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Top 10 Local News Stories of 2018: No. 1 -- Christopher Watts Convicted and Sentenced to Life in Death of Pregnant Wife, Two Daughters

December 31, 2018 GMT

Top 10 local news stories of 2018

Through Monday, the Times-Call will count down the top stories of the year, as selected by the newspaper’s editors.

10. Longmont high school teams post successful seasons

9. Longmont allows recreational marijuana shops

8. Police officers cleared in shooting death of Gillie Thurby III

7. Longmont adopts 100 percent energy renewable goal.

6. Mile Hi Skydiving under scrutiny after skydiver death, noise controversy

5. Longmont passes affordable housing mandate

4. Rita-Gutierrez-Garcia disappears, believed dead; suspect facing charges in separate sexual assault

3. Proposition 12 fails as communities experiment with methods to contain extraction

2. County implements coordinated entry for people experiencing homelessness

1. Christopher Watts convicted and sentenced to life in death of pregnant wife, two daughters


In text messages to friends, Frederick resident Shanann Watts talks about how her marriage seemed fine, almost perfect, before she left for a six week trip to North Carolina to visit family with her two young daughters.

But once her husband, Christopher Watts, joined her on the last week of the trip, Shanann Watts noticed he had changed. He was no longer affectionate, wasn’t happy about their pregnancy and didn’t seem interested in working through their problems, she told friends .

Shanann Watts, along with 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, were later found dead on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum Co., where Christopher Watts worked as an operator.

The triple murder made headlines around the globe, and flooded the small development in Frederick where the Watts lived with news crews and mourners.

Shanann Watts and her daughters were reported missing on Aug. 13. Two days later, police arrested 33-year-old Christopher Watts and charged him with five counts of first-degree murder, three counts of tampering with a deceased human body and unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

Watts pleaded guilty to all counts on Nov. 6 , but didn’t proffer a confession. He was sentenced on Nov. 19 to life in prison without the chance of parole, among other sentences.

Watts told investigators before his arrest that, after discussing their separation, he saw Shanann Watts strangling their daughter on a baby monitor. He said he went into a rage and strangled his wife to death. He then loaded all three bodies into his work truck and drove to the Roggen oil battery site.

Watts put his daughters in the two oil tanks and buried Shanann Watts nearby in a shallow grave.

The Weld County Coroner found that Shanann Watts was strangled to death, while the two girls were smothered to death.


Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said at Watts’ sentencing that the motive in the murders may have been to start a new life . Investigators found that Watts was having an affair with 30-year-old Nichol Kessinger , who worked for a contractor with Anadarko Petroleum Co.

Watts told Kessinger that he was in the process of getting a divorce, she told investigators. Kessinger found out that Shanann Watts was pregnant when news outlets began reporting on her disappearance.

New details were released after the sentencing when the district attorney’s office released about 2,000 pages of discovery, as well as dozens of video and audio recordings of interviews and searches. The Times-Call obtained the discovery by filling a request under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act.

Watts was transferred to an facility outside Colorado for safety reasons, according to Department of Corrections officials. The Denver Post reported that he is at Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin .

Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212,