Nichol Kessinger was named as the woman having an affair with a man who has pleaded guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters, according to the Denver Post. Chris Watts told his wife Shanann that he was having an affair with a coworker and that he wanted to separate, the same night that Shanann and her children went missing. On November 7, Watts pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and nine other charges relating to the deaths of his wife, his children and his unborn child.
Watts told investigators he informed his wife that he wanted a separation after she returned home from a work trip in Arizona. Police said in an affidavit that an investigation had uncovered Watts’ affair, which he had denied having in previous interviews, according to the affidavit.
Kessinger deleted her social media pages shortly after the case broke.
Here’s what you need to know about Kessinger:
1. Kessinger Didn’t Know Watts Was Still Married When They Started Dating, But Doesn’t Doubt That He Murdered His Wife & Children
Kessinger told the Denver Post that when she started dating Watts, she believed he was a “thoughtful, soft spoken man,” who was at the end of divorce proceedings. She didn’t realize that Watts hadn’t even started divorce proceedings until Shanann, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, went missing.
Kessinger had only been dating Watts for two months when the news broke, and she told the Denver Post that she was shocked by his arrest. However, she also told the media outlet that she “never doubted that he killed his wife.”
“I don’t think there is a logical explanation for what he did,” she said. “It’s a senseless act, and it’s horrific.”
According to the Denver Post, she approached investigators before Watts’ arrest and participated in multiple police interviews following his arrest, describing details of their relationship and what he had told her about his missing family.
The Denver Post reports that the two met while Kessinger was working in the environmental department of the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, where Watts himself also worked. They never spoke until Watts came to her office and introduced himself, and Kessinger noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring and thought he was attractive, so the two continued to talk casually for a while. While they got to know each other, Watts mentioned that he had two daughters, and that he was separated from his wife.
“When he spoke to me, he was very soft spoken. He appeared to be a good listener,” she told the Denver Post.
When they first met outside of work in late June, Kessinger asked Watts more questions about his divorce. He told her the mutual divorce was almost final, and they were working out financial details, she said.
They began a physical relationship in early July, and Kessinger told the Denver Post that they would meet four or five times a week. She also told him she wanted to take it slow and he should focus on helping his daughters adjust to the divorce.
Toward the end of July, Watts called Kessinger while he was visiting his family in North Carolina and claimed his divorce was final.
2. Kessinger Claims Watts Was Unusually Calm & Unconcerned Following The Disappearance of His Family
On August 13, the day that Watts’ family disappeared, he texted Kessinger and told her his family was “gone.” He told Kessinger that Shanann had taken the girls to a play date and had not returned. He seemed casual and didn’t show any emotion, she told the Denver Post.
Although Kessinger worried about Watts’ family, he seemed unconcerned, so she decided not to make a big deal about it. However, news reporters showed up at Watts’ home later that evening, and the story started to unfold.
“When I read the news, I found out he was still married and his wife was 15 weeks pregnant,” Kessinger said. She told the Denver Post that she was shocked about his lies, and she started to become more worried about the missing woman and children she’d never met before.
“I thought, ‘If he was able to lie to me and hide something that big, what else was he lying about?’ ” she told the Denver Post.
Kessinger told the Denver Post that she spoke to Watts later that evening, and he continued to seem unconcerned about his wife and children. She questioned him to see if he noticed anything odd about the house – did it look like there was any forced entry? Were the girls’ car seats still at the house? – but Watts kept trying to change the subject away from his missing family.
“It seemed off,” Kessinger told the Denver Post. “It got to a point that he was telling me so many lies that I eventually told him that I did not want to speak to him again until his family was found,” she said.
The next morning, she called the Weld County Sheriff’s Office to tell them about her relationship with Watts and the lies she had caught him in over the last few days, she told the Denver Post. She met with FBI investigators that day.
“I just wanted to help,” she said. “With a pregnant woman and two children missing, I was going to do anything that I could.”
Watts was arrested later that evening, and Kessinger’s growing suspicions proved true. “I just felt so, so sad,” she said.
3. Kessinger is a Geologist Who Graduated From Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Science
According to her now-deleted LinkedIn profile, Kessinger graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science, with an emphasis on Geology. She also has an Associate of Science, studying Geological and Earth Sciences and Geosciences from the Community College of Aurora.
She worked her way up from being a bookkeeper to a field engineer over the last decade, and most recently worked for a company called Halliburton, according to her LinkedIn.
Kessinger remained in Colorado for most of her life, listing Fort Collins, Littleton, Denver and Aurora on her LinkedIn page. She also listed Evansville, Wyoming as a previous address.
4. Shanann Watts Was 15 Weeks Pregnant When She Went Missing & Chris Watts Gave a Chilling Interview Following Her Disappearance, Telling News Outlets That He Had No Idea Where They Were & That He “Just Wants Them Back”
Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, had recently returned home from a work trip to Arizona before she disappeared. She was last seen by a friend on Monday, August 13, who dropped her off at her home about 1:45 a.m.
Watts had told reporters that he left for work at 5:15 a.m., and then did not hear from her again. A friend of Shanann’s was worried after she didn’t respond to calls and messages and didn’t show up for a 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment and a planned outing.
When Shanann did not answer her door Monday morning, despite her car being in the driveway, her friend reported her missing, according to police. Watts told Denver7 that 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.
Chris Watts gave a heart-wrenching interview to local and national news outlets before confessing to killing his wife. He said he had an “emotional conversation” with Shanann before she disappeared and told the new outlet “I just want them back. I just want them to come back.”
Watts tried to keep up the facade, telling 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.”
Prior to his confession, 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.” He also told 9News that the situation has been traumatizing.
5. Watts Confessed to Killing Shanann But Claims He Witnessed His Wife Kill Both of His Daughters Before He Strangled Her in a Fit of Rage
Mere days after his emotional interview with different news outlets regarding his wife’s disappearance, Watts confessed to killing Shanann and his 3- and 4-year-old daughters, Bella and Celeste, but then changed his story, claiming that his wife killed their children after he told her he wanted to separate. He claims that he then strangled her to death in a fit of rage.
Watts told police that he walked downstairs after telling Shanann he wanted a separation and then went back to his bedroom to talk to her. He said he noticed on a baby monitor that his daughter Bella was “sprawled” out on her bed, blue in the face, and that Shanann was “actively strangling Celeste.” Chris Watts then claimed he “went into a rage” and strangled Shanann to death.
Watts told police he “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 on Anadarko Petroleum Corporation property, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation Director John Camper.
You can read the full affidavit below:
Watts faces nine charges, according the district attorney. In addition to three counts of first-degree murder with deliberation in the deaths of his wife and their girls, Watts is additionally charged with two counts of first-degree murder of a child under the age of 12 by someone who is in a “position of trust” over them, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke told reporters at a new conference.
Chris, 33, is further charged with unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the first degree, because Shanann, 34, was 15 weeks pregnant when she was killed. He also faces three counts of tampering with a dead body.
According to PEOPLE, Watts faces that count because he allegedly, and “with the intent to terminate unlawfully the pregnancy of a woman,” he “feloniously and unlawfully terminated the pregnancy of the woman.”