What 'American Murder: The Family Next Door' Left Out About the Chris Watts Murders

Photo credit: Shanann Watts / Netflix / 2020 - Netflix
From Marie Claire
Ever since American Murder: The Family Next Door hit Netflix in late September, avid viewers have been searching for all kinds of information about Chris Watts. They've started Reddit threads, tweeted increasingly ridiculous theories, and generally spent hours searching the internet for minute details about Watts' crimes that didn't make it into the documentary's 82 minutes of footage.
To recap, Watts is currently serving five life sentences in a maximum security prison in Wisconsin after killing his wife Shan'ann, who was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, and their two daughters in August 2018. Watts initially claimed he was not involved in the disappearances of his wife and daughters, but his story fell apart within days and he was eventually convicted of their murders.
Obviously, it would be almost impossible to include every single detail about Chris, Shan'ann, their relationship, the murders and their aftermath in a single documentary. Here are some key points that American Murder missed. It can't hurt to have some extra context before settling on another new watch.
Shan'ann and Chris Watts had financial problems
The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2015, according to court documents, CNN reported shortly after Chris was arrested. At the time, they had just bought a $ 400,000 home and had about $ 70,000 in student loan and credit card debt combined. The documents show that Chris was the main breadwinner for the family, earning about $ 63,000 of their combined income of $ 91,000.
However, in 2018 Shan'ann started a new job with a lifestyle company. She received a huge raise, started driving a Lexus, and was sent on paid business trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where Chris stayed home to look after her daughters. It's unclear how Shan'ann's sudden financial success affected their marriage, but when she was out of town on a number of occasions, Chris secretly began dating a colleague, Nichol Kessinger.
Photo credit: Shanann Watts / Netflix / 2020 - Netflix
Nichol Kessinger helped put Chris Watts behind bars
While the documentary seems to theorize that Chris killed his family so he could be with Kessinger, it skims the extent of their involvement in the criminal investigation. The geologist, who said she didn't know Chris was still married when they started dating in July 2018, called and questioned him when she found out about his family's disappearance on the news. When she learned the extent of his lies and felt that his answers to his questions were "incorrect", Kessinger immediately reached out to investigators to share everything she knew about Chris.
Kessinger, who now leads a quiet life under the radar, was quickly convinced of his guilt and told the Denver Post a few months later, "He's a liar. He lied about everything ... If he could lie to me and something like that." Hiding big things, what else was he lying about? "
Kessinger's information was vital to the investigation. In a 2019 interview with Investigation Discovery, Michael Rourke, District Attorney for Weld County said, "Nichol Kessinger had information that I can best describe as a bomb."
Photo credit: RJ Sangosti - Getty Images
Chris Watts revealed more about the prison murders.
While at the Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin, Chris reportedly had correspondence with family members and a few strangers, including Cheryln Cadle, who wrote many of her letters in a book called Letters From Christopher: The Tragic Confessions of the Watts Family published Murders in 2019. In several letters, Chris offered insights into his mindset at the time of the murders, as well as gruesome new details about the crimes.
For one, he wrote that he knew he was going to kill his wife and daughters before he did. After putting his children to bed the night before, he wrote, “I went away and said, 'This is the last time I'll stow my babies.' "All those weeks I've been thinking about killing her and now I've faced it."
Elsewhere in the letters, Chris revealed that, although he first tried to choke his daughters in their beds before returning to his bedroom to kill Shan'ann, the two girls had somehow "woken up" again. "It makes things worse knowing that I went to their rooms first and that I still stole their life locally," he continued, referring to the oil depot he worked in and in he hid the three bodies.
Eventually, in one of the letters, Chris apparently confirmed the theory that he killed his wife and daughters to be with Kessinger. Admitting that he brought oxycodone to Shan'ann to try to cause a miscarriage, he told Cadle, "I thought it would be easier to be with Nichol if Shan'ann wasn't pregnant."
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