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AS concerns for the safety of missing mum Shanann Watts and her two little daughters mounted, husband Chris played a doting dad and heartbroken husband as he begged for information on camera.
But chillingly he knew the whole time that they were dead – because he’d brutally murdered them just hours earlier and dumped their bodies.
Watts strangled 34-year-old Shanann – who was pregnant with his unborn son – to death, before smothering four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste and hiding their tiny bodies in an oil tank.
As police investigated the case, his story began to unravel, and it was eventually revealed Chris was having an affair and had tried to end his marriage, before killing his entire family on August 13, 2018.
After his lies were uncovered, Chris went on to eventually plead guilty to nine charges including three counts of first degree murder and he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences and 84 additional years without the possibility of parole – meaning he will die in prison.
Now the case – dubbed “the most inhumane and vicious” crime the judge had ever seen – is the focus of a new Netflix show, American Murder: Family Next Door.
Here we take a look at all the clues that indicated he was guilty from the start, before he eventually confessed after failing a lie detector test…
‘He’s not acting right at all’
After coming home from a work trip in the early hours, Shanann was reported missing on the morning of 13 August by friend Nickole Atkinson, who is filmed voicing her concerns for the pregnant mum at the start of the documentary.
And as the police began their enquiries, neighbour Nate Trinastich was the first to raise his suspicions about Chris.
Reporting he had CCTV footage that may hold some clues, the documentary shows the moment Chris goes over to Nate’s with the police to take a look.
However, Nate quickly becomes suspicious when Chris explains to the police officer that he always reverses into his garage to load up his tools before heading to work.
After Chris leaves, the neighbour pulls the officer to the side, and says: “He’s not acting right at all.
“He’s never fidgety. He’s never…rocking back and forth. And if you look – he never loads his stuff in and out of the garage. Ever.
“He’s normally quiet, real subdued. The fact he’s over here blabbing his mouth, makes me kind of suspicious of something.”
Too clean ‘to be normal’
Chris was still protesting his innocence and acting as a concerned father two days in when dogs were used to search the family home for clues.
And while there, others begin to feel suspicious too.
One officer with a dog, who is searching the bedrooms, comments: “Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but it almost seems like this place is a little bit too immaculate to be normal.”
“It’s amazingly clean,” her colleague agrees.
It later emerged Shannan was indeed killed in the house – and a clean-up operation had taken place.
‘Please bring them back’
At the point Shanann is reported missing, Chris is called and rushes to the scene – but his behaviour is bizarre from then on.
According to police body cam footage, he seems emotionless as they search the house, even when he notices his daughters’ ‘blankies’ are gone, and Shanann’s phone and purse is in the house.
He even shows no emotion when he finds her wedding ring on the nightstand next to their bed.
Even more sinister is the total lack of emotion when Chris is interviewed by the media – not even shedding a tear at the prospect his wife and children could be in danger.
He says: “I hope she’s somewhere safe right now, with the kids… I want them back now…
“Shanann, Bella, Celeste, if you’re out there, just come back, like if somebody has her, just please bring her back, I need to see everybody, I need to see everybody again, this house is not complete without anybody here. Please bring them back.”
‘We had an emotional conversation’
While speaking to the press, Chris also later mentions an ‘emotional conversation’ they had, before Shanann disappeared – but is cagey about what it was about, saying: “I’ll leave it at that."
When pressed by the police, Chris initially downplays the discussion, saying: “Just being apart, and figuring out who people are… When we were together it could feel like there wasn’t that spark.
“I think about ‘did I cause this?’ Did I make her feel like she needs to leave?”
He later admits he’d tried to end things, and text messages uncover issues within their relationship.
“F***ing call your kids when you wake up”
Despite their seemingly rosy family life, which was well documented on Facebook, all was not what it seemed.
In an earlier Facebook video Shanann says: “We have two kids, we live in Colorado, and he is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
However, it quickly becomes evident the pair were having marital issues, as Shanann even took the kids away for six weeks to visit family in North Carolina, without Chris.
“You f***ing call your kids when you wake up. You have not called once since we’ve been here on your own,” a clearly upset Shanann texted Chris at the time. “You’d think you missed us. But guess not.”
Friends also backed this idea, with Shanann’s friend Nickole saying: “She texted me saying things were bad and she didn’t know what was going on with Chris.”
The pair had also stopped having sex, with Shanann telling another friend: “He’s over here doing ducking push up challenge instead of discussing anything or f***ing me… I’m over here crying in silence.”
As the documentary goes on, it also became clear Shanann was suspicious he was having an affair.
‘You’ve gotten pretty fit’
When police start down this line of questioning, and ask Chris whether Shanann may have met someone, the officer’s attention also soon turns to Chris and his appearance.
“You’ve gotten pretty fit,” he comments. “You can imagine when guys start cheating or want to cheat, that’s what happens.”
Chris responds: “I did not cheat on my wife. I was 245lb, I’m 180lb right now.”
The officer presses on, saying: “I’ve got to imagine there’s a girl that inspired that?”
However, Chris continued to deny he was having an affair – until his co-worker Nichol Kessinger came forward to speak to the police.
‘I cheated on her – I hurt her emotionally’
Despite his repeated lies, it then transpired he has been having an affair with Nichol – the final nail in the coffin for Chris’ fragile pack of lies.
The pair met at work, with Chris telling his mistress he was almost divorced.
While Shanann was away, just days before her murder, Chris even got a babysitter, saying that he was going to a baseball game with coworkers, but instead he went to a bar with Nichol on a date.
Suddenly, after failing a lie detector test, the documentary reveals the moment all his lies are exposed and his story quickly unravels.
He eventually confesses that he strangled Shanann before bundling her body into the boot of the family car, putting his two little girls in the backseat and driving 45 minutes to an oil field where he worked.
Chris then buried his wife in a shallow grave and killed his daughters by smothering the tots, and hid their bodies in an oil tank.
One of the most disturbing elements showcased on the Netflix documentary is Chris’ complete lack of emotion throughout, despite just wiping out his entire family.
Showing him a photo of his daughter in the interview room a police officer says: “These are your baby girls, and you have not shed one tear.”
Despite his cold, steely reaction, the American murderer will now have his whole life to think about what he did, as he will die behind bars.
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