Christopher Watts’ Two Lives Leading to Murder
In an interview with police the day he was arrested for their murders, Christopher Watts talked about taking his daughters Bella and Celeste to a birthday party for the 4-year-old son of family friends.
Less than 24 hours after that party, he would conceal their lifeless bodies inside oil tanks in rural Weld County and bury their mother in a shallow grave nearby.
A Weld County district judge on Monday sentenced Watts, 33, to life without parole in the deaths of Bella, 4, Celeste, 3, and his wife Shanann, 34.
So far, Watts has only admitted to killing his wife, but he pleaded guilty in early November to multiple counts of murder and tampering with a corpse. Watts also pleaded guilty to unlawful termination of a pregnancy, because Shanann Watts was nearly four months pregnant with the couple’s third child.
Watts remains in custody at the Weld County Jail pending his transfer to the Colorado Department of Corrections.
The Weld County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday released an enormous collection file of police interviews with family members, friends and coworkers as well as people who claimed extramarital affairs with Christopher Watts and people offering tips that were investigated but went nowhere.
A divorce attorney recounted a chance encounter with Shanann Watts at a Japanese steak house in Westminster in the spring, during which she inquired about child custody laws in Colorado. The file contains dozens of letters sent to Watts at the county jail, including bizarre, flirty letters from random women and news reporters seeking interviews.
A psychic made a fairly accurate prediction about the location of the girls’ bodies and a police report outlined a Craigslist posting offering a pair of Christopher Watts’ underwear for $500.
“These are legit and I have pics to prove it,” the post states. “Serious offers only.”
The nearly 2,000-page trove of documents also details the days and weeks leading up to the murders and outlines a troubled marriage, squabbles between family members over nut allergies as well as infidelity on the part of Christopher Watts and the transcript of a police interview during which he confessed to killing his wife, whom he blamed for his daughters’ deaths.
Watts would fail three polygraph examination questions regarding the disappearance of his wife, a break in the case investigators would use to tease out his confession.
During the interview ahead of the test, however, Watts talked about the mundane weekend spent at his Frederick home eating pizza and watching TV with his daughters who, according to police interviews with friends and coworkers, were the light of his life.
Watts told police that his wife, shortly after the family returned from a trip to North Carolina, would take a weekend trip to Arizona as part of her job with nutritional supplement company Le-Vel. He took Aug. 10 off to look after his daughters, and the three went grocery shopping and had his eyeglasses repaired.
He cooked dinner for Bella and Celeste but decided not to make a video call to their mother because, as he told police, it would result in a “cry-fest.” He put the girls to bed at about 8 p.m. and went down to the basement to work out and watch “SportsCenter” on ESPN.
The Lazy Dog
On Saturday morning, Aug. 11, Bella climbed into bed with her father. Later in the morning, he played with the girls outside and then brought them in once the temperature rose too high. He planned on another trip to the grocery store but cancelled after his wife said she would go upon her return. He requested green beans in a text message.
He told police and numerous other people that at about 5 p.m., he left the girls with a babysitter and attended a Colorado Rockies game. He told police that he ate dinner with friends at The Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill in Erie after the game.
It was a lie. Police had already interviewed Nichol Kessinger, Christopher Watts’ coworker and the woman with whom he struck up a romantic relationship over the summer. She told police she and Watts had dinner at The Lazy Dog that evening.
Kessinger told police that Watts used a credit card to pay for the meal. She took that as a positive sign in their relationship, because Watts usually paid for items with gift cards, a practice she took as an attempt by Watts to conceal his activities from his wife.
The charge on the card did not go unnoticed by Shanann Watts, however, who told a friend that her husband claimed to have eaten a salmon dinner and drank a beer with friends after the game, but the $62 bill aroused her suspicions, as it seemed pricey for fish and beer.
‘He has changed’
In text messages with friends, Shanann Watts alternated between angry and sad about what she perceived as cold and distant behavior by her husband. She expressed increasing anxiety about having a third child with a man who seemed disinterested.
At the end of June, she took the girls to North Carolina. During the trip, she had a blowout with her mother-in-law after she served ice cream with nuts to several children in front of Celeste — who had a nut allergy — as a “lesson” that can’t always have what she wants. Christopher Watts came for the last week, and the couple quarreled about his parents.
Shanann Watts confided in friends that her husband rebuffed her attempts at physical intimacy on more than one occasion, and that he wouldn’t hold her hand during an ultrasound appointment. The couple had planned a gender reveal party for the weekend following her disappearance, but she cancelled it.
“Chris told me last night he’s scared to death about this third baby. And he’s happy with just bella (sic) and Celeste and doesn’t want another baby,” she wrote in a text message from Aug. 7 or Aug. 8.
“He’s just scared,” the friend replied. “Everything will be fun once the baby comes.”
“He has changed,” Shanann Watts countered. “I don’t know who he is.”
In one of the texts, the friend floated the idea that Christopher Watts was seeing another woman, but Shanann Watts told the friend that she confronted her husband with the possibility and he denied it.
Hundreds of text messages compiled by investigators show that Christopher Watts lived a double life over the summer. Shanann Watts often voiced outrage that her husband was living a “bachelor’s life” while she struggled with the kids and a rocky situation with the grandparents. Christopher Watts was often juggling simultaneous conversations with his wife and Kessinger.
Shanann Watts’ tone shifted in the few days leading up to her death, however. She told friends that she and her husband had started working through some issues, and the two planned to take a trip to Aspen the following weekend. She sent him a text asking if he would like to order a TV football package for the coming season and described the thunderstorms in Arizona.
On Sunday, Aug. 12, Bella woke up and rousted her sister from bed, Christopher Watts told police. The three spent the morning watching cartoons, and he put them down for a nap, so they wouldn’t be too tired for the birthday party.
The girls woke up at about 12:30 p.m. and he fed them leftover pizza for lunch. They drove to the store to buy a gift for the party.
Watts told police that he didn’t know that the party featured water balloons and a pool, so he didn’t bring their swimsuits. Nonetheless, he said the girls enjoyed themselves, and he put them in the shower when they returned home, because they had gotten sandy from playing. He sent photos of the party to his wife, who had yet to return from Arizona.
The father of the birthday boy told police that nothing seemed amiss with Christopher Watts at the party.
Watts again told police that he fed the girls leftover pizza and the three made a video phone call to Shanann Watts’ parents. Afterward, he gave Celeste some vanilla wafers and Bella some chips. The girls ended up trading snacks and eating them on their child-sized couches.
After Christopher Watts put the girls to bed, Bella twice emerged from her room because she knew her mother was coming home and she was excited to see her. He said he told Bella that her mother would be there when she woke up and put her back to bed.
In a matter of hours, Bella, Celeste and Shanann Watts would be dead.
During his interview with police and just prior to his confession, Christopher Watts told an investigator, “I love those girls to death.”
John Bear: 303-473-1355, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/johnbearwithme