The Most Bizarre Things About The Chris Watts Case
Disclaimer: The details of this case are extremely disturbing. Some readers may find this story upsetting.
Chris Watts’ case is pretty much infamous at this point, after he pleaded guilty to the murders of his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and their two daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste. Shanann, Bella, and Celeste became the focus of a police investigation after disappearing from their home in Frederick, Colo. in the early hours of Aug. 13, 2018. However, the case soon became a murder investigation, in which Chris was the prime suspect — and after failing a polygraph test, he would confess to murdering his family and disposing of their bodies.
After pleading guilty to the crimes, Chris — who had been having an affair with a coworker prior to the murders — was sentenced and is now in prison. Per the Independent, “Watts was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for the murders, and a 48-year prison sentence for the wrongful termination of a pregnancy. He also received 12 years for tampering with the bodies of each victim.”
The entire case was later featured in the 2020 Netflix true crime documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, but it’s safe to say that there are many strange details that didn’t make it onto the streaming service. Join us as we examine the most bizarre things about the Chris Watts case.
Chris Watts 'changed' overnight
While Chris and Shanann Watts appeared to have a perfect marriage to onlookers, their relationship suddenly changed in the weeks leading up to the murders. According to documents released by the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, Shanann had grown suspicious of her husband.
As the documents revealed, on Aug. 7, 2018, Shanann texted one of her friends, “Chris told me last night he’s scared to death about this third baby and he’s happy with just Bella and Celeste and doesn’t want another baby.” She continued, “He has changed. I don’t know who he is.” It would seem that Chris’ behavior toward Shanann became noticeably different, as she told her friend via text, “l told him last [night], I don’t feel safe with him after what he said about the baby.”
Tragically, less than a week later, Chris murdered Shanann, her unborn baby, and their two daughters, Bella and Celeste, and attempted to cover up the crime by disposing of the bodies at a remote oil field location owned by his employer. According to ABC News, Shanann’s mother, Sandra Rzucek, was aware of the change in her son-in-law and revealed on 20/20 that “her daughter had told her that the transformation happened over the course of ‘a few weeks, maybe a month.'”
Sadly, no one could know that Chris’ transformation would turn deadly.
He took Google's romance advice
While Googling romance advice isn’t necessarily bizarre in and of itself, the fact that Chris Watts was searching for dating tips while married to Shanann Watts is troubling. While Chris reportedly met Nichol Kessinger, the coworker he would begin an affair with, in June 2018, the romance seemed to have escalated quickly by the following month.
According to People, prosecutors in the case revealed that Chris had Googled, “When to say I love you for the first time in a new relationship,” on July 25, less than three weeks before he murdered his wife, two daughters, and unborn son. Chris’ Google search indicated that the married man was moving quickly with Kessinger and was ready to take their relationship to the next level, despite already being married to someone else. Strangely, Chris also Googled, “What do you feel when someone tells you they love you,” suggesting that he either didn’t know or wanted to accurately react to any romantic declarations.
Either way, his internet searches suggested that he was putting a lot of time and energy into his illicit romance with Kessinger. Per People, District Attorney Michael Rourke revealed that Chris also spent time “searching the internet for secluded vacation spots” to take Kessinger to during their affair. As reported by the outlet, “Prosecutors have cited Watts’ desire for a fresh start with his mistress, coworker Nichol Kessinger, 30, as his motive in the killings.”
Chris Watts' mistress was wedding dress shopping
While Chris Watts and his mistress, Nichol Kessinger, reportedly met in June 2018 at work, it wasn’t long before Kessinger was also turning to Google for romance advice. In her only interview following Chris’ arrest for the murders of his wife, Shanann Watts, and their children, Kessinger told The Denver Post that November, “We had just met … I barely knew him.”
