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What made Chris Watts STOP loving his kids?

He seemed more of loving father than a loving husband. So what changed? Why did the children have to die?

On September 10th I analyzed the day Shan’ann told Chris Watts she was pregnant for the third time. This was a significant date in the Watts timeline, and if it plays directly or indirectly into motive, it’s vital that we know when the motive began to manifest.

A number of followers of this blog were critical of the idea that Shan’ann knew exactly when she fell pregnant, and were perhaps doubtful that she knew she was pregnant close to or immediately after conception.

It’s important to emphasize in this respect that Shan’ann’s her own person. Shan’ann’s Shan’ann and you’re you. Her pregnancy, her attitude to life, her personality etc is unique to her. In order to fathom the authentic interiority here, one has to look inside the developments not through our eyes but through her eyes. That’s not easy because it requires us to spend some time actually figuring out who she is.

That’s really the business of true crime over all, isn’t it? To figure out who people really are, and through that, to figure out ourselves and the agendas of those around us.

That’s also what True Crime Rocket Science is all about. #tcrs specializes in this most difficult area of all, human nature, and the unique natures of various identities in various cases.

When Shan’ann’s friend Nickole Utoft Atkinson described her as OCD, we get it. We know what OCD means, and we think that explains what sort of person Shan’ann was. But does it?

What does it means to be OCD about one’s pregnancy?

Shan’ann found out she was pregnant with Bella, her firstborn, on April 16th 2003. Bella was born on December 17th, 2013. The span of time between those dates is 246 days, or eight months and two days.

Another important aspect Shan’ann had to deal with in terms of her pregnancy was lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own organs. Lupus is an important factor antagonizing against pregnancy: it can lead to miscarriage and premature delivery in the mother, and heart problems in the fetus.

So pregnancy was a far bigger deal with Shan’ann than it would be for most first-time mothers. It wasn’t just about the anxiety of getting pregnant, but the ongoing tension of managing the monitoring the pregnancy in terms of her own health and the health of the baby. The OCD in terms of controlling the pregnancy was also evident everywhere else in Shan’ann’s life. This need to control while rooted at the surface in health concerns was really about controlling the fear of death.

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It’s not clear whether Bella was born prematurely, but what is clear is that Shan’ann knew very, very early on in her first pregnancy when she fell pregnant. At most she became aware of it less than 4 weeks after the fact. If Bella was born prematurely, which is likely where the mother is a lupus sufferer, then Shan’ann may have been aware even sooner, within days.

It’s likely Shan’ann’s OCD/vigilance would have been even greater during her second pregnancy, and greater still during the third pregnancy.

The idea that Shan’ann was very aware of the timing of the pregnancy is enhanced by the blogs she kept in 2013. Not only does it show her meticulous record keeping, it also shows Chris Watts as an attentive and caring father. In 2013 he appeared to be just as caught up in the fairy tale they were embarking on as Shan’ann was.

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The blog involves careful documenting of each moment and milestone. This also sets the tone for Shan’ann controlling effectively her husband’s role in her narrative. She’s the active voice, he’s simply a bit player in her spiel.

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Chris Watts also makes his contributions to the blog, probably at Shan’ann’s prompting. Because it’s his first child, he’s happy to be part of her dairy. But how might these feel and play out for a parent a second time, and then a third?

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So what made Chris Watts STOP loving his kids?

There are perhaps two broad answers to this question. Firstly, in any family, the more people added to it, the more love is lost or redistributed simply as a matter of logistics. Each new person on the scene requires resources: attention, love, time and money. Each new person on the scene means fewer resources for everyone else: attention, love, time and money.

If any of these resources [especially love and money] are becoming thin to begin with, then an additional child could cause the credit in these accounts to run out completely.

Secondly, if the third child wasn’t part of his plan, if it was her plan – her scheme – then we can see how the fairy tale could begin to darken, and then unravel.

If Shan’ann was a particularly OCD and controlling sort of person, then Chris Watts may have felt that not only was the third child not his idea, but everything was starting to feel overwhelming. Shan’ann’s control over his life had become total, and thus oppressive and off-putting.

