, he smothered his daughters with a blanket he kept in there. Either way, Watts’ stories remained that it was a talk about divorce that got too far out of hand. But his case is different from other cases of family annihilators as well, according to Dr. Neil Websdale in an interview with the Rolling Stone. Usually, family annihilators will kill themselves after killing their families.

He said on the Watts case, “I think the fact that he didn’t commit suicide…may speak to this aggressive, narcissistic kind of personality, which says that he thinks he may be able to get away with this. It speaks to the fact that he’s very very much self-centered and [felt] entitled to do these things.”

He added, “The research is clear: these guys have secret lives, to be candid. They fantasize. They plan. They strategize, sometimes. They keep it to themselves. Bearing that in mind is important.”

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  • I think what it was is that Shannan Watts was, just as we can see about the other members of her family, a very aggressive kind of person – a typical ‘suuccessful’ person, arrogant and business-minded, and like her family, vengeful. Chris Watts also must have a personality disorder that he must have kept under control for the longest time, till the dam burst and he killed the woman in a fit of rage. The face of his two girls must have reminded him of their mother and since she was very close to her family, the girls must have spent a lot of time with them and he might have already seen them to be growing just like their mother, and decided to kill off all of them.
    Of course he must have had some personlaity deficiency. Otherwise, he would have just walked away from the lot of them, instead of landing himself in such hot water.
    But the fact that both his parents and his sister have so much affection for him even after the terrible deed he has done and the fact that they and everybody who knew him are shocked that he could do such a thing, shows that he was not evil to begin with.
    Often in life, evil people inspire other people to do very evil things that they themselves are too clever to do.

    February 14, 2021
    • good of you to clear that up and to place the blame where it truly belongs. because how could any guy not want to kill his bossy wife? or his potentially bossy children? do you think it will happen more often now that you have given it your blessing?

      October 2, 2021
  • You have to understand the Narcissist to understand Watts rationalism/reasoning , Watts had grown disenchanted with himself as his married self,-the reality of a real relationship with a real wife, real children, real responsibilities lost its appeal, as Watt’s himself discovered the role required him to be real, as opposed to just being this picture perfect image of perfect husband, perfect wife, perfect kids.
    Watts wanted rid of himself as Watts as married Watts as a Dad (as reality of real life married man did not correspond with Watt’s projected image of the perfect self/identity as Watts needs to perceive himself to be.

    Watts needs to erase this image as he needs to replace it with his new “perfect” self/identity. Watts now perceives himself as the guy he portrays to his new love interest-this really kind, caring, loving , misunderstood guy whom has suffered at the hands of the” wife from hell”, Watts really believes himself as being the person his girlfriend believes him to be.

    Narcissists are fantasists, self deluded & need constant supply of adulation/adoration.

    Narcissists cant deal with anything that does not share/dwell in their Narcissist fantasy world-They reject/dismiss immediately anything/anyone whom does not engage in the fantasy especially anything/anyone whom even hints that they regard him as him and not as the fantasy him.
    the reality of WHO they actually are

    May 31, 2021
  • I agree Chris must have some personality disorder, but not narcissism. Look at Trump and Meghan Markle who are classic narcissists. They need a lot of attention, have to be right, control others, react to criticism with rage. Chris was self centered in the murders and lacked empathy for his family, but that can be part of other disorders. He was bossed around by his wife for years and seemingly took it silently. Shannan was the attention seeker on social media. She filmed virtually most of her life to show others with her narration on every single video. I just don’t see mild manner men obedient men as narcissists nor matching the criteria for the disorder. There are killers who kill and are selfish about it and feel justified, and lie to get away with it. But they are not all narcissists.

    July 9, 2021
  • I was living with a selfish man.become violent when i said to him he is no s a poor normal people.

    November 10, 2021

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