Note from the owner of the website: This is the second of two Article's my granddaughter, Kylie Nix, has written that is being posted to this website. The first article can be found here. I think you may find this one both Very Sad and Very Interesting … Jerry Nix
On August 13, 2018 Christopher Watts murdered his pregnant wife, Shanann, and his two little girls, Celeste and Bella. A neighbor’s surveillance camera recorded him loading unknown items into the back of his truck at 5:27 a.m. Soon after, he drove to his first work site of that morning burying his deceased wife and unborn son in a shallow grave and dumping his three and four year old children’s bodies in the two oil tanks that were located on the site. By reading this paper the reader will have an understanding of what Christopher Watts’ motive was for killing his family, what happened the day the murders took place, the conditions that his wife and three children were in when they were found, and a brief overview of the autopsy from each victim, pointing out critical information that is necessary to fully understand the tragedy of this case.
Christopher Watts and Shanann Watts’ relationship seemed to be an ideal one until Shanann noticed her husband growing distant. On June 11, Shanann recorded videos of her surprising Mr. Watts with the news that they will be having a third baby, which they began calling Nico. According to Ashley Collman, the author of an article that was published by “Insider”, “Chris Watts seemed genuinely excited. ‘That’s awesome,’ he tells his wife before kissing her. ‘I guess when you want to, it happens.’” It is obvious that he was excited for this new addition to the family however, on July 7th, the first phone call was made between Chris Watts and a woman named Nichol Kessinger, a coworker, who authorities later found out was his mistress. Between the dates July 10th to August 11th, Watts’ relationship with his mistress grew closer as he started taking her on dates, receiving semi-nude photos from her, and writing her love letters. In turn, he grew more distant from his wife, causing major tension between their relationship. The affair alone could be a sufficient motive to kill his family, however, according to Christopher Watts, there was a more pressing motive.
On July 31st, Chis Watts flew to North Carolina for a family vacation where a situation between Celeste and Watts’ parents occurred, which he refers to as “nutgate.” According to text messages between Watts and his wife, his parents exposed Celeste to peanuts in which she is highly allergic to. Collman attached photos of the messages between the married couple that shows that Shanann felt as if Chris wasn’t standing up for his daughter’s well-being. Collman wrote that “Watts later told investigators that he believes he may have killed his wife and kids due to pent-up anger he harbored toward Shanann for what he described as driving a wedge between him and his family, feelings he said dated back to the beginning of their relationship.” Therefore, between his relationship with Nichol Kessinger and the feelings he felt toward his wife for “driving a wedge between him and his family,” one can see that both these combined gives Christopher Watts a fairly good motive for murdering his family that dreadful day.
On August 9th, Shanann Watts left for a business trip to Arizona, arriving back home on August 13th at 1:48 a.m. Later that morning, according to Collman’s article, “Watts said he and his wife got into an argument when he woke up to get ready to work. He told investigators she accused him of cheating, he ‘snapped’, and then he strangled her.” Watts told the officials that the noise from the fight woke Bella up, who came into his bedroom and asked, “What’s wrong with Mommy?” Collman writes that Bella “… watched as he wrapped his wife’s body in a sheet and dragged her out to his truck.” Both girls then rode in his truck as he drove to the oil site where he buried Shanann’s body. He then smothered his two little girls and disposed of their bodies in the oil tanks on the site. Watts’ realtor contacted him later than day about their plans of selling their home, when the realtor asks about Shanann and questions why she hasn’t weighed in on the conversation, he responds back, “She hasn’t been around all day, it’s very odd.”