When everything was starting to feel foisted upon him, and he was merely a sperm donor, a pawn and a prop in Shan’ann’s fairy tale, where’s the fun in that? When he felt like he was drowning in her fairy tale, maybe that’s when his fairy tale ended. Maybe his love for his children changed not because of them, but because of her.



  1. Pauline

    Why did Chris disengage from his children such that he could kill them. He seemed to share a special bond with Bella, and said she was more like him. There were many videos where Bella was on his shoulders, or he was playing quietly with Bella or Bella was lying down head on his lap. Maybe his wife sucked all of the spontaneity out of him so that his interactions with his children were not allowed to be his. Her obsession with repeating scenes for the camera – how could he play with his children in any kind of real way – everything had to be choreographed just so for Thrive. Chris, Bella and CeCe and their lives were turned into Thrive opportunities to sell a product. I could see how he could have been starting to relate to his whole family as cardboard, arranged in a doll house.

    • piktor

      He had disengaged from his victims months ago. His wife and the kids were a problem that he had to solve. If he divorced his wife, it was goodbye to the girls too. That scenario was absolutely clear to him.

      If he loses the wife, he loses the girls. If one goes, all three would go.

      When he acted, he knew how far he had to go.

    • rosrodz

      Yeah I think you have a point here.. coupled by his narcissistic tendencies which he repressed maybe for as long as things were going smoothly for him..but when things started to get boring maybe and he felt he’s not being validated anymore,plus a mistress on the side who he thinks gives him the validation he needs, his psychopathic tendencies kicked in.. killing his family without remorse.

      • Rachel Bowskill

        That was a really good comment you made and I totally agree with you .

  2. Cheryl

    I think you picked up on a very important reason why Chris fell out of love with his children—he had become a prop and by way of that an objectified play figure (Ken to Shan’ann’s Barbie). However, I think Shan’ann’s insistence on developing and staging a story for the entire family caused them all to be manipulated play things in Shan’ann’s story book house. Their very existence was defined by Shan’ann, which, I would imagine, did not include a space in the cardboard house for being human—not that they didn’t try. An example of asserting their humanity is when Cece cries in rage off-camera after Shan’ann abandons her to record the “happy” Christmas scene unfolding in the living room. If you didn’t fit in to Shan’ann’s narrative, you were banished to the off-camera netherworld of non-existence or, like Bella, labeled a Grinch if you failed to act happy while being recorded. In Chris’s case his less than joyous reaction to Shan’ann’s staged announcement of a third pregnancy stands as the only example I can recall of his displaying any emotion—and it’s restrained to say the least.

    In Shan’ann’s constricted narrative, your very humanity was an inconvenient truth that required an alternative on-camera version . Shan’ann’s manipulation of the family assumed a more toxic tone when she used the children to “whack” or humiliate Chris, as in the “whack-a-daddy” video where Shan’ann laughs and encourages Cece to beat Chris on the head,. Still another example Is when Cece bites Chris and Shan’ann encourages Cece to make fun of his pain. Given all of this, it’s no wonder that Chris didn’t link his resenting and falling out of love with Shan’ann to the children, since she had made them, in many respects, objectified extensions of herself. All of these dynamics do not justify Chris’s likely murdering his entire family, but do document the tragedy of its progressive annihilation—something Shan’ann never intended in her on-camera quest to capture the Watts fsmily’s joy.

    • piktor

      Conversely, Shanann has left in her social media postings a treasure trove of unimpeachable dedication to her two girls. A treasure trove of fidelity and admiration for her husband.

      In Court, the prosecution will harvest a bottomless reservoir of familial faith the victims had for their killer.

    • Rachel krissinger

      Hearing Bella say, “I wanna bite that” and Shannan twisting it to “you wanna laptop” and going on about the silly “vision board”. It showed us she was aware of her own shitty behavior. She had turned Cece into a little asshole. I’m also not saying anyone of them deserved what they got but I wish she hadn’t made it sooooooooooo easy. Such s nightmare.

