A Colorado man has confessed to killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters who were reported missing on August 13, Denver7 reports. Shanann Watts, 34, disappeared with her 3- and 4-year-old daughters, Bella and Celeste, from their home in Frederick, Colorado, on Monday, and they had been considered “endangered.” The case gained nationwide attention and Watts’ husband appeared on TV pleading for help finding his wife and kids.
But just hours after police held a press conference asking for the public’s help in finding the missing woman and her daughters, Chris Watts, 33, confessed to killing them, Denver7 reports. Frederick Police later confirmed in a press release that Watts was arrested. He is being held without bail on three counts of first-degree murder and a charge of tampering with evidence. The FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation were also involved in the investigation.
According to Denver7, investigators believe they know where the bodies of Watts’ daughters are. Shanann’s body was recovered Thursday, police said. Chris and Shanann Watts had gone through financial issues in recent years, court records show. A motive for the killings of Shanann and her daughters has not been released, and police have also not revealed the cause and manner of their deaths
Shanann Watts, who was 15-weeks pregnant, had last been seen by a friend who dropped her off about 1:45 a.m. on Monday after they returned to Colorado from a work trip to Arizona. When Shanann did not respond to text messages and calls and did not answer her door Monday morning, despite her car being in the driveway, her friend reported her missing, police said. Chris Watts told Denver7 he saw his wife and children sleeping in bed when he left for work about 5:15 a.m. and then returned home that afternoon to find them gone.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Frederick Police said they were investigating all possibilities, but said they did not believe the public was at risk. “There’s a lot at stake here and we are exploring all avenues to make sure nothing is ruled out,” Frederick Police Sergeant Ian Albert said at the press conference prior to Chris Watts’ confession. “I want to assure them we are working around the clock in this case. We will not rest until we have the answers we are looking for.”
Here’s what you need to know about Chris Watts:
1. Watts Gave Multiple Interviews to Local & National News Outlets & Said He Had an ‘Emotional Conversation’ With Shanann Before She Disappeared
Chris Watts gave interviews to local and national news stations about his wife’s disappearance on Tuesday and Wednesday, asking for his wife to return home with their daughters and saying that if anyone had taken or harmed them, they should come forward.
Watts told the “Today” show that he had an “emotional conversation,” with his wife after she returned home from her work trip Monday morning. He did not provide any other details about the conversation, but said it was not a fight.
You can watch Watts’ interview with the local news station Denver7 here:
Watts told the “Today” show, “I don’t feel like this is even real right now. It’s like a nightmare I can’t wake up from. Knowing they could be in trouble, it’s earth-shattering.”
He told KMGH-TV, “When I came home and then walked in the house, nothing. Vanished. Nothing was here. My kids are my life. I mean, those smiles light up my life.”
Chris Watts told Fox News, “It’s not something I could ever, ever fathom would happen in my lifetime, and I have no inclination of where she is. She said she was going to a friend’s house with the kids and that’s the last thing I heard, and that was it. It was very vague.”
Prior to his confession, Chris Watts told 9News the situation has been traumatizing. “I’m just hoping right now that she’s somewhere safe…” he told the news station. “Like, this house is not the same. Last night was traumatic. Last night was – I can’t really stay in this house again with nobody here.”
He spoke glowingly about his daughters, telling the news station, “Celeste. She’s just a bottle of energy. She’s – I call her rampage because she’s got two speeds: go or she’s sleeping. Bella. She’s the more calm, cautious, mothering type and she’s more like me – she’s more calm.”
2. Shanann’s Body Was Found Buried in an Oil Field Where Her Husband Works, but Police Haven’t Released Details About How & When She & Her Daughters Were Killed
Christopher Lee Watts is in custody at the Weld County Jail, where he is being held without bail, the Frederick Police Department said in a press release. Watts appeared in court for the first time Thursday afternoon. You can watch video of his court appearance here.
Police have not released any information about when or how Shanann Watts and her daughters were killed. According to CBS Denver, Watts agreed to bring police to his wife and daughters’ bodies so that they can be recovered.
In court, prosecutors said Shanann Watts and her daughters were killed in their home.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Shanann Watts’ body was recovered at the Anadarko Petroleum company oil field property where her husband previously worked. Police said they believe they know where the bodies of the children are, but the process of recovering the bodies is still underway.
The criminal case has been sealed by a judge at the request of the district attorney’s office, and formal charges will be filed by Monday. Affidavits and other court documents could be released at this time. Police released few details about the case during a press conference Thursday morning, citing the ongoing investigation. They said investigators were still interviewing people, but there is no threat to the public.
Chris Watts said when he left for work about 5:15 a.m., Shanann Watts was home and he saw his daughters sleeping on their baby monitor, NBC News reports.