According to the text messages authorities found, the realtor asks if Chris had contacted police and reported her missing which he lies and says, “I’ve done it all. Police are handling it now.” It wasn’t until Shanann’s friend, Nichole Atkinson, gained suspicion when Shanann would not answer the door and her car was in the garage that she called the police to report her and the children missing. On August 14th, the bodies were still not discovered and Christopher Watts appeared on “Denver 7” to talk about the disappearance of his family, where he begs for them to return home safely and states how much he misses them. Chris Watts stuck to the story of not knowing where his family was until the police discovered he had a mistress and he failed a lie detector test, he then admitted to strangling his wife. However, he refused to take responsibility for the deaths of his children and instead, claimed that Shanann had smothered them and he killed her out of rage of what she had done to his two little girls. According to Collman’s article, on August 15th, “Chris Watts is arrested on suspicion of three first-degree-murder charges and three charges of tampering with a deceased human body.” It wasn’t until August 16th, three days after the murders had occurred, that the body of Shanann, Nico, Celeste, and Bella were found on the property of the oil site.
An article written by Sophie Evans, describes the horrific way that the body of Shanann and her unborn son Nico were found. “The 34-year-old, who had been 15 weeks pregnant with a son, had her knees pulled up to her chest and her feet positioned up” in the shallow nine inch grave that Christopher Watts had buried her in. She was still wrapped in the bed sheet that Mr. Watts used to drag her body there. According to the autopsy report done by Michael A. Burson, Shanann was found wearing a purple t-shirt, a pair of blue underwear, and a black bra. The most disturbing finding in the grave however was the “largely decomposed fetus and placental unit found expelled from the gravid uterus.” An article written by Eric Luis describes the unbelievable phenomenon of what people call “coffin birth”. Luis writes why coffin birth, also known as postmortem fetal extrusion, occurs:
Shanann had experienced coffin birth when she had been in the grave for three days waiting on the discovery of her body. The autopsy report states that she was in “mild to moderate decomposition consisting of generalized discoloration, bloating, and skin slippage.” Her external injuries consisted of “possible patterned abrasions of the neck and left aspect of the face”, whereas her internal injuries were noted as an abundance of bruising around the muscles and tissues around her neck. The medical examiner could tell that Shanann was dead for more than twenty-four hours because, according to the autopsy report, rigor mortis had been released in the major muscle groups. There was blanching along the right side of her abdomen which extended along the groin to the right thigh. One can infer that this was due to the pressure that was put on that area of her body due to her position of how she was found. According to Sophie Evans article, “Her left arm, meanwhile, was extended near her head.” This is evidence that the majority of her weight was leaned towards her right side, causing the blanching that occurred during livor mortis. The autopsy report stated nothing about Algor mortis, but one can assume that after being deceased in a nine-inch grave for three days, her body temperature would have most likely reached the outside temperature. In most strangulation cases, the hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage will break due to the pressure that was placed onto the neck and there will be evidence of petechiae due to the capillaries underneath the skin. However, in Shanann’s case, “The hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage was intact” and “There are no discernible scleral or conjunctival petechiae.” The medical examiner noted that “Based on the history provided and the autopsy findings, the cause of death is asphyxiation due to manual strangulation by another individual. The manner of death is homicide.”
Bella Watts, their four-year-old daughter, underwent the worst of the trauma. Christopher Watts had disposed of her body in the west oil tank on the site property. After they had removed all of the oil, “found in the bottom of the tank, in the crude oil sludge was the second juvenile female victim believed to be Bella Watts.” She was placed in an unsealed body bag for transportation and, according to the autopsy reports, was wearing “An oil-soaked pink pajama-type top with images of hearts and butterflies and a pair of oil-soaked underwear.” It is shown through the autopsy report that Bella Watts had fought hard for her life during her final moments. She had injuries consistent with defensive wounds such as; “An at least 1.5 cm laceration of the frenulum and upper gum line with associated pink-purple contusions and superficial probable bite wounds of the mucosal surface of the tongue.” These marks show that while fighting for her life, young Bella Watts bit her tongue multiple times. She also had other external injuries such as:
A 13 x 3 cm area of vertical excoriations on the left buttock, a 9 x up to 4 cm yellow-tan possible abrasion on the left torso, and a 3 x 1.5 cm faint yellow-tan discoloration on the superior aspect of the left shoulder.
