FREDERICK, Colo. — Colorado murderer Christopher Watts’ two young daughters were driven -- alive, and with their mother’s dead body at their feet -- to the location where he smothered them, the older of the girls begging for her life as he did so.
Those bombshell revelations come from a Feb. 18 prison interview Watts, 33, gave to agents with the FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, as well as a police detective from Frederick, where Watts lived with his wife, Shanann, 34, and their daughters, Bella, 4, and 3-year-old Celeste, who the family called Cece.
Editor’s note: The following depiction of the deaths of Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts is graphic in nature and may be upsetting to some readers.
A 29-page report detailing the interview, along with photos and approximately five hours of audio, were released Thursday by the CBI.
Chris Watts is serving five life terms, including three to be served consecutively, plus 85 years for the murders and coverup, to which he pleaded guilty and for which he was sentenced in November. He is being held at an undisclosed prison in Wisconsin.
The name of the facility is redacted from the CBI report released Thursday. The report from Watts’ Feb. 18 interview with CBI Agent Tammy Lee, FBI Special Agent Grahm Coder and Frederick Police Detective Dave Baumhover did give some insight into Watts’ transfer out of Colorado.
“Watts explained he enjoyed being in the (redacted) prison much more than the Weld County Jail in Colorado,” the report reads. “Watts said when he was in jail in Colorado, other inmates would constantly yell at him from their cells, giving him advice on how he could kill himself in his cell and what other inmates would do to him given the chance.”
Watts said he never saw the inmates threatening him but heard them screaming at him.
Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts were reported missing Aug. 13 after a friend of Shanann's could not reach her, according to an arrest affidavit in the case. Watts initially said he awoke around 4 a.m. that morning and talked to his wife, who had returned home from a business trip just before 2 a.m., about a separation. Watts said that despite the emotional conversation, during which they both cried, it did not get confrontational and when he left for work around 5:30 a.m., his wife and daughters were in bed.
In the days that followed, Watts played the part of the worried husband and father, giving a TV news interview outside the family’s home -- which goes on the auction block in April -- and pleading for their safe return. Shanann, who had lupus, was 15 weeks pregnant at the time with a son she planned to name Nico.
Watts, who had been having an affair, broke down and confessed Aug. 15 to killing his wife, first to his father and then to investigators. He claimed he strangled Shanann in a rage after she killed their daughters because he wanted a divorce.
Using an aerial map, he led investigators to Shanann's shallow grave about 60 miles from their home, the affidavit said. Bella and Celeste were found submerged in crude oil inside two tanks 100 feet away from their mother's grave.
The entire family was disposed of at a tank battery belonging to Watts’ employer, Andarko Petroleum. Watts went to work at that location just hours after he got rid of the bodies, co-workers have said.
All of Watts’ previous claims about the night his family died were turned upside down with his new interview, which investigators conducted to obtain more information about the murders, as well as to address the claims of other people who have said they had sexual relationships with Watts, including another man.
Watts denied knowing either of the people who alleged romantic relationships with him, according to the report.
He gave investigators more detail than before about what really happened when Shanann returned from her business trip. According to the report, written by Lee, Watts said he and his wife had sex about 30 minutes after she got home.
In his head, Watts said, he felt like Shannan knew about his affair with his co-worker, Nichol Kessinger.
“Having sex with Shanann may have been a ‘trigger point,’ or like you hit the push button on a bomb and it just blows up,” the report states.
Watts told the investigators he and Shanann fell asleep after their sexual encounter, but he woke her up after getting ready for work. When Shanann awoke, she turned over onto her back and Watts said he straddled her to talk.
Shanann, who told him he was possibly hurting their unborn baby, told him she knew there was “someone else” and began crying, Watts said. He initially denied the affair with Kessinger.
Watts said he told Shanann he didn’t think their marriage would work, the report says. When he told her he no longer loved her, Shanann allegedly threatened to keep the children away from him.
“You’re never gonna see the kids again,” Watts quoted his wife saying. “You’re never gonna see them again. Get off me. Don’t hurt the baby.”
That’s when Watts strangled Shanann, the report says. Watts said she never screamed or fought back.
He believes she may have been praying as he took her life.
Watts mused on whether he already had the seed of murder planted in his mind before that morning.
“Every time I think about it, I’m just like, ‘Did I know I was going to do that before I got on top of her?’” he said.
Watts theorized that noise from Shanann’s death may have woken Bella, who walked into the master bedroom holding a blanket. She asked what was wrong with her mother.
“Mommy don’t feel good,” Watts told the little girl, according to the report.
He wrapped Shanann’s body face-down in a bedsheet, which was later recovered at the Andarko oil site.
As Bella watched Watts drag her mother down the stairs, she began to cry.
“What’s wrong with Mommy?” she asked again.
Watts repeated that Shanann didn’t feel well but told investigators during the interview: “Bella is a smart girl and knew what was going on.”
Read the entire CBI report on Watts’ Feb. 18 interview, in which he talks about his family, the murders and his affair with a coworker, below. Warning: Details of the slayings may be too disturbing for some readers.