  3. Pauline

    So well said Cheryl! I was thinking about the third pregnancy on my drive to work today (God, can’t I ever get away from this :)). Her rather obsessive compulsive behavior (as Nickole said) would have her monitor when she was ovulating so that they could make love in that time period so that she could get pregnant. As he rounds the corner in the video he says that’s what happens when YOU want something. Not when “we” want something. And another thing – when you are in the MLM bubble you are in an unreal world. He might have tried to have an honest conversation with her that they were in serious financial trouble and she likely would have put that down as “negative thinking” or trying to bring her down. She may have started to see her own husband as the enemy, coercing him into situations he didn’t want to be a part of. Using him to get pregnant a third time when he knew they could ill afford it. He may have chalked the third pregnancy up as yet another thing that wasn’t working for him.

    The Christmas video is absolutely the most horrifying display to me of an unhappy family – only she seems oblivious to it. Bella’s the grinch, CeCe is throwing a tantrum, and Chris – well, he isn’t a very good Santa. Did you also notice the dark circles under Bella’s eyes?

    • Cheryl

      Great comments, Pauline. Excellent that you pointed out the “you” versus the “we” in chris’s remarks regarding the announcement of the third pregnancy. That says it all, doesn’t it. Like you, I think he had reached his limit. And I agree, the Christmas video was like the anti-Christmas celebration version, “How to have a Miserable Christmas.” When the door opens and Chris is standing there sort of lifeless in the Santa suit, it reminded me of scenes from horror movies—kind of like zombie Santa knocking on the door. And then Shanann is immediately all over him about not having the camera. I kept thinking don’t push your luck lady; he’s going to explode. Of course I’m looking at this in retrospect knowing he’s going to murder Shan’ann and the children in less than one year. At any rate, very sad all the way around. And to think that was the children’s last Christmas.

      I did not notice the dark circles under Bella’s eyes. What do you make of that? Not getting enough sleep? Maybe mom and dad fighting and keeping the kids up? Cece was certainly raw, unraveling in the background. Christmas can be stressful, especially financially. And kids pick up on all that negativity.

      • Pauline

        I was wondering if they had had an earlier gift exchange or if the Santa “surprise” was Christmas Eve or Christmas Day evening? Because I didn’t see the tree piled high with gifts so maybe they had already opened them? I’ll check again and see if i see Bella with dark circles under her eyes in other videos. She could have been on some kind of cold medication or maybe she wasn’t sleeping well. I’ve seen those dark circles under the eyes of kids who are taking Ritalin. But I guess if she were, Sha’nann would say so. They do have medicines, that was remarked upon by the police investigator who said all of their medications were there. I originally heard they were the children’s medications.

        But throughout all of this and not just this video, Chris just does what he’s told to do. No more, no less.

    • Philip

      Using him to get pregnant….your sickening misogyny is off the scale. He could have said NO. Men cause 100% of unwanted pregnancies. The pity for this murderer is something else on this site. No wonder men kill around 67000 women a year. They have people making excuses left, right and centre.

  4. Marie

    I got the sense the Christmas video was pre-Christmas.

    I don’t know how much I read into the “you” vs “we” in the pregnancy announcement video. I often say “you” when referrring to it in the general sense.

    I feel that Chris very much was her puppet and he played along for a long time “happy wife, happy life” until… wait, he’s not happy at all.

