Audio, video recordings reveal first contact with Christopher Watts, investigative process
December 1, 2018
WELD COUNTY — Body camera footage of search teams, surveillance camera footage and video interviews with Christopher Watts are among the 50 gigabytes of data released on the now-infamous Weld County triple murder case.
With Watts’ guilty plea and sentence to life without parole this month, the Weld District Attorney’s Office released the entire case file, starting with 2,000-plus pages of written documents and featured this week with a dump of photo, video and audio evidence. In all, the case file will comprise about three terabytes of data, officials have said.
The most recent batch of evidence from the case file reveals in the sharpest detail to date the three, tense August days during which investigators worked every lead in the search for Shanann Watts, 34, Bella Watts, 4, and Celeste Watts, 3, and eventually zeroed in on — and arrested — Christopher Watts.
For two days, Watts maintained the façade of a grieving husband and father, looking, like everyone else, for his loving family. That façade cracked after he failed a lie detector test and confessed to his father in a police interrogation room that he had killed Shanann, a confession that was itself laced with a lie; he said he killed Shanann only after she killed their daughters.
Watts still hasn’t confessed, revealed a motive or explained how he killed his family — a guilty plea in exchange for Weld District Attorney Michael Rourke taking the death penalty off the table serving to refute his previous, short-lived defense.
Without Watts’ cooperation, investigators were still able to solve the case, quickly narrowing in on a search area — an oil tank battery north of Roggen — thanks to GPS tracking on Watts’ truck about the same time Watts was finally ready to confess.
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The most recent upload also features a recording of a police interview with Watts’ mistress, and her assertion that, if anything, money was the motive in the murders.
Watts first confessed killing his wife to his dad, Ronnie Watts, in an interrogation room after investigators confronted Watts about failing a lie-detector test.
In the conversation, recorded Aug. 15, just two days after his family was reported missing, Watts holds his head in his hands, nodding back and forth.
“I don’t want to protect her,” Watts says. “I don’t want to protect her.”
“You don’t want to protect her?” his dad asks.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Watts answers.
Just minutes before, investigators had talked with Watts about another case in which a mother killed her kids. Then an investigator asked Watts what his wife did to the girls.
"He immediately asked if he could talk to his dad,” according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation summary of the interview.
That’s when Watts told his dad Shanann hurt the girls.
“And then I killed her,” he said.
His dad didn’t understand him right away.
“I freaked out and I hurt her,” Watts said.
“Did they leave after that?” his dad asked, not understanding what his son had said.
When he finally realizes, his dad said, “Oh my God.”
“God almighty, son.”
When investigators came back into the room, Watts was ready to tell his false story to them:
“I just felt such anger, that nothing — I didn’t feel anything,” he said in the video. “My babies are gone, and I put my hands around my wife’s neck and did that same thing.”
After confessing, Watts marked on a picture where investigators could find the bodies of his family. That picture, with initials on the oil tanks for each of his daughters, was sent to investigators who were already on scene at the tank battery north of Roggen.
Just two days earlier, in video from a neighbor’s front porch, Watts can be seen backing his truck into his garage then driving away, presumably with his family’s bodies in the bed of the truck.
Several hours later, he was back at the house speaking with Frederick police in an interaction that was caught on those officers’ body-worn cameras. Watts was mostly calm as investigators walked through the house, with one picking up bed sheets that would eventually hold the key to locating the bodies. A single fitted sheet was missing, and investigators using a drone discovered it near the tank battery north of Roggen. Officers also asked Watts about his statement that day to his mother in law. He told her Shanann and the kids went to a friend's house, and officers wanted to know what friend. Watts said he didn't know.
— Tyler Silvy is the deputy editor for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.