Newly released investigative documents have shed new light on the case of a father who strangled his wife and their two young daughters.
Christopher Lee Watts, 33, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for murdering his pregnant wife Shanann, their daughters four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste, and unborn son Nico.
Watts pleaded guilty to killing his family on the night of August 12 in their in Frederick, Colorado home.
Now more than 2,000 pages of documents about the case from the Weld County District Attorney’s Office have been released to CBS4 News through a public records request.
The documents include chilling text messages between Watts and Shanann discussing their crumbling marriage, and an interview with Watts’ alleged mistress, Nichol Kessinger.
Christopher Lee Watts, 33, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for murdering his pregnant wife and their children. New documents shed light on the case
Watts killed his pregnant wife Shanann, their daughters four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste, and unborn son Nico. Text messages indicate the relationship was frayed
Watts’ alleged mistress, Nichol Kessinger (above) claimed that his financial troubles were the main catalyst for the murders. Prosecutors say he wanted to start a new life with her, though
Kessinger told investigators that Watts and his wife ‘did not get along well and their financial life was also troubling,’ investigators wrote.
‘She said Chris was struggling with finances and now he had a third kid on the way and she does not know if he could afford another kid,’ the report said.
‘Shanann was not responsive to this financial trouble. Nichol said Chris always told her he wanted a third child and wanted a boy.’
Kessinger said that while she doesn’t believe her affair with Watts was the catalyst for the murders, it may have ‘accelerated the process.’ She told them that ‘money is the biggest catalyst for this event happening.’
Prosecutors disagree, though, believing that Watt’s motive for the murder was his desire to start a new life with Kessinger, whom he had been secretly dating for about two months.
May 29, 2018
Shanann films a video revealing to Watts that she is pregnant for a third time. It doesn’t seem to reveal any sign of problems in the relationship.
Investigators write: ‘Shanann began filming in the kitchen of 2825 Saratoga Trail. she stepped in front of the camera briefly to show off her shirt with the embossed words, ‘Oops… we did it again.’ When she stepped out of the camera’s view Dieter (the family dog) ran off to welcome Watts entering the home.
‘As Watts walked into the kitchen, he halted mid stride and stared in Shanann’s direction. His confused expression transformed into a grin and he walked to her saying, ‘We did it again.’
‘When Watts returned in view of the camera he is holding a pregnancy test and they discuss the positive result. Watts leaned in, kissed Shanann and, with a large grin, says, ‘l guess when you want to, it happens – Wow.”
Kessinger told police that Watts was struggling with finances, and that she did not know if he could afford another kid.
The video was posted to Facebook on June 11.
July 6: Shanann and Bella are seen during a trip to North Carolina without Watts
In late June, Shanann traveled to North Carolina with daughters Bella and Celeste for a six-week trip visiting Watts’ and her own parents.
Watts joined them for only one week of the trip.
Text messages between the married couple over the five weeks they were apart indicate that relations between Shanann and her in-laws were frayed.
‘Shanann discussed how Watts’ mother gave Celeste ice cream with nuts in the ingredients,’ investigators wrote, summarizing the messages.
‘Shanann felt this was done in defiance of Shanann’s warnings of Celeste’s food allergies.
‘Shanann told Watts, ‘You should call your dad and tell him you did not appreciate your mom putting your daughter at risk today, nor do you like that she teased our girls.
‘You should also say you don’t appreciate her saying they have to learn they can’t always get what they want! (Referring to ice cream) they are 2 and 4!’
The couple had been apart for nearly a month now, with Shanann and the children in North Carolina visiting Watts’ parents.
At 6.02pm, Shanann texted Watts: ‘l realized during this trip what’s missing in our relationship! lt’s only one way emotions and feelings. I can’t come back like this. I need you to meet me halfway. You don’t consider others at all, nor think about others feelings.’
Watts replied that he was sorry and he loved her.
Shanann responded: ‘l try to give you space, but while you are working and living the bachelor life l’m carrying our 3rd and fighting with our two kids daily and trying to work and make money. lt’s not hard texting love you and miss you. lf you don’t mean it then I get it, but we need to talk. I kept looking at my phone all night and no response from you. Like seriously! We didn’t just start dating yesterday! We’ve been together 8 years and have 2.5 kids together.’
Shanann and her daughters are seen on July 29 during a six-week visit to North Carolina
Two days before Shanann and the girls returned to Colorado, her texts with Watts indicate things were not going well in the relationship.
10.34pm: Shanann texts Watts: ‘Being away from you, it’s not the help I missed because I handle that. lt was exhausting, but with school that’s not hard. I missed the smell of you, you touching me when l’m cooking, you touching me in bed, you touching me period! I missed holding you and snuggling with you. I missed eating with you, watching tv with you. I missed staring at you, I missed making love with you. I missed everything about you. I couldn’t wait to touch you, hold you, kiss you, make love to you, smell you, laugh with you. I couldn’t wait to celebrate 8 years with you… lf you are done, don’t love me, don’t want to work this out, not happy anymore and only staying because of kids, I NEED you to tell me.’
