Here's everything you didn't see on Netflix's 'American Murder'

The media frenzy surrounding the case at the time uncovered other details that paint a crazier picture.

October 7, 2020
USATSI_11111589_168390366_lowres (1).jpg

RJ Sangosti/Denver Post, Pool


Much of the country is getting a look inside the Chris Watts case for the very first time via Netflix's new documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door. What people don't realize is that this was actually a very high profile case receiving national attention at the time, and it didn't happen very long ago. However, there are many details I noticed they left out that true crime followers will want to know. 

I thought the documentary did a good job of telling us exactly what happened. However, as someone who followed the case very closely, there are other crazy details that we just didn't get to see, as well as some questions left unanswered. 


Here's the gist of the case: then 33-year-old husband and father of two, Chris Watts, strangled his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, to death at their home in Frederick, Colorado, following her return from a business trip. He also smothered their two daughters Bella and Celeste with their favorite blankets before being dumped into oil tanks at Watts' workplace. Watts had been having an affair with a woman named Nichol, who was under the impression that Watts was separated from his wife (and had no idea that Shanann was carrying their unborn third child, a boy named Niko). According to The Denver Channel, Watts was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life in prison plus two additional concurrent life terms, without the possibility of parole. 

Their home in Frederick, Colorado, is only about 25 minutes away from where I was born and raised. Their home is located off an exit where we'd stop for food and bathroom breaks on our way to school field trips in Denver. CRAZY. Watts' workplace is just on the other side of I-25, close to other communities I'm very familiar with. As this case was happening in 2018, I was following VERY closely along with the local news stations, so that's why I just know the case pretty well. 

These are some of the stories that they didn't talk about at all in American Murder: The Family Next Door

1. Chris and Shanann Watts had serious financial troubles. 

While the affair he was having is certainly a huge motivator for the murder, the Watts family could not afford their large, new construction home featured in the documentary. Despite Shanann's success with her direct marketing career and Watts' career in the oil industry which typically pays pretty well, the couple had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July 2015 and claimed liabilities of more than $400,000 (via Denver Post). In July 2018, a civil claim was filed against the couple by the Wyndham Hill Master Association in Frederick. Shanann was killed the following month. I don't quite remember if they covered this in the documentary at all, but they certainly focused on Chris Watts' affair with Nichol rather than the couple's financial troubles. 

2. Speaking of the house, it's still empty and no one will buy it. (And Chris Watts still technically owns it.) 

According to Newsweek, the house went into forclosure immediately following Watts' sentencing and became the property of the mortgage lender. After it failed to sell in several auctions, it was taken out of forclosure and legally remains property of Chris Watts. The home has an estimated worth ranging from $595,349 to $648,100 and is currently listed as "off the market." Bankruptcy attorney Clark Dray tells Newsweek that the property will remain vacant until another creditor tries to put the home into forclosure. 

3. A man claimed to be having an affair with Chris Watts, and said that Watts paid for him to get lip fillers.

Amongst all the media frenzy, this story came out about 28-year-old Trent Bolte claiming to have a 10-month affair with Watts which ended that March or April before Shanann's murder. According to The Sun, Bolte claimed that he and Watts stayed together at a cabin in Wyoming and that Watts gave him money for lip filler injections. Bolte's mother Colleen told investigators that Watts "paid him $250, $80, and $60 on separate occasions" and also "confirmed" the Wyoming cabin narrative. Bolte wrote in a Facebook post following the murders that Watts told him "he was the victim of emotional and mental abuse and was stuck in loveless marriage but was so scared to leave because of Bella and Celeste." This entire story has since been denied by Chris Watts in a sit-down interview with investigators following his sentencing. (Scroll down to the last point of this article and you can listen to Watts' denial of knowing Trent Bolte.) 

4. Chris Watts has befriended another murderer in prison, who's also received international media attention. 

The Jake Patterson case is going to become your next true crime story obsession, and I wouldn't be surprised if a follow-up to American Murder covers this case. According to MailOnline, Watts met Patterson when he was jailed at Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin. Patterson is doing time for kidnapping then 13-year-old Jayme closs after shooting and killing her parents. Watts and Patterson bonded over reading the Bible, and they'd reportedly discuss the passages afterward. 


5. Random women have been sending letters to Chris Watts in prison, and he's been writing them back. 

Now 35, Watts continues to correspond with women from his prison cell, a source tells PEOPLE. The source said, "He got a lot of letters at first. Many of them are from women who thought he was handsome and felt compassion for him. He had nothing better to do, so he wrote them back. And he started having penpals. A couple of them stood out, and they've kept in contact." The source adds that the women are not concerned about the horrific crimes he committed, and instead have compassion for him. 

6. Chris Watts sat down with the investigators you see interrogating him in the documentary for a podcast-style tell-all following his sentencing, and you can listen to it. 

The audio is several hours long, but he basically does a tell-all with investigators from the Frederick Police Department, CBI, and the FBI from the Wisconsin prison he was being held at on February 18, 2019, answering all the questions they had after he was sentenced. The details are extremely graphic, and I would not recommend listening to the audio if you have children. If the documentary felt like too much for you, then you do not want to listen. But if you're interested, here is the audio: