16 Things to Know Ahead of the Chris Watts Lifetime Movie

Martha Sorren | Dec 13, 2019 Movies
16 Things to Know Ahead of the Chris Watts Lifetime Movie
Image: Chris Reardon/Lifetime

Sean Kleier and Ashley Williams in Chris Watts: Confessions of a Killer
Chris Reardon/Lifetime

One of the most shocking and horrific murder cases in recent years is getting a Lifetime movie. Chris Watts: Confessions of a Killer is based on the true story of how Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife, Shan'ann, and two daughters, Celeste and Bella, in August 2018. Although it is a fictionalized account of the crime, People magazine reports that it's based on the facts of the case and taped confessions with Chris.

The movie features Ant-Man and the Wasp star Sean Kleier as Chris, and How I Met Your Mother star Ashley Williams as Shan'ann and premieres on January 25. Following the movie's airing, a documentary called Beyond the Headlines: The Watts Family Tragedy will further explore this tragic true story.

As we previosuly reported, the synopsis for the movie hints at how chilling it will be to watch. The official description is as follows:

"When Chris Watts tearfully pleaded to television cameras for the safe return of his missing pregnant wife Shan'ann and their two young daughters, dark secrets loomed just beneath the surface. As the story spread, hearts went out to the distraught father and husband, who appeared to lead a charmed life. But days later, after failing a lie detector test, Chris confessed to brutally murdering his family and slowly revealed the horrific details of their deaths. Friends and family were left reeling, looking for answers as his double life and secret affair came to light."

Ahead of the movie's January premiere, here's everything we need to know about Chris Watts and his crimes.

  • How Chris and Shan'ann Met


    Shan'ann accepted a friend request from Chris on Facebook after a mutual friend suggested that he would be someone good for Shan'ann to meet. They eventually met in person, dated, married, and had two kids together over the course of their eight-year relationship. Shan'ann was expecting a baby boy when she was killed.

  • Shan'ann and Her Daughters Went Missing in August 2018


    Time magazine reported in August 2018 that Colorado police gave an "endangered missing" alert for Shan'ann and her two daughters after they disappeared out of the blue. They were last seen on Monday, August 13.

  • Chris Acted Worried About His Family


    Chris seemed like any other concerned husband and father after his family went missing. "I'm just hoping right now that she's somewhere safe,” he told local reporters, according to the Time magazine article. "Like, this house is not the same. Last night was traumatic. Last night was -- I can't really stay in this house again with nobody here."

  • Chris Confessed to Police


    When questioned by investigators, Chris eventually broke down and admitted to strangling Shan'ann. He initially claimed that he did so in response to Shan'ann allegedly killing their children first. That turned out not to be true, and Chris later admitted to killing all three of themShan'ann's body was later found in a shallow grave and his daughters' bodies in oil drums.

  • Details of the Crime Have Since Come Out


    Chris later revealed haunting details of his wife and children's final moments. He claimed that his 4-year-old daughter, Bella. had woken up and seen her mother's body. Distressed, she allegedly asked her father, "What's wrong with mommy?" Chris said he then loaded Shan'ann's body into the car, along with his two daughters. 

    He drove them to where he planned to dispose of the body and then suffocated his daughter Celeste, who was called CeCe. Chris claimed that Bella had seen what happened to her sister and asked, "Is the same thing gonna happen to me as CeCe?" She also allegedly cried out, "Daddy no!" when he turned to suffocate her. 

    "Trust me, I hear that every day," Chris told the police. "Bella talking to me ... When she said, 'Daddy, no.'"

    Truly horrific.

  • Chris Was Slapped With Several Charges

    Chris Watts in court
    Pool/Getty Images

    As we previously reported, after his confession, authorities charged Chris with "five counts of first-degree murder, one count of unlawful termination of pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a body."

  • Why Chris Did It

    Chris Watts
    RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

    Chris said that he strangled Shan'ann allegedly after an argument about getting divorced. He claimed that she told him, "You're never going to see the kids," and that's when he snapped and killed her. He never fully explained why he also killed his daughters. 

    "I try to go back in my head ... I didn’t want to do this but I did it," Chris said. "I just felt like … there was already something in my mind that was implanted that I was going to do it and then I woke up that morning and it was going to happen and I had no control over it."

  • Chris Was Having an Affair

    Chris Watts in court
    RJ Sangosti - Pool/Getty Images

    Evidence came to light during the investigation that revealed Chris had been having an affair with a woman named Nicole Kessinger. The two met through work and had been seeing each other for about two months when Chris committed the murders. Nicole claimed that she'd thought Chris was already going through a divorce when they'd met, and Nicole allegedly didn't know his wife was actually pregnant. 

    After Shan'ann went missing, Nicole eventually went to police with what information she had to help with the investigation.

  • Chris Was Not Involved in Any Funeral Details for His Family


    A funeral for Shan'ann, CeCe, Bella, and Shan'ann's unborn son took place on Sept. 1, 2018. Chris had already been arrested at the time and was awaiting his trial, although People magazine reported that he was allegedly "aware" that the funerals were taking place. An unnamed source claimed that Chris deliberately stayed away from any input on the memorial. "He knew better than to suggest anything,” the source said. 

    Understandably, no mention of Chris was made at the funeral proceedings.

  • Chris Pleaded Guilty

    Chris Watts in court
    Pool/Getty Images

    Chris didn't go to trial with his case. Instead, a few months after the killings, he pleaded guilty to all nine of the charges against him. As part of his deal, he avoided the death penalty. District Attorney Michael Rourke said that Shan'ann's family consented to the terms of plea deal and felt relieved that this part of their nightmare was over.

  • His Sentence Will Keep Him in Prison for the Rest of His Life


    Although Chris was not up for the death penalty, he was still sentenced to the maximum term allowed under law. He was given three life sentences with no opportunity for parole. Additionally, Chris was given 48 extra years for killing his unborn son and 36 more years for tampering with his wife and daughters' bodies after their deaths.

  • Chris Was Moved to a Prison Outside Colorado 

    Chris Watts
    RJ Sangosti - Pool/Getty Images

    Chris' horrific crimes became so well-known in his home state of Colorado, that he was eventually transferred out of his Colorado prison for his own safety, according to CNN. Since December 2018, he's been serving out his sentence in Wisconsin.

  • It's Been a Year Since the Devastating Crime


    August 2019 marked the one year anniversary of Shan'ann and her daughters' deaths. At the one year mark, a source allegedly close to Chris spoke out to say that Chris claims to be "tormented" by what he did. "He has nothing to do but think,” the source claimed to People magazine. "He thinks about what he did every day. He is tormented by his past and the mistakes he made."

  • Chris Claims to Have Found God in Prison


    There are reportedly only two personal items in Chris' jail cell: One of them is a photo of his family, which is especially upsetting, and the other is a Bible. His lawyers claimed that Chris is "remorseful" for his actions and has "found God" since being incarcerated.

  • Chris has Many Female Admirers


    Despite his actions, Chris reportedly has received many love letters from female admirers during his time in prison. An HLN docuseries episode called "Killer Dad: Chris Watts Speaks" also revealed that he's had admirers visit him and call him at his prison

    They don't seem to care what he's actually in there for.

  • Shan'ann's Family Filed a Wrongful Death Lawsuit


    The most recent update to this case came in December 2019. That's when Shan'ann's family's civil lawsuit concluded with a judge, ordering Chris to pay the family $6 million. ABC 11 reported that it's unlikely that Chris will actually pay out that large a sum, but the ruling at least stops Chris from being able to profit off his crimes through a book deal or anything of that nature.

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