Trigger warning: contains graphic details of murder that some readers may find distressing.
To the people around them, Chris Watts was a doting husband and a devoted father. Even his wife, Shanann, would often praise him for being the ideal family man.
Months before his wife’s murder, Shanann wrote on Facebook about Chris, “He’s my rock! He takes care of us girls unconditionally! Thank you baby for holding down the fort this weekend! Love you,” as quoted by The Sun. There was nothing that led Shanann to foresee that her husband would carry out the cold-blooded murders of his wife and children.
On the night when Chris murdered his pregnant wife, his daughters, and his unborn son, he got into a fight with Shanann. And he told her that he had been cheating on her.
“She and Chris had got into a fight. They made up. They were getting along really well. Later on, they got into a fight again,” said Steven Lambert, the lawyer representing Shanann’s family, according to Mirror. “In that fight he essentially confessed to having an affair, that he wanted a divorce. That it was pretty much over between them, and she had said something to the effect of, ‘well you’re not going to see the kids again.’ As a consequence of that conversation he strangled her to death.”
While Chris was wrapping up the dead body of his pregnant wife, his older daughter, 4-year-old Bella walked into the room and “knew something was up,” the lawyer said.
“What are you doing to mummy?” the little girl asked Chris.
From prison, Chris spoke to investigators about the moment where Bella walked into the room, according to ABC7. Chris recalled, “I was just getting the sheet off the bed and she walked in, and she had her little pink blanket with her. She was like, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong with mommy?'”
“She started crying a little bit, was like, ‘what’s wrong with mommy?” Chris added.
After wrapping up the corpse, Chris loaded the car with Shanann’s body along with his two daughters before driving 45 minutes to an oil field, reported Mirror. Bella kept begging her father to take her mother to the hospital but her pleas didn’t help.
At the oil field, the little girl witnessed her father ruthlessly murder her three-year-old sister, Celeste by smothering her with her favorite blanket.
“He walks over and takes Cece’s favorite blanket and smothers her. At that point, Bella says: ‘Please, daddy, do not do to me what you just did to Cece,'” Lambert said.
Bella tried to escape and even managed to unbuckle herself but she failed to free herself. She wound up being another victim at the hands of her father.
Once the bodies of the pregnant wife and children were found, the toxicology report showed that Bella tried to fight back, according to Daily Star. The little girl bit her tongue as her father suffocated her, and even though she tried, her tiny body couldn’t fight him off.
Initially, after Shanann and the girls were reported missing, Chris feigned concern and publically begged for their safe return. But eventually, the man pleaded guilty to murdering them along with their unborn son, Nico in August, 2018. Against him were five counts of first-degree murder, three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, and one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy. Chris pleaded to all nine of those counts, as reported by NBC News.
In November, 2018, Chris was given five life sentences and is currently held at a maximum-security prison in Wisconsin. The case received massive attention across the country and the story has been turned into a Netflix show called American Murder: The Family Next Door.
When Chris later talked to investigators about the murders, he spoke about his children and the nightmare he put them through, according to ABC7. “Those are my kids, that’s my baby, I talk to them every night,” Chris said. “I don’t see how this could happen. Every time I see pictures of them I don’t know how this could have happened… Couldn’t have I just saved my girls’ life? Couldn’t I have done something? Why did I…I don’t know. Like this is my flesh and blood, this what…like, what I wanted all my life is to be a dad, to have kids and they love me… Nothing made sense. Like the oil tank, nothing made sense.”