Documents show investigators were closing in before Christopher Watts confession
Investigators already were closing in when Christopher Watts admitted to killing his wife and kids, having already identified a bed sheet matching the Watts’ sheets and the disturbed earth above Shanann Watts’ shallow grave at a remote oil tank battery when the call came in regarding Watts’ confession, according to newly released documents from the case that earned national attention.
Watts was sentenced Monday to three consecutive life sentences and more for killing his wife, Shanann, and daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, and disposing of their bodies.
The Weld District Attorney’s Office released more than 2,000 pages of documents Wednesday afternoon, and officials plan to release about 3 terabytes of data containing photos, video and more in the coming days.
An initial review of some of the 2,000 pages of documents by The Tribune revealed call logs, pictures of text messages and summaries of FBI interviews in the case.
Shanann, Bella and Celeste were first reported missing Aug. 13, and the following day the majority of the Frederick Police Department was working the case, according to emails from the case file.
One day later, Aug. 15, investigators, including those from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, were at the secluded Anadarko oil tank battery in rural Weld County north of Roggen where they eventually would recover the bodies of Watts’ victims.
Using a drone with a camera, investigators zeroed in on a fitted bed sheet matching sheets from the Watts residence, which happened to be missing a fitted sheet. Investigators also found a patch of earth that appeared to have been recently disturbed.
While awaiting further instruction, word came through an investigator at the scene that Watts confessed to killing his wife and two daughters and disposing of their bodies near the well site.
They got a text message with a picture of the tanks, the girls’ initials scrawled on each tank.
It would take more than 12 hours the following day to recover the bodies, with reports describing a gruesome recovery process.
All of this occurred within two days of the killings, a whirlwind of activity featuring Watts on television cameras begging for his family’s safe return just one day after driving the 39.1 miles from his house to the tank battery to dump their bodies.
Investigators had to sift through hundreds of leads, including a call from a psychic claiming to know the whereabouts of the kids. They deployed K-9 units and drones to search the neighborhood and interviewed dozens of people.
It was clear, from investigative reports and interview summaries, Watts was an early suspect. His own actions put him there.
The day before, a Sunday, he texted a co-worker saying he would go out to the site the next morning, and he would do so alone.
On Monday morning, an hour after leaving his house with the bodies, he texted the same co-worker to ask his whereabouts. Learning the co-worker wasn’t nearby, he texted the thumbs up emoji.
When questioned by police, Watts said he couldn’t recall the name of the oil site he went to. But he knew.
The planning may have started well before, when Watts broke character four days before his family’s disappearance by agreeing to go on a trip with Shanann despite some rocky conversations about their relationship.
Shanann’s friend suggested the pair take a trip and offered to watch the kids.
Shanann texted back Aug. 9:
“Chris agreed to go away, which I’m in total shock. Sure you don’t mind?”
They never took that trip.