A Colorado man accused of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters told police he strangled his wife in a fit of “rage” after she killed their the girls because he told her he wanted a separation, according to a police affidavit released Monday.
Chris Watts was formally charged with three counts of murder Monday in the deaths of his wife, Shanann Watts, and their daughters Celeste and Bella, ages 3 and 4. Their bodies were found last week submerged in oil tanks on the property of the business where he previously worked near their home in Frederick, Colorado.
According to the affidavit, Watts initially told police he did not know what happened to his wife and daughters after they were reported missing. But he later said he “would tell the truth.” Watts, 33, then told investigators he told Shanann that he wanted a separation after she returned home from a work trip to Arizona about 2 a.m. on August 13. Police said in the affidavit that an investigation had uncovered Chris Watts had been having an affair with a co-worker.
Chris Watts told police that he walked downstairs after telling his wife he wanted a separation and then went back to his bedroom to talk to her. He said he saw via a baby monitor that his wife was “actively strangling Celeste.” He said his other daughter, Bella, was “sprawled” out on her bed and was blue. Chris Watts said he “went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death.
Watts told police he then “loaded all three bodies onto the back seat of his work truck and took them to an oil work site.” He told police he buried Shanann near two oil tanks and dumped the girls inside the oil tanks.
In the affidavit, Frederick Police said they began investigating the disappearance of Shanann Watts and her daughters about 1:30 p.m. on August 13 when they received a call from her friend, Nickole Utoft, who had dropped her off at the Saratoga Trail home where she lived with her husband about 1:45 a.m. after they returned from the trip to Arizona.
She told police Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant and was not feeling well during the trip, so she was concerned for her health because Shanann was not answering her phone calls and messages and did not go to a doctor’s appointment at 10 a.m. Police said Utoft went to Shanann’s home and found her car in the garage, but no one answered the door. She called police.
When the police arrived, officers checked the windows and doors of the home and determined they were all locked with no way into the house. An officer called Chris Watts and asked for the code to the outside garage door key pad. He said it didn’t work and that he was only five minutes away. When he got to the home, the officer went inside with his consent and tried to find Shanann and the girls, but found they were not there, according to the affidavit.
Police said Chris Watts told them Shanann had come home about 2 a.m. from her work trip and when he woke up at 5 a.m., they began talking about marital separation and he said he informed her he wanted to “initiate the separation,” according to the affidavit. “Chris stated it was a civil conversation and they were not arguing but were emotional,” according to the affidavit.
He said about 5:27 a.m. he backed up his truck to the garage, loaded up his tools and left for work, leaving Shanann in bed. According to the affidavit, a neighbor’s surveillance video system showed that occurring. He told police Shanann had told him she was going to a friend’s house later in the day with their kids, but he said he didn’t know her name. Police began searching the house about 2:35 p.m. and found Shanann’s cell phone, purse, wallet and medication inside. A suit case was also found at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the upstairs bedroom, police said.
Police said in the affidavit that the bedding in the upstairs bedroom had been stripped and was on the floor. Detectives checked it for foul play, but found nothing, according to the affidavit. The investigators again asked Chris Watts to walk through when he last saw her. He told them she returned home about 1:45 a.m. and about 4 a.m. he told her he wanted a separation. He told police they were both “upset and crying” at that point.
After talking to Watts, a neighborhood canvas was conducted. When Shanann Watts and the girls had not returned by August 14 at 7 a.m., police issued a press release asking for the public’s help in finding her and called for assistance from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. During a two-day investigation, police said they learned Chris Watts had been having an affair with a co-worker, which he had denied in previous interviews, according to the affidavit.
It was then that Chris Watts asked to speak with his father, who was present at the police station, telling the investigators he would “tell the truth” after speaking with him. Investigators allowed him to talk with his father, and Chris Watts then confessed to killing Shanann, but claimed he did it after seeing her strangling their daughter.
You can read the full affidavit below:
Chris Watts attorneys filed a motion over the weekend asking that a pathologist hired by the defense be allowed to take a DNA swab from the throats of the Celeste and Bella. In the motion, Watts’ attorney said DNA expert Richard Eikelenboom believes DNA would still be present on their necks despite their bodies being submerged in crude oil for several days.
“Counsel has contacted the prosecution, advised them of this opinion, and asked whether or not they intend to take a DNA swab of the necks on the remains of the two children. It does not seem clear that the coroner, pathologist, or anyone working on behalf of the prosecution team in autopsy plan to take swabs of the necks of the two decedent children,” deputy state public defender James Merson wrote in the motion. “Counsel has a good faith belief that once the autopsies are finished, the remains of the two children—and more importantly, this evidence—will be turned over and lost forever. In other this concerns consumptive testing on the part of the government.”
The motion was denied. Judge Marcelo Adrian Kopcow wrote in his response to the motion, “this court cannot order the prosecution and/or coroner how to conduct their investigation. No evidence exists that the prosecution and/or coroner will destroy evidence, improperly collect evidence, or not collect evidence.”
You can read the full motion below:
Despite knowing he had taken the bodies of his wife and daughters to an oil field Monday morning, Chris Watts gave an interview the day after they were reported missing to a local news station in which he asked for them to come home and said if anyone had harmed them, that person should come forward. You can watch that chilling interview here.
Chris and Shanann Watts, who was 34, both grew up in North Carolina. They married there, in Mecklenburg County, on November 3, 2012, according to online records. They met in 2010, according to her Facebook page. They then moved together to Colorado, where Chris Watts worked for an oil and gas company, Anadarko Petroleum, and Shanann worked in human resources at a children’s hospital. She left that job in 2016 to become a stay-at-home mom and a brand marketer for Thrive, a health and wellness product owned by Le-Vel. Her Facebook page shows that she was highly successful at that career and had been traveling around the country, often accompanied by her husband.
Shanann Watts had taken a trip home to North Carolina with her daughters for six weeks to visit her parents in July and early August. When she returned, she traveled to Arizona with friends for a Thrive event. She was planning to have a gender reveal party on August 18.
“I’m so excited about August! Girls and I Fly home August 7th! I fly to Scottsdale Aug 10-12 for an amazing weekend with my Le-Vel family! Gender Reveal for Baby Watts #3! Our team is having lots of success, growth both personally and business, several new friends starting their Thrive Experience and lots of new Promoters who decided to change their life! Lots of excitement, Lots to be Thankful for!” she wrote. “You know what I love about waking up everyday…It’s a brand new day to have a fresh start, to be better than I was yesterday, To help someone feel better and happier, to make someone smile and laugh! I am just truly blessed and love waking up thankful and happy! If you are not happy, it’s up to you to change that!”