Chris Watts was convicted two years ago of the murders of his wife Shanann, their two daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 2, and Shanann’s unborn baby boy. He is currently serving five life sentences in prison for the crimes. Ahead of the Netflix documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door, here’s what you need to know about Watts, including what he did for a living and how he was caught and charged with the crimes.
Chris Watts Was an Oil Field Worker But Was in Financial Trouble
According to CBS News, Watts started working for Anadarko Petroleum as an oil field operator about six months before the murders. His annual salary was just over $60,000. His wife Shanann worked in a call center at a children’s hospital, and their combined annual income was $90,000 in 2014. But at the time of the murders, they were $70,000 in debt on top of the sizable mortgage on their house, most of it credit card debt, plus some student loans and medical bills.
In June 2015, they had filed for bankruptcy and were due in court just days after the murders took place because their homeowner’s association was suing them for $1533.
Anadarko cut ties with Watts after he was arrested for the murders. They told CBS Denver in a statement, “We are heartbroken by this, and our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones and friends of the Watts family. We will continue to support law enforcement in its investigation.”
Watts Pleaded Guilty to the Murders as Part of a Plea Deal to Avoid the Death Penalty
Watts is currently serving five life sentences in prison for the murders of his wife and children — three are being served consecutively and two are being served concurrently — with no possibility for parole. He pleaded guilty in November 2018 as part of a deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.
According to a report from People from August 2020, Watts is on a 23-hour-a-day lockdown in prison. He is let out of his cell for one hour a day to exercise or shower. He has a Bible in his cell and has reportedly found religion while incarcerated.
A source told People, “He knows exactly what he did. He’s haunted by what he did. He says he can’t shake the memories of his family, and they haunt him. He is in his own psychological torment, every day of his life. He knows he deserves it. He knows that he made many mistakes in his life, and this is his punishment.”
A family friend named Kim, who requested her last name not be used, added, “He’s sad that everyone is hurting. He wishes he could go back in time. He wishes he had handled things differently.”
In November 2019, a different source previously told People that Watts found religion in jail and that “a day doesn’t go by … where he doesn’t think about his family. He’s in a hell of his own making.”
American Murder: The Family Next Door drops on Netflix on Wednesday, September 30.