While he was at work, Watts claimed, “I texted her a few times, called her, but I didn’t get a response,” Chris Watts told the news network. “That was a little off.” He said he checked his doorbell camera and saw that a friend had come to the home about noon and no one answered, which concerned him. It is not clear if any of those things actually happened.
Watts also claimed he went back to his house and found Shanann’s car in the driveway, but she was not in the home. His daughters, Bella and Celeste were also not there and the home appeared to be locked, he said. A friend told NBC News that Shanann’s keys, purse and phone were at the house, along with the kids’ car seats and their medication. At 1:40 p.m., Shanann was reported missing by her friend. Police said her husband did not report her missing.
Nickole Utoft, Shanann Watts’ close friend who had dropped her off at her home early Monday morning, told Fox 31 News, “I called her and texted her several times,” on Monday. “I knew she had a doctor’s appointment that morning because she’s pregnant. She didn’t show up for it … and I was even more concerned.” She said they also had plans to meet up later in the day, but Shanann never showed up to meet her.
“I don’t know where she’s at. This is completely unlike her,” Utoft told the news station, prior to the reports that Chris Watts had confessed to killing his family.
Frederick Police Sergeant Ian Albert said at a press conference they received the missing persons call just before 2 p.m. Monday on August 13. Investigators canvassed the neighborhood and began interviewing neighbors in an effort to locate her, while also contacting the CBI and FBI. On Tuesday, a “missing and endangered” alert was issued and police began to hand out flyers. Chris Watts was arrested about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Police were at the Watts’ home in Frederick Wednesday night removing evidence:
Public records show that Watts does not have any previous criminal record except for traffic offenses.
Shanann Watts’ brother, Frankie Rzucek, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, “That piece of sh*t may he rot in hell. He killed (my) pregnant sister and my two nieces. Her husband Chris watts admitted to murdering my family. … We just found out she was pregnant with a baby boy and his name was going to be Nico.”
He added, “I just want to know why. My precious family. Bella, Celeste and her just found out unborn son Niko. I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath. May Satan have mercy on his soul. The cops drug their feet. He was the only one with them and backed his truck into the garage. Doesn’t take a genius to know who was suspect. My blood is boiling and the pain and anger and sadness I have in my heart. Nothing absolutely nothing would get in my way of taking away his life like he did mine and my ENTIRE FAMILY.”
3. Watts, Who Worked for an Oil & Gas Company, & His Wife Filed for Bankruptcy in 2015 & Were Recently Sued by Their Homeowners’ Association
Chris and Shanann Watts jointly filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in June 2015 in Colorado federal court, court records obtained by show. Chris Watts was working at the time for an oil and gas company, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. The couple was about $448,000 in debt at the time. The bankruptcy case was closed in October 2015.
Chris Watts is no longer working for Anadarko, but it is not clear when he left the company or if he was fired after his arrest. The company issued a statement saying, “We are heart-broken 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.”
Online court records also show Chris and Shanann Watts were sued for financial reasons by their homeowners association, Wyndham Hill Master Association Inc., on July 12, 2018. According to CBS Denver, the couple was being sued by their HOA for $1,533. They were due in court on August 24. An attorney was not listed in court records for the Watts.
Chris and Shanann Rzucek Watts were married in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on November 3, 2012, according to online records. They met in 2010, according to her Facebook page. Public records indicated Shanann was previously married and went by the name Shannan King.
“7 years ago I️ fell in love with you, 5 years ago I️ married my best friend, my soul mate, I️ married you!! Chris these have been the best years of my life! Our love just grows strong everyday! We have two beautiful little girls that call us mommy and daddy!” she wrote in a 2017 Facebook post with a video slideshow of their relationship. “We sold a house, moved to Colorado 5 years ago and built a home for our family! You make me a better person, you believe in me, we have dreams and goals together, you understand me, you put up with me! love you more than words can say and God placed you in my life at the right time! I️ couldn’t imagine life without you!”
4. Shanann Watts Had Been Working as a Brand Promoter for a Health & Wellness Company & Had Posted on Facebook About How Excited She Was About the Next Stages of Her Life
Shanann Watts worked for Le-Vel, a company that sells Thrive health and wellness products, according to her Linkedin profile. She had worked for the company since January 2016 and had been a highly successful brand promoter, rising to the 80K level. She previously worked as a human resources specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora from 2013 to 2016.
According to her Facebook page, Shanann Watts had been with her children visiting family for six weeks before her work trip. She then returned home on August 7 and left again for Arizona on August 10, leaving her daughters at home with her husband.
On July 31, Watts wrote enthusiastically on Facebook about her August plans.
“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!”
Her Facebook page showed she and her husband and daughters traveled often for different events related to her work.
