GREELEY, CO – In a dramatic twist in the investigation into the killings of a pregnant Colorado woman and her two young daughters, new details reveal that the woman’s husband told investigators it was she that killed the girls and he then killed her in a fit of rage, according to an arrest affidavit filed Monday afternoon.
Christopher Watts, 33, told police that he had just told his wife, Shanann Watts, 34, that he had wanted to separate from her, according to the document. The document also indicates that Christopher Watts was having an affair with a colleague at his workplace, Anadarko Petroleum Company.
Earlier Monday, Christopher Watts was charged with nine felonies – three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of murder of a child under age 12, felony tampering with a deceased body, and the unlawful termination of the pregnancy of his wife. Police allege that Christopher Watts also killed his daughters, Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4.
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The arrest affidavit said police were alerted by a friend of Shanann Watts that she had missed a 10 a.m. doctor’s appointment on Monday, Aug. 13. The friend had dropped Shanann off at home after driving her home from the airport around 2 a.m. The friend told police she called Christopher Watts to check on his wife, since she feared Shanann might have been having a medical emergency.
A police officer came to the house and called Christopher Watts, to ask for the passcode to their home security system. Watts came home instead and allowed the officer into the house, the affidavit said. The officer searched the house, but found no signs of the mother or her daughters. Christopher Watts told the officer that he and his wife had discussed marital separation around 5 a.m. and “informed her he wanted to initiate the separation.” He told the officer it was a “civil conversation and they were not arguing, but were emotional.”
Officers found Shannon’s keys, purse and medication on a table and found her cell phone shoved between two cushions on a couch. Watts originally told police he had loaded up his truck with work tools around 5:27 a.m. and left for for work. The truck leaving the home was recorded by the neighbor’s surveillance camera.
Over the next two days, police initiated a neighborhood canvas and asked for the help of the FBI and Colorado Bureau of Investigations. While conducting interviews, police found out that Christopher Watts had been having an affair with a work colleague, the affidavit said. The affidavit did not name the individual with whom he was allegedly involved.
Watts was arrested Wednesday night and his father spoke to him while he was in custody. At that point, “Chris said he would tell the truth after speaking to his dad,” the affidavit said. Watts then told police again he had told Shanann he wanted a separation, but then “walked downstairs for a moment and returned to his bedroom…” Watts told police that he looked at the image on the video baby monitor on Shanann’s nightstand and “observed Bella ‘sprawled’ out on her bed and blue, and Shanann actively strangling Celeste.” He told police he strangled his wife after he “went into a rage.”
He then told police he loaded all three bodies into the backseat of his work truck and took them to an oil work site, where he told police he buried Shanann near two oil tanks and dumped the girls’ bodies inside the oil tanks, the affidavit said.
Investigators went to the oil field called CERVI 319 and, with Anadarko permission, used a drone to search the property. They found a bed sheet matching those found in the Watts home and evidence of disturbed dirt, the affidavit said.
Christopher Watts appeared in Wells County District Court Thursday, Aug. 16, where Judge Marcelo Kopcow denied bail. Watts is scheduled to appear in court again Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Autopsy reports detailing the manner of death had not been released Friday, but a motion filed by Christopher Watts’ public defender asked to preserve “touch DNA” samples for the bodies of Shanann and the girls. This now appears to be part of the defense’s argument that Shanann killed the girls and Chris killed Shanann.
The document cited controversial DNA expert Richard Eikelenboom, who wrote:
“This DNA can be retrieved with a double swab technique. DNA scientists are familiar with this technique and an experienced person should take this samples. In my opinion the presence of oil will not destroy the DNA. The hands wand nails of the mother should be sampled as well. After samples are taken the nails should be cut preserved. I have a lot experience taking samples from dead bodies getting good results after strangulation. The hands of the children should be sampled as well.”
Judge Marcelo Kopcow denied the motion Friday.
The father of Shanann Watts thanked supporters Monday.
“Thank you everyone for coming out to the candle-light vigil and saying all your prayers for us. They are greatly appreciated,” said Frank Rzucek. “Keep the prayers coming. They are appreciated,” he said.
Watts gave multiple television interviews pleading for the safe return of his family.
Friends told news reporters that Christopher Watts had stayed at their home after his wife disappeared. Amanda Thayer said Shanann had confided to her that she feared her husband was cheating.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, before being taken into custody, Christopher Watts gave interviews with multiple news stations. He said Shanann and his daughters had disappeared with his wife leaving her purse and keys on the table.
“I walked in the house and nothing. Just vanished. She wasn’t here, the kids weren’t here,” he told Denver7. Watts claimed he and his wife had “an emotional conversation, I’ll leave it at that.”
The Watts family had undergone financial difficulties, and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2015.
The family had moved to Colorado from Moore County, North Carolina, according to television reports. Chris Watts was remembered by a retired former high school teacher as “the smartest student in the class” with “a photographic memory.”
Police declined to say if they know the motive for the killings, saying the investigation is ongoing.
Public records showed the family had financial difficulties, including a bankruptcy in 2015, when the couple reported they were $448,000 in debt. Shanann had been previously married and had used the name Shanann King. The couple owned a house in Belmont, west of Charlotte, which Shanann had bought in 2009. The couple were married in North Carolina in 2012. According to the Denver Post, the new owner, Byron Falls said the Watts’s were in a hurry to sell and left all the furniture behind.
The couple lived in Broomfield for a year, then in 2013 bought a newly constructed five-bedroom, 4,177 sq. ft. home at 2825 Saratoga Trail for $399,000.
They were also sued by their homeowner association, Wyndham Hill Master Association Inc., in July, 2018.The Thayers said Christopher Watts mentioned on Monday that his wife and he wanted to sell the house.
Watch Chris Watts interviewed hours before his arrest, telling Denver7 he has no idea where his missing wife and daughters are here:
Image: Christopher Watts glances back at a Weld County Sheriff’s Deputy as he is escorted out of the courtroom at the Weld County Courthouse Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Greeley, Colo. Watts, of Colorado, whose wife and daughters disappeared this week was arrested on suspicion of killing them. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via AP, Pool)
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