Where is Chris Watts now?

Let’s be clear from the start: Chris Watts is in a maximum-security prison — the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin, to be exact. He is serving five consecutive life sentences with no hope of parole. Given the heinous nature of his crimes, most will agree that’s the least he deserves.

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It is initially less clear what drove an apparently peaceful father to murder his pregnant wife and their two daughters. However, we will do our best to comb through the facts and win some Understanding the horrifying events of August 13th, 2018. For as the layers of Chris Watt’s life are peeled away, it becomes all too obvious that he was a dangerous and troubled man.

Who is Chris Watts?

Chris Watts and Shanann Watts (Photo: Netflix)
Chris Watts and Shanann Watts (Photo: Netflix)

Chris Watts is known today as a calculating and ruthless murderer, as well as an adulterer and liar. But before the horrific crimes he committed in the early hours of August 13, 2018, Chris had the facade of a consummate family man.

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Chris, then 33, lived with his family in Frederick, Colorado, just southeast of Longmont. Married for almost six years, he and his wife Shanann had two daughters – Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3 – and were expecting a third. Chris was employed by Anadarko Petroleum while Shanann, 34, worked in a call center for a children’s hospital. she appeared happy in family photos. But, as so often, appearances can be deceiving.

The Watts filed for bankruptcy in June 2015 after running into debt from their mortgages, credit cards, medical bills and student loans. In late summer 2018, Chris was having an affair with Nichol Kessinger, whom he met through work. He allegedly claimed to be separated from his wife and facing a divorce. Instead, however, Chris planned in cold blood to murder his family, including their unborn child.

Why did Chris Watts murder his family?

Shanann Watts with daughters Bella and Celeste (Picture: Netflix)

Chris Watts is what experts call a “family killer,” someone – typically a white male in his early 30s – who murders everyone in the household. He is usually considered the “perfect” father and husband by friends and neighbors. However, he is usually depressed or paranoid and was led to the heinous act by relationship or financial stressors or by believing that he alleviates perceived suffering. In most cases, the destroyer then takes his own life.

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Trapped by his marriage and growing family, Chris wanted to start a new life with Nichol. But instead of seeking therapy or filing for divorce and working out terms for child support and custody, Chris chose to do the unimaginable.

It wasn’t a crime of passion. For weeks, if not longer, Chris plotted to murder his wife and daughters. What’s less clear is how he thought he’d get away with it.

The Watts family murders

Photo: Netflix

Chris later recalled the night he killed his family almost minute by minute. This was not a breakdown, but a cold, meticulous man. The details of the murders are difficult to read, so we’ll spare you most of them. They don’t make the story any less understandable, so let this summary suffice.

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In the early hours of August 13, 2018, Chris first used a pillow to smother daughters Bella and Celeste, affectionately known as CeCe. He then climbed back into bed next to his pregnant wife, Shanann, with whom he immediately began arguing. Chris then strangled her.

At this point, both daughters, who he thought were already dead, woke up and followed him around the house. He apparently loaded his dead wife and live girls into his truck and drove to an oil field he knew from work. Watts then refocused on murdering his children, and this time he was successful. He later described how Bella fought back because she seemed to understand what he was doing. Chris buried Shanann in a shallow grave and dumped Bella and Celeste in a crude oil tank.

The days after the Watt murders

Chris Watts, captured on police bodycam video on the day of his family’s disappearance

A friend and colleague of Shanann’s reported her missing later that afternoon. When police conducted a welfare at the Watts house, they found her keys, purse and phone. However, Chris insisted that Shanann tell him that she and the girls were going to a friend’s house.

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Chris spent the next few days making public appeals for the safe return of his missing family. He denied any knowledge of what happened to them and wrote to his beloved that he was innocent. All the while his behavior seemed strange and his grief strangely lacking.

Police quickly closed in on him, mostly based on evidence from CCTV footage and a suspicious neighbor. Chris failed a lie detector test and was formally charged. He initially confessed but said the deaths were the result of a crime of passion. He later admitted that he had planned the murders.

What was Chris Watts’ phrase?

Chris Watts in court (Photo: Netflix)

So where is Chris Watts now? As previously mentioned, he is in a maximum security prison in Waupun, Wisconsin – and will remain there for the rest of his life.

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Chris was sentenced to five life sentences on November 19, 2018. He was convicted of triple murder, double murder of a child under the age of 12, unlawful abortion and triple tampering with a human body.

Chris Watts claims to have found religion behind bars and spends his days reading the Bible. Chris allegedly keeps photos of his wife and daughters in his cell and talks to them.

But again, Chris may not be what he seems. In May 2022, former fellow inmate David Carter revealed that Chris insisted it was Nichol Kessinger who choked his daughters. He also claimed that Nichol helped dig Shanann’s grave and placed the girls’ bodies in the oil tank.

American Murder: The Family Next Door

If you want a closer look at the chilling murders of the Watts family, Netflix is ​​the place to be. The streaming giant debuted a true-crime documentary in 2020, American Murder: The Family Next Door, which describes the case in detail. It became the most watched documentary at the time of its release.

Note, of course, that the two-hour film is unsettling to watch, as one might expect given the subject matter.


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Sarah Y. Kim

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