The Murders of Shanann Watts and Her Daughters Still Haunt Family 1 Year Later

The Watts family, in happier days.
The Watts family, in happier days. Facebook

The murders of pregnant Shanann Watts and her two young daughters happened one year ago, but time has done little to heal the broken hearts and bothered minds of those touched by the gruesome killings.

From authorities to immediate family, virtually everyone still grapples with trying to find a modicum of understanding as to how husband and father Chris Watts could strangle the 34-year-old woman expecting their third child, then smother 3-year-old Celeste and use the same blanket to kill 4-year-old Bella, who screamed "Daddy, no!" as he cut off her air supply.

"It's all the family thinks about," a person close to relatives recently told People. As for Watts, who sits in a Wisconsin prison with no chance of ever being paroled, "He thinks about what he did every day. He is tormented by his past and the mistakes he made," an unidentified family source told the magazine.

Investigators in the small Colorado town of Frederick, just north of Denver, who recovered the bodies from an oil site after Watts told them where to go, fight against memories strong enough to recreate the smell of oil coating the bodies of Watts' daughters.

"It's like when you're a kid and you go on the wrong carnival ride and all you want to do is get off. But you can't. You have no choice until the ride shuts off," Frederick police detective Dave Baumhover told the Denver Post. 

Tips and comments continue to pour into police exactly one year after Watts killed his entire family on August 13, 2018.

As do ugly social media comments about the victims.

Last month, the father of Shanann Watts pleaded for internet posters to "Just stop. Please, just stop."

Frank Rzucek stood on the front lawn of his daughter's former home and spoke to reporters. "I don't want to go into specifics, but I will say that our family, including Shanann and her children — and our grandchildren — have been ridiculed, demeaned, slandered, mocked in the vicious ways you can imagine," he said. "This is so wrong. It is cruel. It is heartless."

Watts pleaded guilty late last year to murdering his wife and children. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. By pleading guilty, he avoided the death penalty.

In February, he met with investigators and gave new details about the murders. 

Watts said "he snapped" after arguing with his wife. He no longer loved her, he said, and she threatened to leave and take the children, Watts told detectives.

He strangled Shanann in their bedroom and drove 45 miles, with her body in the back of his truck, to a remote field, he said. His daughters were in the back seat. He smothered Celeste as she sat next to her sister, then dumped her body in an oil tank, he said. He returned to the truck and smothered Bella, who begged for her life, and dumped her with Celeste, Watts said.

Then he buried his wife's body in a shallow grave, he said.

Watts was having an affair with a colleague at the time, but she thought Watts was separated from his wife, she told detectives.

Shanann was thrilled to be having a third child, her family said in her obituary. After Bella was born, she was unsure if she could have more children. 

"Oh, how Shanann was so excited to be able to have another child because of her battle with Lupus," her obituary said. 

She had been expecting a boy. 

Watts told investigators Shanann "may have been" praying as he killed her.

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