Warning: This story contains some graphic details.
A Colorado man convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters told investigators that he had been fighting with his wife about their relationship before strangling her and smothering their children.
In interviews with Colorado investigators on Feb. 18, Chris Watts, described how he killed his wife, Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant; their 3-year-old daughter, Celeste; and their 4-year-old daughter, Bella. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation released hours of audio from the interviews on Thursday.
“I didn’t want to do this, but I did,” he told investigators about strangling his wife in a bedroom of their Frederick home. “Why couldn’t I just let go?”
Chris Watts initially told police that he had no idea where the three went after a friend of his wife’s reported them missing on Aug. 13, 2018. He pleaded with his family to return home during local TV interviews.
Two days later, Chris Watts was arrested and confessed to killing his wife and daughters. He later claimed he strangled Shanann Watts in a fit of rage after she strangled Bella and Celeste in response to his request for a divorce.
He pleaded guilty to murdering all three of them in November in what some said was an effort to avoid the death penalty. He was sentenced to three life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.
But last month, during prison interviews with CBI investigators, Chris Watts admitted to killing his wife and children and offered new horrifying details about how he did it.
He told investigators he was unhappy in his marriage and had been having an affair with a co-worker at Anadarko Petroleum for over a month when his wife returned home from a business trip around 2 a.m. on Aug. 13, 2018.
He woke up a few hours later, he said, and decided to confront her about their relationship issues while she lay in bed. He said she accused him of having an affair, which he denied, and he eventually told her he wanted a divorce.
He said she was upset by the request and told him, “You’re never gonna see the kids again.” That’s when Watts said he went into a rage and “snapped,” putting both hands around her neck and strangling her.
“I just wished I could’ve let go,” he told investigators. “It was like picturing someone around you, holding your hands, holding you and keeping you from letting go.”
Watts said Bella walked into the bedroom moments after he killed her mother.
“What’s wrong with Mommy?” he said Bella asked as he wrapped Shanann Watts in a bedsheet.
“Mommy don’t feel good,” he said he responded before dragging his wife’s body down the stairs and loading it into his truck.
He told investigators he then drove Bella, Celeste and the body to an oil site where he worked. After removing Shannan Watts’ body from the truck, he said he smothered Celeste with a blanket in the backseat while her sister looked on.
“Is the same thing gonna happen to me as Cece?” he said Bella asked when he returned from dumping Celeste’s body into an oil tank.
He told investigators that Bella pleaded with him not to kill her and that he didn’t remember whether he responded.
“Daddy, no!” were her final words before he smothered her too with a blanket, he said. Investigators said evidence shows Bella put up a fight as her father murdered her. After shoving Bella’s body in a different oil tank, he buried his wife’s body in a shallow grave nearby. Investigators found the remains days later and arrested Watts.
Chris Watts can be heard crying on the audio recordings as he describes killing his wife and two daughters — in contrast to his court appearances last year, in which he largely appeared emotionless.
“I trusted you to take care of them, not kill them,” Shanann Watts’ father, Frank Rzucek, read in a statement at Chris Watts’ sentencing hearing in November.
“You heartless monster,” Rzucek continued. “You have to live with this vision every day of your life, and I hope you see it every time you close your eyes at night.”
Chris Watts told investigators that he keeps pictures of his wife and children in his prison cell and reads Scripture to them every night.
“I never knew I could have a relationship with God like I do now,” he said. “It’s like the amazing grace with all of this, but I just wish nobody had to pay any kind of price for this.”
Prosecutors and state investigators said they found Watts’ tape-recorded confession last month to be mostly credible, with several of his anecdotes matching evidence they collected.
“I’m assuming what he is telling is truthful,” Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke told The Coloradan. “I don’t think that everything that came out of his mouth during those interviews was the truth, because I honestly don’t believe that this monster has the ability to have remorse at all.”
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
This article has been updated to include the district attorney’s comment.