Shanann Watts Case: What to Know About the Killings of the Colorado Mom and Daughters

Shanann Watts, was 15 weeks pregnant when she and her daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, were all strangled to death.

As a stone-faced Chris Watts, 33, appeared in court Tuesday to listen to the charges he faces in the killings of his pregnant wife and two young children, many questioned how he could be the same Colorado man recently lauded as a wonderful father and husband.

“He was the one for me,” Shanann Watts, 34, had said in a video posted to social media before her death. “And he is amazing and I can’t tell you how wonderful he is.”

Investigators are working to determine why Watts would allegedly kill his wife Shanann, who was 15 weeks pregnant, or his daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, who were all strangled to death.

Below is a timeline of what the investigation has so far revealed: 

Monday, Aug. 13

1:48 a.m. MDT: A security camera on a neighbor’s home captured Shanann returning from a business trip in Arizona. A friend dropped the expectant mother of two off back at her Frederick home. 

Between 4 and 5 a.m.: Police said Watts told them he awoke around this time and had an “emotional” but “civil” discussion with Shanann about his wanting to separate. 

5:27 a.m.: Watts was spotted backing up his truck to his garage. Police said he initially told them he had loaded tools into his vehicle and left for work at a job site near Hudson. He told officials Shanann and his daughters were in bed when he left, an arrest affidavit said. Watts said his wife told him she was bringing the children to her friend’s house that day, but he said he didn’t know the friend’s name.

1:40 p.m.: Frederick police were called to the Wattses' home to check on Shanann after the friend who dropped her off said she hadn’t answered calls or texts and missed a 10 a.m. doctor appointment. Watts gave police permission to enter the home, where they found Shanann’s purse on a kitchen counter and cellphone lodged between two couch cushions, but no signs of foul play, according to the affidavit.

Tuesday, Aug. 14

7 a.m.: Frederick police requested the assistance of the FBI and Colorado Bureau of Investigation in the search for Shanann and the girls. The CBI issued a missing-endangered alert for the three that day.

Tuesday afternoon: Watts spoke with KUSA-TV, saying his family’s disappearance is “earth-shattering.” 

“If somebody has her just please bring her back,” he said. “I need to see everybody, I need to see everybody again; this house is not complete without anybody here.”

Wednesday, Aug. 15

4:15 p.m.: Police used a drone to investigate an oil and gas site where they believed Shannan, Bella and Celeste’s bodies to be. There, they found a bedsheet matching the pattern of the pillowcases and top sheet at the Wattses’ home.The sheets found at the house had allegedly been thrown into a kitchen trash can. Police said they also spotted “fresh movement of dirt consistent with a clandestine grave near the oil tanks.”

Wednesday evening: Investigators discover that Watts was allegedly having an affair with a co-worker, which he had previously denied. In an interview with police, Watts allegedly “said he would tell the truth after speaking with his dad,” the affidavit said.

Police said Watts then told them that after telling Shanann he wanted a separation, he saw her on a baby monitor strangling Celeste in another room. He told police Bella was already blue and “sprawled” out on her bed, apparently dead, the affidavit said. Watts told police he “went into a rage and ultimately strangled Shanann to death.”

He said he loaded all three bodies onto the back seat of his work truck and took them to a work site, where he buried Shanann and dumped the children’s bodies into oil tanks, the affidavit said.

11:30 p.m.: Watts was arrested on suspicion of three first-degree murder charges and three charges of tampering with a deceased human body.

Thursday, Aug. 16

2:30 p.m.: Watts appeared in Weld County Court, where he was denied bond. 

Thursday afternoon: Shanann’s body was found in a “shallow grave.”

Thursday evening: Celeste and Bella’s bodies were found inside oil tanks near the grave of their mother.

Friday, Aug. 17

All three victims were positively identified by the Weld County coroner Friday.

Autopsies were conducted for all three victims, but the results were not immediately released.

8:30 p.m.: Hundreds gathered to take part in a candlelight vigil for Shanann and her daughters. Flowers, stuffed animals, crosses and photos adorned a makeshift memorial that was created in front of their home.

Monday, Aug. 20

4 p.m.: Watts is officially charged with three counts of first-degree murder; two counts of first-degree murder for causing the death of a person under the age of 12 while being in a position of trust; one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased body.

Shanann’s father, Frank Rzucek Sr., and brother, Frank Rzucek Jr., stood alongside prosecutors as they announced the charges. 

Rzucek Sr. thanked law enforcement for their work on his daughter and granddaughters’ case, as well as supporters for their prayers.

“They are greatly appreciated,” said Rzucek Sr. “Keep the prayers coming for our family.”

Tuesday, Aug. 21

10 a.m.: Watts appeared in court to be formally advised of the charges against him.

He will continue to be held in Weld County jail without bond and is scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 19.


A Look at the Mollie Tibbetts Case Since She Vanished Nearly 5 Weeks Ago

Shanann Watts' Father Sobs as Names of His Daughter and Grandchildren Are Read in Court

Murder Suspect Says He Killed Wife After Seeing Her Strangle Daughter: Affidavit