However, People reports that court documents showed that Kessinger “spent ‘over two hours’ searching Google for wedding dresses just nine days before Chris killed his wife and two daughters.” Of course, searching for wedding dresses isn’t a crime by any means, but Kessinger’s search history suggested that she was incredibly serious about her relationship with Chris, and was already thinking about a future with the man she’d allegedly only been dating for approximately six weeks.
As reported by The Denver Post, Chris reportedly told Kessinger that “he was separated and at the end of divorce proceedings,” with his mistress saying that she “believed” she was dating a soon-to-be divorced man — with which there would be nothing wrong. However, Kessinger’s search history told a slightly different story. Per People, “On July 24, Kessinger Google-searched the phrase ‘Man I’m having affair with says he will leave his wife,'” which suggested that she may have known that Chris was yet to split from Shanann, and was hoping that he would leave his spouse to be with her.
A 'secret calculator' app concealed explicit messages
In the digital age, it’s difficult to conceal information, but Chris Watts found an unusual way to store content he received from his mistress, Nichol Kessinger. Per the discovery documents released by the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, “Watts had a ‘secret calculator’ application uploaded to his personal phone. This application by all appearances is an operable calculator. When the user enters a secret passcode the application reveals its true purpose, a concealed storage device for photographs, videos, contacts, even a private browser.”
So, in order to conceal his affair with Kessinger from his wife, Shanann Watts, Chris made sure to store all content from his mistress in the special app on his phone, presumably so that Shanann couldn’t access it. Investigators discovered a plethora of hidden photos and messages in the app on Chris’ phone, and they noted in the discovery documents, “I’m certain Watts communicated far more with Kessinger than is reflected in his phone data, perhaps facilitated through the Secret Calculator application. It become apparent he was receiving assorted nude images of Kessinger … which he then stashed in that application to prevent Shanann from ever seeing them.”
Basically, it would appear that Chris was living a double life before he murdered his wife and children.
Chris Watts was reportedly involved with multiple people
Since Chris Watts was arrested for the murders of his wife, Shannan Watts, two daughters, Bella and Celeste, and their unborn child, other people have come forward to claim that they were romantically involved with him. Per the Daily Mail, a man named Trent Bolte told investigators that he’d reportedly been in a ten-month long relationship with Chris, which ended in the spring of 2018, months prior to the murders. Meanwhile, the outlet noted that Bolte’s mother claimed, “Watts had given her son money while they were together, and even paid for Bolte to get lip injections.”
Additionally, a woman called Amanda McMahon also alleged that she’d been involved with Chris, and told Inside Edition, “He seemed like a genuine guy … He was funny. He was charming.” However, McMahon claimed that she saw a darker side of Chris during the weeks they were seeing each other. “The best way I can describe it that he almost zoned out into a different person,” she explained. McMahon also alleged that she’d been misled by Chris, who had reportedly told her that he was divorced. Upon finding out about his wife and children, McMahon explained, “It made me feel betrayed … It made me feel nasty. It made me feel dirty.”
He spent a normal Sunday with his daughters before the murders
When Shanann Watts was killed on Aug. 13, 2018, she’d just returned from a business trip in the early hours of the morning. Chris Watts had spent the weekend with their daughters, Celeste and Bella, and according to him, they’d had a rather normal time together at home.
According to documents released by the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, “On Sunday, August 12, 2018, he took his girls to a birthday party … There was a mini pool at the birthday party and his girls ‘had an epic time.’ They drove back home after the party and he gave his girls a shower and put them to bed.” Chris also revealed to investigators that earlier in the morning, after watching some television, he took the girls to Target to “purchase a birthday present,” and when they got home from running the errand, “he fed them leftover, cold pizza.”
By all accounts, Chris had spent a pretty regular weekend with his two daughters, and there seemed to be indication that he had planned to murder them and their mother just hours later. In hindsight, this normalcy appeared to be extremely chilling.
