The new Netflix doc ‘American Murder: The Family Next Door’ chronicles the Watts family murder case. Shanann Watts was brutally murdered, along with her toddler daughters, by her own husband and the father of her children in 2018.
The murder of Shanann Watts, 34, her two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, and her unborn son at the hands of her husband, Chris Watts, 35, shocked the world in 2018. The new Netflix documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door examines the harrowing police investigation and the disintegrating marriage of Shanann and Chris. Through social media posts, law enforcement recordings, text messages, and never-before-seen home videos, the documentary seeks to give a voice to the victims of this senseless tragedy.
1. Shanann Watts was murdered by her husband, Chris Watts, on Aug. 13, 2018. Chris strangled his wife with his hands in their Colorado home, and then suffocated his toddler daughters, Bella and Celeste. During his trial in Nov. 2018, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said Bella fought back against her father, according to CNN. After killing his pregnant wife and daughters, he transported the bodies to a work site and buried his wife in a shallow grave. He stuffed his daughters into oil tanks. Shanann was reported missing by a friend on Aug. 13, and Chris initially pleaded for the return of his wife and daughters.
He was arrested on Aug. 15 and confessed to murdering Shanann. Chris initially claimed that he killed Shanann after she murdered their daughters. In Nov. 2018, Chris pleaded guilty to nine charges, including three counts of first-degree murder and unlawful termination of a pregnancy. He was eventually sentenced to five life sentences with no possibility of parole, as well as additional 48 years for the unlawful termination of Shanann’s pregnancy and 36 more years for crimes related to his disposal of the bodies.
2. She was pregnant with her third child when she was murdered. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant with a baby boy at the time of her murder. The baby died along with Shanann. She had already named her baby boy Nico Lee, according to her obituary.
3. Chris was having an affair with another woman before he killed Shanann. In Chris’ arrest affidavit, an “investigation revealed Chris was actively involved in an affair with a co-worker which he denied in previous interviews.” The woman’s name was not initially released, but Nichol Kessinger eventually spoke out about her affair with Chris. They met through work, and she claimed he had told her he was in the final stages of his divorce proceedings with Shanann. In Feb. 2019, Chris sat down with investigators for an interview. Chris claimed that he never told Shanann about his affair with Nichol but Shanann had said on the day she was murdered that she knew “there was someone else.” Chris said he denied the affair but told Shanann that he didn’t think their marriage would work out. After Chris told Shanann that he didn’t love her, she told him: “You’re never gonna see the kids again.” He killed her soon after.
4. Shanann was told she couldn’t have kids. Before she met Chris, Shanann was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease. Chris was by her side through her health struggles. “I was told I couldn’t have kids, you know, and here I have two amazing, crazy, wild children I love dearly,” Shanann said in a Facebook Live video in May 2018, just 3 months before she was murdered. Shanann and Chris welcome their first daughter, Bella, in 2013 and their second daughter, Celeste, in 2015. Shanann’s obituary said she was thrilled when she got pregnant with Celeste. “Oh how Shan’ann was so excited to be able to have another child because of her battle with lupus. She was determined to stay healthy and with her love for her Celeste, every moment with her was a blessing,” part of the obituary read.
5. She met Chris on Facebook. In the midst of her “health challenges,” she met Chris. “My friend sent me a friend suggestion for him,” Shanann said in her Facebook video. “It was actually his cousin’s wife, and I deleted it. I was like, ‘I’m not interested. I don’t want to meet a guy. Buh bye.’ So I deleted her friend suggestion for him. I was diagnosed two months later, and I went through one of the, I would say, darkest times of my life because things just got scarier.” After she continued to suffer health problems and quit her job, she got a friend request from Chris and accepted it. “One thing led to another and 8 years later we have 2 kids, we live in Colorado, and he is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Shanann said about Chris. “Because of my health challenges, because I got so sick, I let him in… He knew me at my worst, and he accepted me.”