Before Shanann Watts and her two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, disappeared earlier this week from their home in Frederick, Colorado, the life the 34-year-old had built with her husband of eight years, Christopher, seemed better than ever. They had met on Facebook, fell in love, and she moved to Colorado from her native North Carolina so they could be together. While they had some financial troubles, according to the Denver Post, Shanann’s job with a nutrition company had put them back on track, and allowed the family to travel to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and San Diego. In June, she had announced on Facebook that they were expecting their third child, which Shanann said she felt “brave enough” to take on thanks to her husband, whom she called “my ROCK.”
Shortly after his wife and kids’ disappearance on Monday, Christopher Watts appealed for their return on a local news broadcast.
“I hope that she’s somewhere safe right now with the kids,” Watts said on Tuesday. “If somebody has her and they’re not safe, I want them back now.”
“My kids are my life,” he went on. “Those smiles light up my life.”
A day later, Watts was arrested. And now neighbors, friends and family are trying to comprehend the news that the 33–year-old husband and father had allegedly confessed to killing his entire family, and directed authorities to where their bodies could be found.
On Thursday, the body of an adult female believed to be Shanann Watts was found on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum, Christopher Watts’ now-former employer (they terminated him immediately following his arrest). Shortly thereafter, the bodies of his little girls were recovered from inside two oil-and-gas tanks nearby.
“This is absolutely the worst possible outcome that anyone could imagine,” said John Camper, director for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which assisted with the investigation.
Authorities believe the murders occurred inside the Watts home, though they haven’t said when. What’s known publicly about the days before the murders mostly comes from Watts himself — Shanann had reportedly been on a work trip to Arizona over the weekend, arriving home early Monday morning at around 2 a.m., and a little over three hours later, he was out of bed and on his way to work. Later that day, a friend of Shanann’s called him, concerned that Shanann hadn’t shown up to their scheduled lunch and wasn’t answering her phone.
Watts would later tell police that he had called and texted his wife throughout the morning and received no response. When he arrived home at 2pm, he said, his pregnant wife and children were nowhere to be found. Asked by a local reporter about whether they had fought before Shanann’s disappearance, Watts would only say that they had “an emotional discussion.”
Watts has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with evidence, but prosecutors have been tight-lipped about a motive or how the murders were executed, and the arrest warrant is under seal. Watts appeared in court for a bond hearing on Thursday, but didn’t speak or show emotion; he’s being held without bond and is due back in court on Tuesday.
For now, those who knew the family are reeling from grief and shock.
Joe Beach, a neighbor of Shanann’s parents back in North Carolina, had spoken to her during her recent trip home with the girls. “I talked to her a couple times,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We were talking about general things, about how her two girls were doing and how life was out in Colorado. She didn’t give me an indication that there was anything wrong. She seemed pretty happy.”
Another friend, Ashley Bell, said Christopher Watts seemed friendly and normal, and Shanann hadn’t mentioned there being any tension at home.
“I just want to know why,” Frankie Rzuscek, Shanann’s brother, posted on Facebook. “I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath. May Satan have mercy on his soul. … My blood is boiling and the pain and anger and sadness I have in my heart.”