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What motivated Chris Watts to kill his entire family? Delve into what motivates family annihilators and if they can be stopped.

Chris Watts murders: Why did he kill his own family?

There’s something especially chilling about family annihilators. Those individuals who just kill their entire family and don’t even appear the least bit sorry for it. From the Amityville murders to the Van Breda murders, they’re all equal parts chilling and horrifying. Because you’re supposed to love and trust your family, right? How could someone just kill their family like that? Without a second thought?

The Watts family murders are the most recent famous case of familicide. In 2018, Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife and two daughters in cold blood. The aftermath of it shocked and horrified the town of Frederick, Colorado, and the rest of the United States. Why did Watts do it? What kind of motive did he have to justify killing his entire family? Here’s what we know. 

The case

Here’s a basic refresher of the Watts family deaths for those of you who need a bit of a memory jog. On Aug. 13, 2018 at around 2am, Shannan Watts returned home from a business trip to Arizona. Later that same day, Shannan and her two daughters were reported missing by her friend and colleague, Nickole Utoft Atkinson after Shannan missed a doctor’s appointment and failed to return texts. 

Initially, Chris told authorities that he had no idea where his wife and daughters were. He said the last time he saw Shannan was when he left for work at 5:15am on Aug. 13. He gave interviews as well, begging for the return of his family. On Aug. 15, Watts was arrested after failing a polygraph test and confessing to the murders of his family. So why did he do it?

The motive, according to Chris Watts

Watts’ reason for killing his whole family: an affair. He, initially, said he only killed Shannan. How this testimony goes is that Watts asked for a separation from Shannan, who, in a fit of rage, strangled their daughters. In a similar rage induced state, Watts said that he strangled his wife and transported the bodies to a remote oil storage facility where he worked.

During this time, he was having an affair with his co-worker Nichol Kessinger, who was unaware that Chris Watts was still married. He told her that he and Shannan were in the process of divorcing.

The motive, according to others

This was where their bodies were discovered. The two little girls were found in oil tanks while Shannan was buried in a shallow grave nearby. During an appearance on Dr. Phil, the lawyer for Shannan Watts’ family said that he killed Shannan after an argument regarding divorce. That’s when one of his daughters walked in, where he claimed Shannan was sick. He loaded Shannan’s body and his two daughters into his truck.

After this, he smothered his daughters with a blanket he kept in there. Either way, Watts’ stories remained that it was a talk about divorce that got too far out of hand. But his case is different from other cases of family annihilators as well, according to Dr. Neil Websdale in an interview with the Rolling Stone. Usually, family annihilators will kill themselves after killing their families.

He said on the Watts case, “I think the fact that he didn’t commit suicide…may speak to this aggressive, narcissistic kind of personality, which says that he thinks he may be able to get away with this. It speaks to the fact that he’s very very much self-centered and [felt] entitled to do these things.”

He added, “The research is clear: these guys have secret lives, to be candid. They fantasize. They plan. They strategize, sometimes. They keep it to themselves. Bearing that in mind is important.”

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