Chris Watts shared plans to visit the burial site
While Chris Watts initially denied murdering his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and their children, it later transpired that he’d revealed to a coworker his plans to visit the remote oil field in Frederick, Colo., where their bodies were found. According to the official case documents, on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, at around 5 p.m., Chris texted a co-worker in reference to the Cervi Ranch oil field, “I’m gonna go straight out there from my house in the morning.” When the co-worker responded that they had been planning to visit the site, Chris joked, “I can go out there though. No sense in both of us going out there lol.”
By telling a co-worker that he’d be visiting Cervi Ranch early on that Monday morning to complete some checks, many people believed that Chris may have premeditated his actions on that fateful August day, per Esquire, and had chosen the oil field as a burial site after murdering his family. As investigators wrote in the official case documents, Chris’ co-worker revealed “that no one really likes going out there to Cervi as it is so far,” but they “did not know the last time [Chris Watts] may have been out to Cervi Ranch.”
His parents defended him
After Chris Watts pleaded guilty to first degree murder in November 2018, his parents gave an interview to ABC11 defending their son. Chris’ mother, Cindy Watts, said of her son’s marriage to Shanann Watts, “It was a very hard relationship … It was a very hard relationship (with Shanann) as far as I’m concerned. I couldn’t do anything right.”
Chris’ parents also suggested that it was his marriage to Shanann that changed him. “He was in sports from when he was five until 17 years old,” his mom said. “There’s not one person you can talk to that will say anything about this kid. He was normal, he didn’t have a temper, he was just easy-going like his Dad. He’s not a monster.”
Meanwhile, Chris’ dad, Ronnie Watts, also defended his son to ABC11 and explained, “It’s hard for me to believe that he would hurt them girls no matter what … The story he told me that night, I believed it: The way he looked at me, the way he was crying, I believed it.” Ronnie is referring to the initial story that Chris gave to the police, claiming that he only killed Shanann after discovering that she’d murdered their two daughters. However, this was, of course, later revealed to be untrue.
Chris Watts thought the murders would 'free' him
From prison, Chris Watts reportedly corresponded with author Cherlyn Cadle in a series of letters, phone calls, and meetings, the details of which she subsequently published in the 2019 book, Letters from Christopher: The Tragic Confessions of the Watts Family Murders. Speaking with the Daily Mail, Cadle claimed that Chris had told her, “If I had not met Nikki, I would never have killed my family. … All I could feel was now I was free to be with Nikki. Feelings of my love for her was overcoming me. I felt no remorse.”
According to the author, Chris also revealed, “The darkness inside of me had won, it was still in me, though, I thought maybe permanently. I felt evil, swallowed up by this thing inside of me. I felt like I could kill anything and be justified for doing it.” Of Chris’ mistress, Nichol (“Nikki”) Kessinger, Cadle said, “Christopher says he loved her like he has never loved anyone else before.”
The mystery of those Metallica lyrics in the Chris Watts case
Police investigating the Chris Watts murders discovered that he had looked up the lyrics to the Metallica song, “Battery,” per the Weld County District Attorney’s Office’s discovery documents, “during a respite” taken shortly after he murdered and disposed of the bodies of his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and their two daughters. One of the reasons, then, that some people speculated that Chris’ mistress, Nichol Kessinger, might have allegedly been involved in the murders was because of a mysterious text she reportedly sent him soon after the killings had taken place.
As author Cherlyn Cadle wrote in her book, Letters from Christopher: The Tragic Confessions of the Watts Family Murders (via the Daily Mail), “After Christopher killed his family and drove away, Nikki texted him to look up the song by Metallica band called ‘Battery.’ I challenge you to look up the full lyrics of this song. I find it interesting that we should believe it’s only a coincidence.”
According to Genius, the lyrics include lines like, “Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me / Cannot stop the battery / Pounding out aggression, turns into obsession / Cannot kill the battery / Cannot kill the family, battery is found in me.”