  5. Dee W.

    No ..most have it wrong here.
    Chris is every pic he seems to be just playing a role but yet watching and putting on a fake persona..for the camera.Its planned to distract us all.
    Chris was using Shannan ..thru that marriage .Her wanting to believe the best …but who could hardly grasp any of it? …so she kept herself busy..but his sleeping with both men & women would be too much for her and shocking..but she was leaving him..rightfully so.She was starting to learn who he was and she had to pretend she didnt know because she knew he was a frightening MONSTER…in reality.A Demon.
    Psychopaths do not like to be exposed .That is the LAST thing Chris wanted put out there what HE was doing!!
    For those of us who have experienced that Evil..we all know it was Chris that put that sheet over the Barbie Doll and sent that pic to Shanan..saying the “kids did it.”.
    It’s hard for most to grasp that, because it’s so Evil to imagine Chris preplanned that ..but he did!
    Just as Shanan would be in denial about the red flags ..such as that one…who could imagine your hubby preplanning that? Who? She wasn’t nieve..Shanan was innocent thats all.The Public cant grasp the horror either by sayng”Oh Chris had a break down.,”. oh” money pressure “etc..NO ..he was too busy satisfying himself ..he was and is NOT what he seems…period.
    Shanan was getting that …catching on ..that is dangerous with a Psychopath .Thats why he murdered her & the Children.
    Remember ..he murdered his children then threw them in oil tanks.Thats Evil …past could you do the first thing ..murder them..but complete it by putting them in oil? No ..he cares about nothing just his looks ..chats online.. and sex.
    He never loved ANYTHING he wore a mask the entire time..and he was about to get caught.
    Chris felt nothing ..never did..incapable of love..just living this Lie & it was ALL lies.
    Our minds cant grasp the Evil of him but many of us can .
    That’s how a Demon works ..tricks you..puts on an act a slithering snake one cant imagine.A Trickster is what he is.
    Rot in hell Chris.
    Love to Shanan and the children because they were SO SO innocent, but encountered EVIL of the worst kind in their own household.
    RIP Shanan & Children
    The World Loved you all…and still 💖💜💖💙

    • Sheza

      Hi there, cannot agree more. Psychopath do not have feelings, don’t forget people he was looking up about emotions on google. What does it look like when you tell someone you love them, how does it feel when you love someone etc.

    • Lynn

      Has anyone ever explored the possibility that Chris has Asbergers? We all try to understand why he felt no remorse for his actions and why for so long he was controlled by his wife.
      Maybe that’s why we just can’t seem to be able to wrap our heads around what he did.

      • Ralph Oscar

        I believe it’s come up before – I think it’s likely that he fell somewhere on the spectrum.

      • Philip

        Ffs…stop blaming male violence on autism. The excuses you people will find just to prevent yourselves from admitting many men are fucking monstrous.

  6. Eleni Palmos

    Dee: I agree with you. Chris Watts was and is an evil person. Society is better off without him around.

    He disposed of the corpses of his own babies in boiling crude oil. Celeste was falling apart as they removed her little body from the tank. It is in the discovery material. Chris is an evil man.

  7. Shannon

    Shanann’s friend, via texting (after disclosure), seemed quite surprised when Shanann mentiones being pregnant, when she had just asked her a few weeks prior. The friend seemed confused, with timeline.
    Maybe because the kids were starting to treat their Dad, like Shanann was, name calling etc.
    Chris felt unwanted and unloved.
    Most men, want to be loved and needed. They want to protect.
    With Shanann being aggressive, this role for him was not there.
    Wonder if he watched other married couples and their Marriages, and thought….
    Shit man, something wrong with mine.

    • Sheza

      No he probably watch other married couples to emulate them.

      • Sheza

        Psychopath remembering

  8. Shannon

    I couldn’t Disagree more with the above comments.
    Shanann’ was a Dominant Controlling Bitch.
    She took control of every aspect of their lives.
    Chris, the kids Could not be themselves at all. Chris even told the cop on phone
    “I couldn’t be myself”
    Would you like to be that Controlled, when even hanging a picture, someone is telling you how to hang it.
    In his affair, he finally felt what it was like to be human again. Someone who didn’t belittle him. Camera shoved in face.
    Shanann’ wouldn’t even let him work out go for runs.
    F__k that S__t.
    He killed all, to have total freedom and financial freedom.
    Was it right….no….but that’s how it ended up.

  9. Tracey

    What utter drivel this article is.

    “So what made Chris Watts STOP loving his kids?”

    FFS! He didnt stop loving his kids. He NEVER loved his kids! He couldn’t stop loving children that he had never STARTED loving. He is a psychopath. They cannot love. Not WILL NOT but CANNOT.
    CW has never loved anyone in his miserable existence. NOt his parents, siblings, wife, children. Not NK either.

