Shanann Watts was a pregnant mother who seemed to have the perfect life. Like many, Shanann shared much of her life online, from videos and photos to frustrated commentary about her relationship. After Shanann’s tragic death, many were compiled to represent her life in the Netflix documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door.
Released on Wednesday, American Murder is an hour-and-a-half deep dive into the family life of the Watts, and the tragic outcome which saw pregnant Shanann and her two young daughters, Bella (4) and Celeste (3) killed by their father, Chris Watts.
How it all came to be is shocking, mostly because the motive doesn’t seem quite strong enough for a triple murder.
The documentary reveals Shanann and Watts had been having marital issues. Texts between Shanann and a friend show the pair had been celibate for some time, which frustrated Shanann. Watts was also seemingly absent while Shanann spent around a month away from him to visit her family across the country.
After Shanann’s death, authorities found Watts was, indeed having an affair, despite him denying it to both Shanann and investigators.
The night of Shanann’s murder, according to Watts, they had a deep and emotional conversation about the fate of their relationship. Watts apparently told Shanann he didn’t love her anymore, which somehow led to him killing her by strangulation.
But Watts didn’t stop there. He took Shanann’s body, as well as his two, living children, to an oil field where he worked. Watts then suffocated his two little girls and hid their bodies in the oil tanks. Shanann was buried in a shallow grave.
The tragedy took place in 2018 and captured the attention of the world. What’s truly frightening is that the triggers that sent Watts to take three lives appears to be, frankly, common marital issues. In most cases, couples work through things or choose to divorce, however peaceful or messy. But just moments after he told Shanann he didn’t love her, he claims, she was dead.
American Murder outlines all of it, from the crimes themselves to the behind-the-scenes moments of Watts’ relationship. Time with his mistress is documented via photo and video, too. It’s a social-media-era case, unlike any documentary film we’ve seen thus far. Viewers are likely to feel like they know the Watts family just through the candid scenes of their seemingly-perfect life.
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