This Wednesday, Netflix is releasing a new documentary called American Murder: The Family Next Door. This documentary follows the murders of Shanann Watts and her two daughters Bella and Celeste. Upon watching the trailer, I was instantly intrigued by their story.
On Aug. 13, 2018 Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife and two daughters. This horrific event shocked the nation, causing this story to gain a lot of attention from the media.
However, the most interesting coverage of this case did not come from the media, but instead was captured on the body-cam of a police officer.
These are the three most interesting things the body-cam footage relieved about the Watts family murders:
Chris’ attempts to stall police
On Aug. 13, 2018 Nickole Atkinson called the Colorado police to report her friend Shanann Watts and her two daughters missing. This phone call came after Atkinson attempted to reach Watts multiple times throughout the day and received no response. This radio silence was out of character for Watts and caused Atkinson to grow weary.
Atkinson showed up to the Watts residence in an attempt to reach Shanann in person, but still received no response. A frantic Atkinson called Chris who blew off his wife’s disappearance by claiming she had taken their daughters to a play-date.
His story seemed highly unlikely to Atkinson, seeing as though Shanann’s car was still in the driveway. Chris’ suspicious behaviour led Atkinson to get the police involved.
Once the police arrived, it was clear — based on the body-cam footage — that Atkinson was distraught about her friend’s disappearance. Atkinson can be seen talking with police about possible ways to enter the house and look for her friend. However, once Chris arrived home, his energy regarding Shanann’s disappearance did not match Atkinson’s.
Chris’ behavior is bizarre from the moment he arrives. After getting out his truck, the first thing he does is walk to his passenger side door and put something away. This is strange behavior, as the officer is standing just feet away from him waiting to search his house.
Another red flag is raised when Chris goes to let Atkinson and the police officer into his home. Chris enters the house first through the garage and walks to the front door to let the others inside. However, it takes Chris a full minute to get to the front door after entering the garage, a trip that should only take a few seconds to complete.
While a minute does not seem like a long time, I believe this was a last-minute attempt made by Chris to cover up any evidence of fowl play before letting the police in.
Chris’s behavior both when arriving home and when letting the police officer and Atkinson into his home raised red flags for me. I believe his strange behavior shows his attempts to stall police before they began searching his home.
Chris’ bad acting
After entering the home, Atkinson and the police officer begin searching around the house for Shanann and the children while Chris trails behind.
The search comes to a stand-still after a few minutes of searching when the police officer realizes no one is home. After this realization it appears as though Chris begins to put on an act.
In one part of the body-cam video, Chris emerges from one of the bedrooms holding Shanann’s phone. In my opinion, this is a turning point in the search. This means that wherever Shanann is something is wrong. However, instead of reacting the way a worried husband would, Chris seems to shake off his findings as if they mean nothing.
While Atkinson and the police officer begin to brainstorm where Shanann could be, suddenly Chris turns around and rushes into the bedroom. This is seemingly the strangest part of the footage because when Chris returns he is holding Shanann’s wedding band, however he has it held as far away from himself as possible.
From my perspective, it appears that finding Shanann’s phone and wedding ring were Chris’ attempts to make himself look innocent. When in actuality, Chris’ bad acting made him look all the more guilty.
Chris’ change in body language
In the final minutes of the body-cam footage, Chris can be seen in the living room with Atkinson and his neighbor. His neighbor had brought over the footage from his security camera to see if it could give any clues to Shanann’s whereabouts.
This is when Chris begins to act differently. The once calm and collected Chris can now be seen pacing around the living room and fidgeting. His sudden change in body language is an admission of guilt, in my opinion.
Once the video begins to play on the television, Chris can be seen loading things into his truck early in the morning. The neighbor then points out to the police officer that this was the only activity his camera caught, meaning if Shanann had left the house it had to have been when Chris was loading things into his truck.
This revelation causes Chris to act more franticly than before. At this point in the footage, he can he seen placing his hands above his head and breathing heavily.
While I believe all Chris’ prior actions made him look guilty, his actions while watching the security footage definitely make him look the worst.
Overall, what Chris Watts did to his family was terrible, however his lack of empathy revealed in the body-cam footage is even worse. I hope that American Murder: The Family Next Door will reveal more interesting facts such as these about this case.
Mollie Chambers is a sophomore majoring in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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