Chris Watts initially claimed that Shanann Watts killed their daughters
On Aug. 15, 2018, less than a week after his wife and daughters disappeared, Chris Watts failed a polygraph test. Tammy Lee, an investigator in the case, conducted the test, and as reported by The Tab, “Chris Watts didn’t just fail his polygraph test, he scored shockingly low. The normal score to indicate that someone is lying is around -4, and Watts scored -18.”
After failing the test, Chris confessed to a version of the truth, which included him alleging that he’d only murdered his wife, Shanann Watts, after she supposedly smothered their two daughters. According to iNews, “He claimed that she had killed their two girls in response to his request [for a divorce], and said he had killed her in anger after she did this. However, he later confessed to strangling his wife during a confrontation over the revelations of his affair.”
Presumably to save face after failing the polygraph test, Chris concocted a story about what happened to his family, which painted him as somewhat of a victim in the proceedings. However, it was later revealed that Chris killed Shanann first, and didn’t murder their daughters, Celeste and Bella, until he’d driven to the oil site where their bodies were found.
Inside Nichol Kessinger's Google history
While Chris Watts’ mistress has maintained that she believed he was separated from his wife when they met, police discovered a strange piece of information on Nichol Kessinger’s mobile phone. According to the discovery documents compiled by investigators, data from Kessinger’s phone showed that she’d Googled Shanann Watts’ name the year before she started an affair with Chris, on Sept. 1, 2017.
In an interview with CrimeOnline, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said, “The dates to which you are referring — in 2017 where it appears she Googled or otherwise searched Shanann — was data that came off her phone.” He continued, “Nichol Kessinger told us that she met and started the relationship with the defendant in 2018 … So where that anomaly in the data comes from … I don’t know the answer to it.”
Indeed, the fact that Kessinger reportedly Googled Chris’ wife’s name in September 2017 seemingly contradicts her own version of events. As The Denver Post, with whom Kessinger gave her only press interview, later reported, “Kessinger was working in the environmental department with an Anadarko Petroleum contractor when the two met … One day in the middle of June , he walked into her office to introduce himself.” Per Kessinger’s account to the outlet, “Watts told her that he had two daughters and, after Kessinger asked, Watts said he was separated and at the end of divorce proceedings, she said.”
Nichol Kessinger also Googled another infamous mistress
As well as Googling wedding dresses and the name of Chris Watts’ wife, Nichol Kessinger also searched online for Amber Frey, the infamous mistress in another murder case. Per ABC News, Frey helped convict Scott Peterson of the murder of his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn son. Laci was eight months pregnant when she disappeared on Christmas Eve in 2002, and it wasn’t until April 2003 that the bodies of Laci and her unborn child were found.
Per the Chris Watts case’s discovery documents, “Kessinger searched the internet on topics related to Amber Frey … Her searches included Frey’s book deal, her net worth and ‘did people hate Amber Frey.'” These searches reportedly took place on Aug. 18, 2018, three days after Chris confessed to murdering his family.
Presumably, Kessinger may have been concerned about what the public perception would be once it was revealed that she was the mistress of a convicted murderer. However, the fact that she Googled Frey’s net worth and book deal might also suggest that she may have been hoping to capitalize on her situation. Of course, this is all speculation, and it should be noted that Kessinger voluntarily spoke with police on Aug. 15, the same day that Chris was arrested for the murders of Shanann Watts and their two daughters. As Kessinger later told The Denver Post, “I just wanted to help … With a pregnant woman and two children missing, I was going to do anything that I could.”
Chris Watts wanted to apologize to his mistress
On Feb. 18, 2019, Chris Watts sat down for a five-hour interview with the Frederick Police Department, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI — the audio of which was released to the public. Chris made a plethora of revelations during the interview, and he spoke about his former mistress, Nichol Kessinger. As reported by Oxygen, Chris said, “I’m not sure what you [Nichol] went through afterward, if you had like counseling, if you’re in a different state, if you had to leave everything behind … I just hope there’s normalcy for her since she’s on the outside.” He continued, “I’m hoping it could get that way at some point.”