On her Instagram page, Watts wrote that she was a “Momtrepreneur, wife and 80K VIP LeVel Promoter of the #1 Health and Wellness Movement in US, The Thrive Experience!”
Many friends and other promoters of the Thrive brand had been posting about the search for Shanann on their social media pages.
On Instagram, Shanann wrote about what working with Le-Vel meant to her:
I’ve been unfriended ?
Ive been blocked ?
I’ve been criticized ?
I’ve been rejected ?
I’ve been the expense of negative DS comments?
I’ve been laughed at ?
I’ve been eye rolled ?
I’ve been told “you’re crazy” ?
BUT …. I’ve also been befriended, accepted, praised, recognized for my success, cried on, shared laughs, gained allies, been an inspiration to many and changed my life forever. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ There will always be someone waiting in the corner to hate on what you do. Don’t pay them attention. Be confident in what you do, put yourself out there and live a life of service. Seek to bless not impress. With the right mindset, you will see your business change for the better. .
She tagged the May 7, 2018, post #mystoryisonlybeginning. The comment was posted alongside a photo of an article in Strive, a magazine for Thrive brand promoters.
In the magazine article, Watts talked about how she had previously been a “caretaker for everyone else,” but had never been happier after starting her work with Thrive. She said she had previously been working two jobs, including overnight at the hospital, and raising her young daughters. “My role was as a caretaker and to make people feel better, yet I was wiped out.” She said she watched a friend work with Thrive for 14 months and decided to get involved herself.
“By day 5 my husband noticed I was in a better mood,” she said. Watts also talked about the hard work it took to make the new job work, saying “I was working 65 hours a week and was also taking care of my kids. I rarely got any sleep, but my passion for wanting more for my kids was stronger than anything else.”
She added, “I wake up happy, and for me to function on a level where I can get two kids ready without a fight is huge. I just enjoy the pure happiness of being with my family. I have the patience to be that cheerful, stay-at-home mom my kids deserve.”
5. Chris & Shanann Watts Previously Lived in North Carolina & Had Been Living in Frederick Since 2013
Chris Lee Watts was born and raised in North Carolina, according to public records. He lived there when he met his wife and they moved to Colorado in 2013.
Shanann Watts was born in Passaic, New Jersey, according to her Facebook page. She also had ties to North Carolina, where her family still lives. She lived in Moore County, North Carolina, and attended Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, WTVD-TV reports.
Her high school friend Lauren Arnold, who moved to Colorado around the same time as Shanann, told the North Carolina news station, “Shanann has a schedule and she goes by that schedule and she does not deviate. The girls are on a schedule. She has things that she does every day. A dead cell phone is not an option for her. She always has her communication with her. There’s so many questions that have not been answered. So many what-ifs and things like that. It’s really frustrating.”
A Facebook page has been set up to raise money to help bring Shanann’s North Carolina family members to Colorado to help in the search.
“We need everyone here helping, especially Shanann’s family. I cant imagine being so far away in this situation. Help me ease the financial burdens they may face and get them to Colorado to look for their beloved girls!” Arnold, who started the page, wrote. “I don’t know how much they need or how much they will lose having to travel out here, for who knows how long. Even if we reach a goal, keep donating. Everything helps. Travel, food, lodging, bills, etc….. ♡ Thank you all and lets find them!!!”
Christopher Watts and his family had lived in Frederick, Colorado, since 2013, according to the Longmont Times-Call.
Neighbor Mike Hendrickson told 9News he had seen the family around, “She would take the kids to the pool and [Chris Watts] would always take them in a little wagon,” he said. “We were always impressed by his doting over them and how much he appeared to love them.”
Another neighbor, Ann Watt, told 9News, “If anything, she just gave off vibes of being happy, successful – she’s beautiful – nothing looked wrong.”
Hendrickson added, “It just doesn’t smell right to me. That’s just my opinion… something doesn’t add up and that’s concerning to me. My goodness, I want to see this family put back together… [for] it to be resolved and it’s just a bad dream for this poor family.”
Frederick is a town of about 12,000 people about 30 miles north of Denver. Police, news vans and family and friends swarmed the neighborhood on Wednesday, according to the Times-Call newspaper.
“Our hearts and our prayers go out to the family,” Frederick Police Chief Todd Norris said at a press conference Thursday.
John Camper, the director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation added, “We join with Chief Norris, the Frederick PD and really the entire town of Frederick in expressing our sorrow for the Shannan Watts, Bella and Celeste. This is absolutely the worst possible outcome that any of us could imagine. I think our hearts are broken for the town of Frederick as much as anybody.”
Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said that the investigation is ongoing and they are the preliminary stages, so as a result, they were “constrained” about the answers they could give to questions about the case. Rourke said his office will make the determination of formal charges against Watts.