The case sent shockwaves through the United States in 2018. Christopher Watts, the father of the family who described the family’s disappearance as a nightmare, was himself charged with the murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters – 34-year-old Shanann, four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste.
In November of that year, he pleaded guilty to the murders, and shortly thereafter he was sentenced to five life sentences.
On September 30, the documentary “American Murder: Murder in the Neighborhood” premiered on Netflix. According to the streaming giant, it was a couple of weeks ago in third place on the streaming list in Norway, only beaten by the series “Emily In Paris” and “Modern Family”.
“Murder in the neighborhood” reveals, among other things, the last SMS conversation between the father convicted of murder and the wife he killed. The documentary also uses video material from police body cameras, posts from social media and police interrogation videos to shed light on the case, according to People.
It began on August 13, 2018. Shanann Watts had been given a ride home by a colleague the day before, who was now worried because she could not get hold of her. Later that day, Shanann and her two daughters were reported missing.
Shortly before the disappearance, the wife had announced on Facebook that she was pregnant with the family’s third child. The case quickly gained media attention, and outwardly, Watts appeared to be a broken family man.
– It’s ruining me. Children are my life. Their smiles lit up my life, he told the Denver Channel7 days after his wife and daughters were reported missing.
– Shanann, Bella, Celeste. If you’re out there, please come back, he asked.
But just two days after the disappearance, the father of the family was arrested. The next day, the bodies were found at the oil plant where Watts was employed. The daughters were found hidden in oil tanks. In interrogation, he claimed that the wife who had strangled the children, and that he killed her in affect.
In early November, however, he pleaded guilty to nine counts – including mutilation.
He later explained in detail about the killings.
In interrogation, he said that he had started meeting another woman the summer before the murder, and that he had wanted to leave his wife. According to Watts, his wife confronted him and said that she knew about the side jump, and is said to have threatened to take his daughters from him. That was when he killed his wife, according to himself.
– I love you
According to the Swedish newspaper Expressen, the documentary reveals the latest SMS exchange between Shanann and Christopher Watts. There they discuss among which vegetables to buy for tonight’s dinner.
– Has the plane taken off? asks Christopher.
– Is finally on the plane and waiting for take-off. Thank God! Ask for a safe journey. Thanks! Love you! writes Shanann in his latest text message to her husband and killer.
According to The New York Times, the documentary was produced with the permission and participation of the relatives. In her review, the newspaper praises director Jenny Popplewell’s decision to avoid clichéd grips from the true crime genre.
– Popplewell’s film presents the Watts story as more than a criminal case. It is a thematic film about marriage, where deceptive social media can be, and an investigation of domestic violence, constructed with care and undeniably good craftsmanship, writes reviewer Bilal Qureshi.
Hailed by relatives
Shanann’s brother, Frankie Rzucek, warmly recommends the documentary in a Facebook post reproduced by The Independent.
– The director made sure that we participated in the whole process, and we met the whole team in person, he writes.
He praises the documentary for giving a holistic insight into the sister’s life, even before she met Christopher Watts.
– I’m honored to be her little brother. She is still changing lives and I could not have been prouder, he writes further.
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