Shanann Watts and her daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, went missing on Aug. 13, 2018 from their home in Frederick, Colorado. Her friend and colleague Nickole Utoft Atkinson called the Frederick Police Department and reported Shannan, who was 15-weeks pregnant, missing after she missed a business meeting, an OB-GYN appointment and failed to return texts.
Officers arrived at the family’s five-bedroom home to conduct a welfare check that afternoon and the women and girls were not found. Shannon’s husband Chris Watts, 33, talked with the officers and gave the police permission to search the house, which was empty. The police did discover Shanann’s purse, phone, wedding ring, and keys in the house. Additionally, her car and her daughter’s car seats were at the house.
On Aug. 14, 2018, the FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation joined the investigation. Notably, Chris, a seemingly desperate husband, gave an interview to Denver station KMGH-TV, in which he pleaded for the safe return of his missing family. However, his role as the devoted soon went by the wayside. On Aug. 15, 2018, Watts was arrested. The same day he was fired from his job at Anadarko Petroleum.
According to the arrest affidavit, Watts failed a polygraph test and soon after confessed to murdering his pregnant wife. According to the affidavit, Watts admitted he was having an affair with his co-worker Nichol Kessinger, which he first lied about, and claimed to have asked for a separation. Watts claimed that in response to his request to separate, Shanann had strangled their daughters and he killed her in anger. Watts then transported the three bodies to an oil site where he worked.
Authorities found the bodies of Watts’ family on the property of Watts’s former employer on August 16. His daughter’s bodies were found in oil tanks. His pregnant wife was found half-dressed in a shallow grave near them.
On August 21, Watts was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, including one count per child cited as “death of a child who had not yet attained 12 years of age and the defendant was in a position of trust,” unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
On November 6, Watts pleaded guilty to the murders. Despite the severity of the crimes, the death penalty was not put forward on the request of Shanann’s family who said they didn’t want any further deaths.
On November 19, Watts was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. During his November sentencing hearing, prosecutors revealed that his daughters had been smothered and Shanann had been strangled. The deaths likely happened while they slept.
On December 3, 2018, Watts, who had been the center of the media, was moved to an out-of-state prison due to security concerns. The family annihilator is serving the remainder of his life sentences at the Dodge Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison, in Waupun, Wisconsin.