One can infer from these injuries that they occurred during the process of Christopher Watts shoving her body through the hole of the tank due to the fact that they are all on the left side of the body. The oil in the tank seems to have accelerated the decomposition process because, according to the autopsy, “… the body was found in an oil tanker containing oil and aqueous fluid. This resulted in abundant skin slippage upon washing.” The body of Bella Watts was in advanced decomposition which consisted of bloating, marbling of the abdominal surfaces, and areas of skin slippage. Due to the time it took the authorities to find the body, rigor mortis had already been set and released in major muscle groups, livor mortis was unapparent due to the amount of skin slippage, and one can assume that the body had reached the temperature of the oil in the tank. However, the most critical information that is seen in the autopsy report comes from the stomach contents of Bella. “The stomach contains approximately 75 ml of viscous, green-black fluid which is suggestive of oil and particulate matter from the oil tank which she was in.” It is not spoke on but due to the knowledge I have acquired from class this is a majorly upsetting find because in order for the oil to be in her stomach contents she must have ingested or inhaled some of it before she died. Due to the findings in the autopsy report, the medical examiner established her cause of death to be asphyxiation due to smothering, and her manner of death to be homicide.
According to Evans article, “Upon completion of emptying the east tank, a juvenile female victim believed to be Celeste Watts, was found buried in crude oil sludge at the bottom of the east tank.” When Celeste was found, she was wearing a pink and black t-shirt, a diaper, and a pair of underwear. The autopsy report states that, “The body exhibits mild postmortem artifact consisting of generalized bloating, areas of marbling, skin discoloration and skin slippage.” Unlike her sister, she did not possess any defensive marks. The skin slippage, similar to her sisters, was accelerated by the oil. This caused “the palmar surfaces of the hands” to slip off during the body recovery process and they were packaged separately to avoid any cross-contamination or disruption of evidence. Upon further autopsy, the medical examiner notes that, unlike her sister, “The stomach is empty.” One can infer from this finding that she was deceased upon entering the tank, therefore, she didn’t ingest or inhale any oil from inside the tank. The effects of Rigor mortis, Livor mortis, and Algor mortis are all similar to the findings of her older sister. Lastly, she did not exhibit any external evidence of injuries which one can assume means that it was easier to fit her body into the hole of the tank since she was smaller than her older sibling. The medical examiner established the same cause and manner of death as he did for Bella, “the likely cause of death is asphyxiation due to smothering. The manner of death is homicide.”
August 13, 2018 was a devastating day for not only the loved ones of Shanann, Celeste, and Bella, but also to anyone who knows the details of the case. Christopher Watts, according to the article written by Ashley Collman, pleaded guilty to all nine counts against him on November 6. He is currently imprisoned for five counts of first-degree murder, three counts of tampering with a deceased human body, and one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy. It is hard to think that someone who is supposed to love and protect you can be the one responsible for taking your life. However, it is thanks to the great work of the detectives, medical examiner, coroner, and all other personnel that responded to this tragedy that justice was served to Christopher Watts and the family members who were affected can have some closure.
Kylie Nix, Granddaughter of Jerry and Le Nix is the author of this article. Kylie is currently in her 3rd yea of studying Criminal Justice at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, LA and hopes to work in the field of forensics with the FBI upon her graduation.
Added by Jerry Nix – The photos above and below …
Collman, A. (2019, March 8). From a happy pregnancy announcement to a shallow grave: The full timeline of the Chris Watts murder case. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.insider.com/chris-watts-murder-timeline-2018-12#november-6-chris-watts-pleads-guilty-to-all-nine-counts-against-him-39.
Evans, S. (2018, November 27). Harrowing new details of how Chris Watts familys bodies were found. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/us-news/how-chris-watts-familys-decomposing13651610.
Luis, E. (n.d.). Here’s Everything You (Never) Wanted To Know About Coffin Birth. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.ranker.com/list/coffin-birth-facts/eric-vega.
Staff, C. O. (2018, December 4). Shanann, Bella, Celeste Watts autopsies, read in full here: What do they show? Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://www.crimeonline.com/2018/12/04/shanann-bella-celeste-watts-autopsies-read-in-full-here-what-do-they-show/.
I do hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have words of encouragement for Kylie or would like to comment on her article, please do so below so that she will see the comments. Thank you for reading this, Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC