New Report Details Most Bizarre Evidence From Chris Watts Family Murder Case
The discovery documents portray the stark reality of a family falling apart, and a 33-year-old man who decided murdering three innocent people was the easiest way out of his marriage and life as a father.
WELD COUNTY, CO — Details of how Chris Watts murdered his family in August shocked the nation when they began trickling out, but a massive cache of discovery documents recently released by the Weld County District Attorney’s Office and other reports paint an even more chilling portrait of the convicted killer who is now sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Before Chris was arrested for killing his wife, Shanann, 34; their two daughters, Bella, 4; and Celeste, 3; and unborn son, loved ones tried not to imagine the worst had happened after the mom and children vanished from the Watts’ family home in Frederick, Colorado.
“Anyone in their right mind will start piecing things together and think something had happened, but you don’t want to go there,” explained Nickole Atkinson, the coworker who, following a work trip, dropped Shanann off at home just before 2 A.M. on Monday, August 13. “You want to believe the best in people.”
Unfortunately, the discovery documents portray the stark reality of a family falling apart, and a 33-year-old man who decided murdering three innocent people was the easiest way out of his marriage and life as a father.
The over-2,000-page report detailed how later the same day she brought her home, Atkinson called cops before 2 P.M. and asked them to do a welfare check because the mom failed to answer texts and missed a doctor’s appointment scheduled for 10 A.M.
The Frederick Police Department headed to the Watts’ house to investigate. Chris gave authorities permission to search the residence, where they found the missing woman’s purse and phone. An officer noted: "Shannan's mother called during this time and was adamant that Christopher had done something, and that I needed to check the GPS on his truck."
"She and her husband believe that her daughter and granddaughters' disappearance involved ‘foul play,’ and that she honestly believes that her son-in-law was involved,” stated the documents. Shanann’s concerned mom also told detectives she found it odd Chris was saying he “had to go to work” — despite his wife and kids’ disappearance. She noted his behavior was “weird and out of the ordinary.”
That same afternoon, a Frederick policeman’s body cam recorded an exchange that showed loved ones had reason to believe Chris was hiding something. In the footage, Chris can be seen at his neighbor’s house, where the neighbor is showing him and the officer surveillance video captured early the morning Shanann and the girls disappeared.
“This is him at 5:17 [A.M.],” the neighbor told the officer, pointing out Chris loading something into his pickup truck, which he had backed up to his garage.
While Chris watched the surveillance film, he appeared visibly nervous and upset — sweating, swaying back and forth, and fidgeting. He explained he had to load tools into the vehicle. He then turned away from the TV with his mouth open before putting his hands on top of his head. “What else can I do with this?” he asked.
When Chris left the neighbor’s house, the man pointed out to the officer that Chris “is not acting right.” He added: “To be completely honest with you, my wife and I were kind of wondering when [Shanann] was on vacation, if something happened ’cause I’ve heard them full-out screaming at each other at the top of their lungs and it gets crazy.”
The following day, August 14, Chris pleaded on camera for the safe return of his family. “If you’re out there, just come back. If somebody has her, just please bring her back,” he told 9NEWS. "I need to see everybody. I need to see everybody again. This house is not complete without anybody here.”
During the investigation, showed the report, Chris began to open up about the state of his and Shanann’s marriage and that when his wife traveled to see family in North Carolina for five weeks that summer, he went for a short visit, but "there was a disconnect and they fell out of love for each other.”
“He said when they were together again the last week it just wasn't the same,” continued the report. “Chris felt like they weren't in love anymore. Chris said he could never be himself or be who he was before he met her.”
Police gained access to Shanann’s phone, which showed just how deep the cracks in the couple’s marriage ran. In one text exchange with a friend, Taylor, Shanann, who was 15-weeks pregnant with Chris’ baby, said she canceled a gender-reveal party because after her husband visited in North Carolina and returned to Colorado he “said we are not compatible anymore.”
“He refused to hug me. Said he thought another baby would fix his feelings. Said he refused couples counseling!” she texted the friend, adding her husband told her their relationship changed because “he had a lot of time to think.”
He had also met someone new. Nichol Kessinger, 30, told The Denver Post that from the start, Chris led her to believe a divorce from Shanann was nearly final.
The two first crossed paths because Kessinger was working with Chris’ employer, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, and one day Chris, who wasn’t wearing his wedding ring, came up and introduced himself. “When he spoke to me, he was very soft spoken. He appeared to be a good listener,” she noted of their exchanges.
In early July, she and Chris began their physical relationship. Toward the end of the month, while he was away in North Carolina, he phoned Kessinger with the news his divorce had been finalized and he was moving to an apartment.
The discovery documents displayed just how smitten Chris had become with his new mistress.
On July 25, Chris Googled: “When to say I love you for the first time in a new relationship,” as well as, “What do you feel when someone tells you they love you,” and “How does it feel when someone says I love you.”
CrimeOnline reported Watts sent Kessinger multiple cards and love notes, which were documented in the discovery report, during their brief fling. “Your energy is so insane,” he wrote in a birthday card to her. “You heat me up, you make me melt, and then you cool me down like rain.”
On July 30, two weeks before he killed his wife and kids, Chris again admitted the depth of his feelings for Kessinger in a handwritten letter.
“Wow, where do I even start? The first day I saw you, you took my breath away. The first day I had the guts to talk to you, I got lost in those stunning green eyes,” he wrote. “The first day we hung out in the park together, I knew I was addicted. The first time we kissed, I knew I had met the most amazing, unique, and electric woman EVER!! We have a lot of firsts together, Nikki, and I want to keep having them with you!!”
The notes, texts, calls, and romantic dates convinced Kessinger that Chris was a good person. “He made me believe that he was doing all of the things that a rational man and good father would do,” she said.
But when Chris’ family disappeared on August 13, she revealed, they texted back and forth throughout the day, and he fed her the same excuse he initially would try to pass off to police: His wife took the kids and went to a friend’s house for a play date.
As the situation began to slowly unfold into the evening hours, Kessinger said she texted and called Chris and questioned him about everything from the true state of his marriage to if there were signs of a break-in at his home.
“It seemed off,” she told The Denver Post. “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.”
On August 15, according to an arrest affidavit, Chris told investigators “he would tell the truth after speaking with his dad.” Watts at first tried to claim that when he told Shanann he wanted a separation, she killed their daughters. He then “went into a rage,” he claimed, and strangled her to death in retaliation.
Three days after the murders, on August 16, police discovered Shanann’s body in a shallow grave and the girls stuffed inside nearby oil tanks on the grounds of Watts’s former employer, Anadarko Petroleum.
In order to escape the death penalty, Chris finally pleaded guilty to killing his family on November 6.
“This is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases I have seen,” Judge Marcelo Kopcow of Colorado’s 19th Judicial District Court said at Chris’ November 19 sentencing. “Nothing less than a maximum sentence would be appropriate.” He ordered Chris to serve five life sentences with no possibility of parole.
One of Chris’ friends, Kris Landon, told People she “never saw this coming” and once believed “that his entire life was those girls, and that he would die for them.”
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever dreamt such a horrific nightmare and just plain heartbreaking tragedy would ever happen to my regular [ole] happy family,” Shanann’s brother, Frank Rzucek Jr., wrote on Facebook. “We lost so much in a blink of an eye…”