Husband arrested in family's murder had financial struggles

Husband arrested in family's murder had financial struggles
Chris and Shanann Watts with their two children, Bella and Celeste. Copyright Courtesy family
By Erik Ortiz and Helen Kwong with NBC News U.S. News
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The couple seemed to have everything — but now family of Chris and Shanann Watts are left wondering if he is capable of killing her and their children.


On social media, Chris and Shanann Watts were a smiling, picture perfect couple in suburban Denver.They went on oceanfront vacations, cheered for the Pittsburgh Steelers and doted on their two young daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, while preparing their home for a third child — a boy they planned to name Niko.In an Instagram post from last November, Shanann Watts gushed over her husband on their fifth anniversary: "Chris these have been the best years of my life! Our love just grows strong everyday! We have two beautiful little girls that call us mommy and daddy!"In May, she boasted on Facebook that "I love this man! He's my ROCK" — eliciting a response from a friend that "he is amazing! So glad you two found each other."But that facade of a loving husband and dutiful dad was shattered Thursday when Chris Watts, 33, was arrested in connection with the deaths of his 34-year-old wife and their children, who had been reported missing three days earlier. It was an unexpected turn after earlier interviews outside of his Frederick, Colorado, home, where Chris Watts pleaded for their safe return — at one point telling reporters that "I just want them home so bad."

Chris and Shanann Watts with their two children, Bella and Celeste.
Chris and Shanann Watts with their two children, Bella and Celeste.Courtesy family

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said the mother and two girls were killed Monday in the home, and their bodies were later discovered on the property of an oil and natural gas company that Watts had worked for.A law enforcement source told NBC affiliate KUSA that Chris Watts confessed to the murders, although state investigators would not confirm that. The deadline to file charges against Watts is Monday, and he is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.In the meantime, friends and family are asking why he would allegedly harm his daughters and wife, who was 15 weeks pregnant, and are trying to piece together clues that would indicate he was even capable of something so sinister.A bankruptcy filing from June 2015 reveals a family that was under financial pressure.In 2014, the couple made $90,000 — about $61,500 from Chris Watts' job at Anadarko Petroleum and then the remainder from Shanann Watts' $18-an-hour job at a call center at a children's hospital.But they had about $70,000 worth of debt, mainly from student loans and retail purchases, in addition to their nearly $3,000 monthly mortgage payments, $600 in monthly car payments and then $1,300 in other expenses.In their bankruptcy filing, the couple said they had two savings accounts with less than $10, and a joint account with less than $870.The couple, originally from North Carolina, left for Colorado after they were married in Charlotte in 2012. The man who bought their original home in Belmont, west of Charlotte, told The Associated Press that Shanann Watts was eager to sell and left behind property.Shanann Watts had recently returned to North Carolina for a visit with her family, and spoke with her parents' next-door neighbor."She didn't give me an indication that there was anything wrong. She seemed pretty happy," the neighbor, Joe Beach, told the AP.Danell Search, who works with Shanann Watts' mother at a hair salon, said she saw the family on this latest trip, according to NBC affiliate WRAL."(Shanann) was one of those people, when she walked in the room it was just like sunshine," Search told the station. "Chris was very standoffish. He didn't really say anything. I said 'hi' to him, and he kept his head down.""It's just heartbreaking and devastating for this to happen to such a good person," she added. "Such cute, good girls. They had a whole life ahead of them taken away unfairly."

It's unclear how the Watts' financial fortunes may have improved — allowing them a cushy lifestyle in Colorado — but Shanann Watts flooded her social media pages with her venture working for Le-Vel, a marketing company that sells weight loss and health patches.The company encourages sellers to use Facebook and Instagram to share apparent success stories from customers. Shanann Watts and her husband regularly took pictures together wearing the patches, and posted a photo of a Lexus she said she was awarded for her work and getaways she was afforded."All inclusive, no work, all fun vacations," she wrote recently about trips to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and San Diego.Whatever was going on behind the scenes, Chris Watts kept guarded when he appeared in public after reporting his wife and daughters missing on Monday. He told investigators he had an "emotional conversation" with Shanann before he left for work at around 5 a.m.Retired detective Jon Buehler, who investigated the murder of pregnant California woman Laci Peterson in 2002, told "Today" that Chris Watts was unbelievable and "very flat" in his statements."He's saying the right thing, but there's nothing convincing about it," Buehler said. "It's like an act he's putting on, but he's not a very good actor."

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