A national true crime sensation in Colorado
by Ashley Wright
Early on the morning of August 13, Nicole Utoft went to her friend Shanann Watts’s house to pick-up Shanann and take her to her 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment. Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant with her third child and was supposed to find out the sex of the baby. Given that Utoft had just dropped Shanann off at home around 2 a.m. that morning, after they returned from a business trip, she immediately became concerned when Shanann never answered the door or her text messages. Within hours, Utoft notified Shanann’s husband as well as the police, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation issued an Endangered Missing Alert for Shanann Watts and her two daughters, Bella, age 4 and Celeste, age 3.
The morning after the alert, Christopher Watts gave multiple interviews to various news stations, including the local station, 9NEWS. Watts admitted to having “an emotional conversation” with Shanann after she returned from her trip. He also insisted “I just want my family back, I want them safe” and described the night without them as “a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from”.
The initial investigation into the disappearance left local police with several unanswered questions. Shanann had reportedly left her phone and purse inside the residence and the master bed was stripped of its sheets, one of which was found in an outside garbage can. A neighbor’s video surveillance system showed that not only did Shanann not leave with anyone after she was dropped off, but that at approximately 5:27 a.m. Chris Watts backed his truck into his garage, closed the door to supposedly load his tools, and then left for work.
Given the evidence, police quickly began to suspect Chris Watts in the disappearance of his wife and children. Late Wednesday night, 3 days after the disappearance, Watts was arrested and began to talk with authorities. Watts confessed to Shanann’s murder and the resulting termination of her pregnancy, as well as the locations of the bodies.
According to information released by the County District Attorney’s Office, Watts had placed his daughters’ bodies in oil tanks on the property of his employer, Anadarko. Shanann’s body was found buried nearby on the same property. According to 9NEWS, the coroner confirmed the identities of the bodies the following Friday. The arrest affidavit also notes that a bedsheet matching the missing set was located nearby.
Chris Watts admitted that the previously mentioned “emotional conversation” was the two of them deciding to end their 8-year relationship. It was revealed that the couple had financial issues, detailed in “federal court documents” obtained by 9Wants to Know, which stated that 3 years prior to the murders, “the Watts family filed for bankruptcy with less than $10 left in their savings account.” It has also been reported that Chris had had multiple affairs with both men and women throughout his marriage, which was later confirmed in the affidavit.
In the arrest affidavit, which was released the following Monday, Watts relayed his version of events on the night his family disappeared. Watts claims that “via baby monitor” he witnessed “Bella ‘sprawled’ out on her bed and blue and Shanann actively strangling Celeste”. He then goes on the say “he went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death”. An article about the case written by 9NEWS states “prosecutors do not believe Chris Watts’s assertion[s]” and that “his defense team had previously asked the judge to ensure their expert could take DNA samples from the girls’ necks”, which was denied.
The future proceedings for the case are still being determined. Chris Watts was officially charged with five counts of first-degree murder, two of which are for the death of a child under the age of twelve, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy in the first degree, and three counts of tampering with a deceased body, as reported by 9NEWS, and the case is scheduled to proceed in November.
As for the impact on the community, many people have been left deeply affected by the loss of Shanann, Bella, and Celeste. Shanann’s brother wrote an emotional Facebook post that said, “[Chris Watts] stole my whole world and treated them like they were trash. I’ve never been so mad, sad, enraged, hurt, [sic] heartbroken, lost, and shocked in all my life”. It is clear that Shanann, Bella, Celeste, and the unborn, Nico will be missed, and Chris Watts will, hopefully, face justice for these crimes.