The sound of Shanann being dragged down the staircase woke Celeste, who was getting out of her bed when Watts returned from placing Shanann’s body on the rear floorboard of his truck, which he had backed into the driveway.
He loaded Bella and Celeste onto the truck’s rear bench seat -- their mother’s body at their feet. He placed a gas can in the back of the truck, suicide on his mind, Watts told the investigators.
“Is Mommy OK?” Bella asked.
Watts said he told her Shanann would be fine. Because he did not want the girls to see their mother’s face, he placed trash bags over her head and feet; the bags were later found by detectives at the site of her burial, the report says.
A neighbor’s surveillance camera caught fleeting images of Watts loading his truck that morning, including the gas can he placed in the truck bed. The images do not show the children or Shanann’s body. At the time the footage was released, it was believed all three were dead when Watts drove away from the house.
Bella and Celeste, each carrying a blanket and Celeste cuddling a stuffed dog, dozed on and off on the ride to the Andarko site, Watts said. They held each other in their sleep and lay in each other’s laps.
At one point during the ride, Bella told him, “Daddy, it smells,” the report says. The document indicates that as Shanann was being strangled, her bowels evacuated.
Once at the tank battery, Watts removed Shanann’s body from the truck and dragged her over to where he planned to bury her. Both girls asked what he was doing to her, but he said he couldn’t remember what he told them, according to the report.
Back at the truck, Watts said, he grabbed the blue New York Yankees blanket Celeste was holding and put it over her head, the report says. He strangled her in the backseat of the truck as her older sister sat at her side.
“He put his hand over Celeste’s mouth and nose (over the blanket) and his other hand around the front of Celeste’s neck,” the report reads. “Bella was seated right beside Celeste as he strangled her, but Bella didn’t say anything.”
Watts told investigators he wasn’t thinking as he killed his daughter.
“If I was thinking, this wouldn’t have happened,” Watts said. “Or any partial hint of what I feel for those girls and what I feel for my wife, then none of this would have happened. So, I wasn’t thinking.”
Once Celeste was dead, he carried her from the truck and over to one of the oil tanks, where he opened the hatch and dropped her inside, feet first, the report says. He closed the hatch and went back to the truck.
Bella asked what happened to her sister, the report says.
“Is the same thing gonna happen to me as Cece?” Bella asked her father.
Watts told the investigators he was not sure if he responded affirmatively or not.
He put the Yankees blanket over Bella’s head.
“Daddy, no!” she cried.
Watts said those were Bella’s last words.
Bella put up a fight for her life. Watts told the investigators he could hear her “grunt” as she tried to breathe, and her head twisted back and forth under the blanket.
Autopsy results on her small body showed she bit through her tongue multiple times as she struggled against her father.
After using the same suffocation technique he had with Celeste, Watts carried Bella to the second oil tank on the site and dropped her inside, according to the document.
“Bella seemed harder to get into the tank than Celeste, but he just had to manipulate her to get her inside,” the report says.
After disposing of his daughters’ bodies, Watts said, he returned to where Shanann lay and began using a rake to clear away some weeds. The rake broke and he left part of it at the site, where it would later be found by detectives.
He used a shovel to dig Shanann’s grave and bury her, the report says. Though she was not bleeding or cut, Watts noticed her eyes were bloodshot.
Watts said he later got rid of his clothes and the Yankees blanket in a construction dumpster in the Watts’ neighborhood. He did so on his way home from work the day of the slayings.
Shanann’s friend had called him to come home because no one was answering the Watts’ door and she was worried about a potential medical emergency.
Watts told investigators he had never been angry like that before. In the Feb. 18 interview, he seemingly blamed Bella and Celeste’s murders on his anger at Shanann.
He subsequently blamed his anger at Shanann on her “separating him from his family.” He described her in the interview as the more domineering partner in the marriage but said there was nothing abusive about their relationship.
Watts claimed Shanann never got along well with his family and said his grandmother was the only family member to attend the couple’s wedding. Shanann butted heads most with his mother and, the month before the murders, she had allegedly forbidden his parents from seeing their grandchildren again.
“I don’t know if that had something to do with it,” Watts said in the interview. “That something inside me just triggered it and then it just, like, all that pent up from the wedding and everything.
“It’s like a long fuse that finally just went to its end.”
Watts said he pleaded guilty to all nine felony charges against him to save everyone involved the heartache of a trial, the report says.
“He didn’t want everyone to have to relive what happened over and over for years,” the report says. “He felt like Shanann’s family could start to have closure.”
Watts’ in-laws have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him. So far, he has not fought the proceedings.
Watts told the investigators that, every time he closes his eyes, he hears Bella’s voice pleading, “Daddy, no!” He said he also looks outside of the prison each day and wonders what he would be doing with his children if they were alive, the report says.
“Right now, I’d have a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and, more than likely, a 1-month-old son,” Watts said, according to the document. “And a beautiful wife.
“Right now, it’s just me.”
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