On August 13, 2018, Chris Watts made a series of decisions that ultimately ended in the murders of his 34-year-old wife, Shanann, and their two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.
A year later, friends and family are still mourning the tragic and violent killings — and remembering the vibrant young mother and two adorable girls who were taken too soon. On the one-year anniversary, the family will spend the day in “reflection” of Shanann and the girls, a family source tells PEOPLE.
“It’s all the family thinks about,” says the insider. “This has changed their lives forever.”
Meanwhile, Chris Watts sits in a Wisconsin jail after pleading guilty to murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters. He is serving life in life in prison without parole.
On Feb. 18, Watts met with investigators to provide chilling new details about the murders.
Watts said during his confession, he and Shanann had sex after she returned from a business trip to Arizona. Hours later, he jumped on her after a fight in which he told her he didn’t love her, and she threatened to leave him and take the children.
Watts said he “snapped” and lost control. He strangled Shanann and drove 45 minutes to a remote oil field with her corpse in the bed of the truck and his still-living girls in the backseat. Before burying Shanann in a shallow grave, Watts said he smothered Celestein the backseat, right next to Bella. After dumping Celeste’s body in an old field, he returned to smother Bella, who begged for her life.
At the time of the murders, Watts was having an affair with a coworker, Nichol Kessinger. Kessinger cooperated with police and said she thought Watts was separated while they were dating.
A Loving Mother
Shanann Watts would now be a 35-year-old mother of three. After suffering from health issues, she was especially grateful to become a mom.
“Closets were full before she was even pregnant,” Shanann’s brother, Frankie Rzucek, wrote in a letter read aloud at his sister’s funeral. “She couldn’t wait.”
After giving birth to Bella, she was unsure that she would have another child — but she soon became pregnant again.
“Oh how Shanann was so excited to be able to have another child because of her battle with Lupus,” Shanann’s family wrote in Shanann’s obituary about the arrival of Celeste. “She was determined to stay healthy — and with her love for her Celeste, every moment with her was a blessing.”
Shanann was pregnant again and expecting her third child — a son — when her husband killed her.
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Their firstborn, Bella, would have turned 5 years old last December 17. Celeste, who was 3 years old when she died, would have turned 4 in July.
In an interview from inside prison, Watts gave chilling details of the murders to authorities from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
He said Shanann “may have been” praying as he strangled her to death inside their bedroom before turning his murderous intentions to the girls. But despite his wife’s panic-stricken last hours, he said he was most haunted by his daughters’ murders.
During his confession, he said that whenever he closes his eyes, he hears his oldest daughter’s final words begging him not to kill her.
“Daddy, no!,” Bella screamed as her father moved in to smother her with the same blanket he’d used to kill Celeste first. “I hear it every day, when Bella was talking to me,” Watts told investigators. “When she said, ‘Daddy, no!”
In prison, Watts is allowed to have a Bible, but not much more. He says that he speaks to the photos of his family in his cell and reads a book out loud every night to the daughters he murdered.
Watts has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the Wisconsin prison system. He is not eligible for parole.
“It’ll be a tough day for Shanann’s family,” says the insider. “But they’ll get through it together. What’s important is that they’re never forgotten.”
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