11.00pm: Shanann asked Watts: ‘Would you stay with me if we didn’t have kids?’
11.09pm: Shanann asked Watts, ‘l just don’t get it. You don’t fall out of love in 5 weeks.’
Minutes later she pondered, ‘How can you sleep? Our marriage is crumbling in front of us and you can sleep.’
August 7 to 12: The murders
Shanann and the girls returned to Colorado on August 7. Her last post on social media was around 4.30pm on August 9.
On August 10, Shanann traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona for a work event, leaving the two young girls behind with Watts.
A photo taken by a friend shows her at a group dinner at Yard House in Scottsdale on August 11. She returned to Colorado the following day.
Shanann (second from right) is seen on August 11 in a group photo with coworkers during a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona. Watts murdered her late the night of the following day
The murders took place late the night of August 12 or early August 13. Watts wrapped Shanann’s body in a fitted sheet and buried her in a shallow grave on the property of the oil and gas company where he worked, investigators said.
The bodies of daughters Bella and Celeste were found in an oil tank near the grave on August 15.
The report graphically details how the bodies of the girls were recovered from the oil tank.
‘During a respite following the murder of his family, and disposing of their bodies at a desolate well site, Watts searched Google for the lyrics to ‘Battery’ by Metallica,’ the report says.
The lyrics include the lines: ‘lunacy has found me – Cannot stop the battery – Pounding out aggression – Turns into obsession – Cannot kill the battery – Cannot kill the family.’
The following day, Watts gave a television interview making a national appeal for his family’s safe return.
Christopher Lee Watts, 33, gave the above interview on Tuesday, pleading for the safe return of his wife and daughters. Police say he confessed to their murders the following day
Frederick Police administered a polygraph test to Watts.
Investigators say he came to the test in loose clothing and was wearing no wedding ring.
The polygraph test indicated Watts was lying, and the tester confronted Watts with the deception. After a long conversation, Watts admitted to killing his wife, but insisted that she had killed the girls. He admitted to putting the girls in the oil tanks.
Watts was arrested and charged with all three murders.
Investigators searched the phone of Kessinger, who was having an affair with Watts. They found searches for sexual videos and positions, and hours’ worth of searches for ‘Shanann Watts.’
After the murders police say Kessinger searched for ‘can cops trace text messages’, and made multiple searches for Amber Frey, the mistress of convicted murderer Scott Peterson.
She searched whether ‘people hate Amber Frey’ and researched Frey’s subsequent book deal.
Watts’ father Ronnie told investigators that his son ‘described Shanann as controlling, narcissistic and possible bi-polar,’ though he had not seen any verbal of physical altercations between his son and Shanann.
Watts accepted a plea deal earlier this month to avoid facing the death penalty.
He was sentenced to three life terms in prison, without the possibility of parole.
FBI interview with friend of murder victim Shanann Watts
The following is an FBI summary of an unclassified interview with a friend of Shanann Watts, who detailed specific relationship issues she was having with husband Chris Watts before he killed her:
‘Shanann also said there was an incident involving Chris’s mother involving ice cream. All the grandkids were over at the house and the girls wanted ice cream, however, Celeste is allergic. One of the other children got ice cream with peanuts, and Celeste asked for some. When Chris’s mom said no, and [sic] argument between Shanann and Chris’s mom ensued about Shanann coddling Celeste and about the treatment of her kids in general.
‘Chris flew to North Carolina to join the family during the last week there. Chris was very distant. He didn’t run to her and kiss her at the airport when they picked him up. Chris was not interested in taking pictures together, which was very unusual. At certain times, Chris didn’t want to hug her, and told her he didn’t want to. Chris was not communicating and Shanann felt lost.
‘While in North Carolina, Celeste had a birthday party. Chris’s mother and father didn’t show up, and also didn’t text Shanann or Chris. Since that time, Chris started to get distant from Shanann. Shanann thought Chris’s parents loved the other grandkids more than Celeste and Bella. It was a burden for them to talk to Celeste and Bella. Chris’s parents also did not attend Shanann’s and Chris’s wedding. Chris told Shanann that Shanann was putting a barrier between Chris and his dad.
‘Chris told Shanann that they were no longer compatible. Chris told her he didn’t want the baby; he just wanted it to be the two girls. Chris told her he wasn’t sure if he wanted a third child. Shanann asked Chris why he wanted another child if he felt that way about her. He said he thought it would fix the relationship. … Prior to the North Carolina trip, Shanann and Chris were both happy, and Chris was excited about the baby.
‘Chris said he was considering separating from Shanann. Shanann asked Chris to see a therapist but he refused. Shanann was 100% against separation. Chris wouldn’t talk to her.’