When the investigators asked Chris if he was hoping to speak to Kessinger one day, he replied, “Maybe once … just to say, I’m sorry this all happened.” However, per Oxygen, Chris’ attorney reportedly attempted to contact Kessinger on his behalf, but she refused.
During this same interview, Chris also emotionally suggested that if he hadn’t begun an affair, he might not have become dissatisfied with his marriage to Shanann Watts. “If I never met [Kessinger] would I have ever thought our relationship was bad? Probably not,” he told investigators. “I never thought I would have strayed away from [Shanann].”
He grabbed breakfast after the murders
We already know that Chris Watts Googled the lyrics to the Metallica song, “Battery,” after disposing of the bodies of his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and two daughters, Bella and Celeste, in large oil tanks on a site owned by his employer. However, that’s not all that he did. As reported by the Daily Mail, surveillance footage of Chris was captured at a convenience store on the morning of the murders.
At around 8 a.m. on Aug. 13, 2018, he was filmed “picking up a sandwich and chatting with the cashier.” Per the site, “Watts can be seen in the video clip wearing an orange T-shirt with sunglasses perched atop his baseball cap as he takes his change and puts it into his wallet before walking away from the counter.”
Chris’ seemingly calm demeanor while picking up a snack now seems particularly haunting as he’d only recently murdered and buried his family, having initially left his home around 5:30 a.m. that same day. While this is far from the only bizarre thing about the Watts murders, it’s definitely strange to consider that Chris decided to run some normal-seeming errands right after committing these heinous crimes.
Chris Watts' first attempt to murder his daughters was unsuccessful
Chris Watts revealed a plethora of details about the case to author Cherlyn Cadle, which were subsequently published in her book, Letters from Christopher: The Tragic Confessions of the Watts Family Murders. As reported by the Daily Mail, in one letter he sent to Cadle, Chris reportedly admitted that his first attempt to kill his young daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste (“Cece”), 3, was unsuccessful.
“August 13th, morning of, I went to the girls’ room first, before Shanann and I had our argument,” Chris allegedly wrote in a letter to Cadle. “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.”
However, as Chris explained, his first attempt to smother his daughters didn’t work. “After Shanann had passed, Bella and Cece woke back up,” he explained. “I’m not sure how they woke back up, but they did. Bella’s eyes were bruised and both girls looked like they had been through trauma. That made the act that much worse knowing I went to their rooms first and knowing I still took their lives at the location of the batteries.”
Instead, Chris reportedly loaded wife Shanann Watts’ body into his truck after strangling her, and then drove his daughters, who were still very much alive at that point, to what would become their final resting place.
A man claimed there's a ghost in Netflix's doc about the Chris Watts case
Many people have watched the Netflix documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, which pieces together the events leading up to the murders of Shanann Watts, her two daughters, and unborn son. And it would seem that one eagle-eyed viewer of the documentary about the Chris Watts case believed that they’d spotted something strange in the background of one video clip.
According to the Daily Mail, “Footage from a police officer’s body camera has been getting attention because it appears to show a little girl playing inside the Watts’ home after Chris’ wife and daughters were reported missing.” As reported by the site, Arthur Cant took to YouTube to suggest that he’d spotted a ghost in the bodycam footage, and asked viewers to consider whether it was an apparition of one of Chris’ murdered daughters.
However, other viewers reportedly suggested that, rather than a ghost, the young girl was simply the daughter of Shanann’s friend, Nickole Atkinson, who alerted police when Shanann missed a doctor’s appointment and failed to reply to any text messages or phone calls that morning. Atkinson joined police in the house in the search for Shanann, and it seems likely that her children could have been present, too.
However, as the Daily Mail reported, “Despite the logical explanation, a few people insisted that the home is haunted.”
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