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'I didn't hurt my family.' Chris Watts lied about murdering his family to everyone, including his girlfriend.

This post deals with graphic descriptions of domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers.

Chris Watts is currently serving three consecutive life sentences for the murder of his 34-year-old pregnant wife Shanann, and their daughters Bella, four, and Celeste, three, in Colorado in August 2018.

And this week, new details have emerged about just how deceptive Watts was to all the people in his life after murdering his family. 

Although Watts originally fronted news cameras with a desperate appeal for help when his wife and two young daughters were reported missing, the truth soon emerged when the bodies of Shanann, Bella and Celeste were recovered from an oil field owned by the petroleum company that Watts worked for.

His wife and his unborn son had been buried in a shallow grave, and his daughters submerged in crude oil vats.

Watch: What Chris Watts' latest confession reveals. Post continues below.


Video via Dr Phil Show.

After Watts' shockingly calm initial plea on TV for his wife and children, he was brought in for an interview with investigators.

FBI agent Graham Coder tried to get an official statement out of Watts, but he wasn't responding emotionally to the "very, very tough questions," says CBI agent Tammy Lee, who also helped get a confession out of Watts.

Eventually, Watts slipped up and began talking about his wife and daughters in the past tense, prompting warning bells to go off in the investigators’ minds.

"If he is hoping and believing that they're still alive, why would you start talking about them in past tense?" mused Lee on Oxygen’s Criminal Confessions programme.

The next day, under pressure from a lie detector test, Watts admitted to having an affair, something he had previously denied. Investigators changed their line of questioning after this as they were worried Watts would "completely… shut down". They also claimed they already knew about the affair, insinuating that they had more information than they really did - presumably, to make Watts panic.

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Watts failed the polygraph, and investigators sneakily gave Watts an 'out' - one that would allow Watts to open up to Coder and Lee.

The investigators began painting Watts' wife Shanann as the villain.

"Vilifying Shanann, it's a technique that we can use to eventually get the actual truth. We just needed to find Shanann and the girls," Lee said.

However, Watts became demoralised at the line of questioning, and eventually asked for his father, Ronnie Watts. Apparently when his father entered the room, Watts confessed to the murder of his wife, but said it was she who murdered their two young daughters.

"It was pretty much gut-wrenching to hear Chris talk about the fact that he murdered his wife to his own father," Lee recalled.

"It was the theme of Shanann doing something to the girls, that I had just given him prior to leaving the room. But to actually hear that come out of his mouth, was shocking."

After pressing for details, Watts confessed to burying his wife in a shallow grave and said he put his daughters' bodies in oil and water tanks that were on the scene.

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Watts eventually confessed to killing his daughters as well, and even mentioned they were alive when he drove them and their mother’s body to the burial site.

"Nobody had ever contemplated, that I recall in any discussion, that the girls were alive when he drove them out to the oil site," said Chief Deputy Weld County DA Steve Wrenn. "Chris told us that, every night when he closes his eyes, he hears Bella yell, 'Daddy no!' I feel like it's kind of what he deserves. I hope he hears that every night."

Listen to The Quicky: Frontline domestic violence workers tell us what's really happening. Post continues after audio.


A crucial part of the investigation process was Watts' extra-marital relationship with then-girlfriend Nichol Kessinger. This week, footage of Kessinger's interview with police was released by Shanann's family. 

Before finally confessing to his father, Watts had lied to everyone around him about murdering his family, also lying to Kessinger who felt like something was off. Kessinger was not and is not suspected of any wrongdoing or involvement in the murder. 

"I kept asking him, 'What did you do, Chris? What did you do?'" she said to police at the time. "I asked, 'Where's your family?'"

"So I texted Chris one last time, and I told him, 'If you did anything bad, you're going to ruin your life and you're going to ruin my life. I promise you that'. And he responded, 'I didn't hurt my family, Nicky.' And that was the last text. I never said another word to him after that."

Since the investigations have concluded, convicted murderer Watts wrote a harrowing letter detailing the horrifying way he murdered his wife and their two children.

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In a letter to author Cheryln Cadle, which was obtained by the Daily Mail, Watts confessed to the full extent of his crimes, sharing how he murdered his daughters "twice".

A number of the details listed in the letter were not shared by Watts in interviews with police.

In the letter, Watts wrote: "August 13th, morning of, I went to the girls’ room first, before Shanann and I had our argument. I went to Bella's room, then Cece’s room and used a pillow from their bed [to kill them]. That's why the cause of death was smothering. After I left Cece's room, then I climbed back in bed with Shanann and our argument ensued."

"After Shanann had passed, Bella and Cece woke back up. I'm not sure how they woke back up, but they did. Bella's eyes were bruised and both girls looked like they have been through trauma. That made the act that much worse knowing I went to their rooms first and knowing that I still took their lives at the location of the batteries."

Within the letter, Watts also admitted that he had been plotting the murders for some time, so that he could be with his then-girlfriend Kessinger.

shanann watts text messages
Chris and Shanann Watts. Image: Facebook.

"August 12th when I finished putting the girls to bed, I walked away and said, 'That's the last time I'm going to be tucking my babies in'. I knew what was going to happen the day before and I did nothing to stop it!" he wrote.

In an interview with Dr. Phil in 2019, Shanann's lawyer Steven Lambert shared how Watts' daughter, Bella, walked into the room as Watts was wrapping Shanann in a sheet and asked him; "What are you doing with mummy?"

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The interview claimed that Bella was aware her father had killed her mum and three-year-old sister Celeste, and pleaded with him not to do the same to her.

"Please Daddy, don’t do to me what you just did to Cece," is what Mr Lambert says she asked.

There were signs in her autopsy Bella fought for her life.

Mr Lambert also outlined how Watts went about killing his family and the circumstances that led to it. He had taken his girls to a birthday party, feeding them pizza and a snack before putting them to bed. Hours later he had murdered his wife, and suffocated his children, allegedly after confessing to an affair and hearing Shanann's response; "You're not going to see the kids again."

Watts will spend the rest of his life in prison.

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Chris Watts and his two daughters. Image: Facebook.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

This article was first published on December 9, 2019, and was updated on March 16, 2022.

Feature Image: Facebook.