Nichol Kessinger was the mistress of married Colorado father Chris Watts when Watts murdered his wife, Shanann, and their two children, Celeste and Bella.
The crime is featured in a new Netflix show that describes the disintegrating marriage between Watts and his wife before the murders. Watts tried to blame the deaths of the girls on Shanann, saying he snapped and strangled her after she killed them, but prosecutors and a jury didn’t buy it. He’s serving life sentences without parole for all of the murders. Shanann was pregnant at the time of her death and the fetus also died.
The voluminous police file in the case contains details about Nichol Kessinger’s affair with Watts, and it also contains copies of some of their text messages. Some texts could not be recovered, but some were. You can read them below. Kessinger was not implicated in the deaths in any way.
“You know, it wasn’t fair to his family for him to have an affair. It wasn’t fair to me to have him lie to me and make me think that everything is going to plan and still to this day I don’t even know what’s a lie and what’s not,” Nichol told police, according to Decider.
She told the Denver Post she thought he was almost divorced when she met him and that he seemed thoughtful. She said they had just met. However, Google searches in police reports show she searched things like “marrying your mistress.” She didn’t know his wife was pregnant.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Text Messages Contain Flirtatious Banter
The police reports say that Chris Watts told authorities that he and Kessinger always talked about their day. Kessinger only knew about the disappearance by what she saw on the news. She didn’t know his wife was pregnant but she does now, he told authorities. He was scared to tell her about the pregnancy because he felt like Kessinger wouldn’t have gone on a date with him if she knew.
Chris said Kessinger knew he was married with kids. “Chris asked if we were going to talk to Kessinger and we said yes,” police wrote. He said she didn’t know he was going to kill his family. She just thought they were going too hang out more after he got his own place. He said “she genuinely liked me.” He begged the police not to put Kessinger’s name in the news because she had been through enough in her life.
Nichol told police about some of their activities before the murders. She went to Chris’s home to help him set up his diet and weight loss goals. It was the first time she was at his home. She went to the Colorado Rockies baseball game with him. He was always full of energy and didn’t need to sleep. He went to sleep at 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. and woke between 4:30 and 5. She recalled Chris would sometimes fall asleep during their conversations.
On August 11, 2018, shortly before the murders, Chris drove to her home in his Lexus. They went to the Lazy Dog Bar. After having a meal, they returned to Nichol’s home. Chris always paid for their meals using Anadarko gift cards (he was an oil worker for Anadarko). He was using the gift cards to hide their relationship. He did pay one time with a credit card, which made her feel he had nothing left to lose or didn’t care anymore if his wife knew.
Watts and Kessinger both worked at Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, which is where they met and started an affair about a month and a half before the murders.
According to the Denver Post, on the day Watts’ wife and kids vanished, he texted Kessinger that his family was “gone.” He said Shanann took the girls on a play date and didn’t come back and he “didn’t show any emotion.”
“When I read the news, I found out he was still married and his wife was 15 weeks pregnant,” Kessinger told the Denver Post. “I thought, ‘If he was able to lie to me and hide something that big, what else was he lying about?’ ”
Watts Said He Was Filing for Divorce
The police reports say Chris told Nichol he was filing for divorce. On another occasion, they went to a movie theater. They tried to see Jurassic Park but it was sold out, so they walked to a bench near Victoria’s secret and talked for two hours and then attended the 9 p.m. show.
They went to his house and then went to the Shelby mustang museum. They went to the Bandimere Speedway to watch the drag races. They ate lunch together. They went to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and tent camped.
On August 13, he said that his children’s sheets were smelly and commented about Shanann’s wedding ring. He said that Shanann was ok with their separation. She thought he was trying to repair his relationship prior to leaving with North Carolina, where he met Shanann who had been visiting family for five weeks. She thought Chris was lying about Shanann saying she was okay with the divorce/separation.
Nichol voiced some suspicions to Chris after his family went missing, the police reports say. She questioned why Celeste’s epi pen would have been left behind by Shanann. She felt it was ironic his wife was missing and he did not come to the office that day. He usually comes to the office location in the mornings. He told her he needed to go to the field to check on a release, a small oil leak. He wasn’t part of the environmental team, so that seemed odd too. He facetimed her on the evening of August 12. He was wearing a black wife beater t shirt and was laying on a mattress with no sheets on it.