    So that’s one idiotic theory of yours obliterated.

    Here is the next one.

    “Firstly, in any family, the more people added to it, the more love is lost or redistributed simply as a matter of logistics”

    What? Are your for real? I’m wondering now, if you are actually are bordering on psychopathic yourself. Why? Because most human beings who have hearts, souls and the ability to love, know that love is not finite.
    It is beyond disturbing that people eagerly read the rubbish you spout and think you are some kind of expert. You need to give up.

    • laralovesandrew

      My dad is a narcissist and has sociopathic leanings. My childhood was a nightmare–my dad was unable to love his children or even to tolerate their noise and presence in his life. He never pretended to love us. He wasn’t capable. Life for us was to avoid attracting his attention at all costs.He treated us like adults when we were small children–and often reacted in a rage when our childishness showed. Chis didn’t act like that–he showed love and nurturing towards his children. He seems to have shut that off completely while they were in NC for 5 weeks. He was able to psychologically unplug from his family. There’s absolutely no reason a psychopath would spend so much time with small children–psychopaths frequently despise their children–they demand all the attention and the psycho can’t have that. Chris was not a psychopath. His actions were beyond evil, but the psycho diagnosis doesn’t fit.

  10. Nick

    He NEVER loved his kids! >Strange, everyone that knew them said he did, including his wife and mother-in-law.

    • mitzi2006

      He showed his two faces in first interview with the investigator during a break. No one can really know if you love someone, everything was an act with this guy. Told detectives to ask anyone and they’d say he loved his kids, then proceeds to scoff down pizza while looking at picture of them

      • nickvdl

        Well he does have two faces.

    • mitzi2006

      But yet when she disappeared his mother in law told them to look at his trucks gps,

      • mitzi2006

        He really does have two faces, the look on his face when he said “ohhhhh f**k then turned polite again when detective came back in was when I believed his neighbor saying he gets crazy during their fights, he never said shanann did, just Chris. At that time I could only imagine the face they possibly saw when he was snuffing out their lives, I truly hope they didn’t see his face

  11. Sue Anderson

    I have had many years of education and experience in the mental health field. It frustrates me to read or hear people without training or experience throwing around labels freely, such as “psychopath,” “narcissistic,”“sociopath.” Even highly trained, very experienced professionals often don’t agree on diagnoses. There are no lab tests for these conditions. The labels are based on careful observation of the patient, an in-depth study of his/her history and information from family members and others. I’m not sure any of those labels fit Chris Watts but, then, I don’t have the opportunity to interview him or people who knew him. Although this is not an official diagnostic label, I think he possibly was something of a “no-self,” a person who became emotionally “fused” with others. He possibly lost or gave up self in hs marriage until it became intolerable. He had “fallen in love with” (emotionally fused) with a new lover but I think he was well on the way of losing self in that relationship too. Someone described him as emotionally under-developed. I agree. A more mature man may have decided on divorce, despite the stress and turmoil, plus considerable child support that would entail. He did not have the emotional development or strength to face that. So now he is in a position where he will never have to make an important decision again or take any adult responsibility.

    • nickvdl

      Someone described him as emotionally under-developed. I agree. A more mature man may have decided on divorce, despite the stress and turmoil, plus considerable child support that would entail.>>>Yes and no. There’s an aspect to this case that involved various degrees of lock-in. I think the argument that “he could just have gotten divorced” fails to take into account the family dynamics, not just his psychology.

  12. Shannon

    I hate to disagree with you Sue.
    There is much more here to his life, his story.
    I believe at one point he did love the children. But he began to depise them, not to long before the murders. They said he was short with them, showing more temper, kids were becoming afaird of him.
    I think his Hatered of Shanann, caused the kids to be thrown into the turmoil.

  13. Crystal

    It appears that the third child was a part of his plan though. In one of her Facebook posts gushing over her husband, she told him that he made her brave enough to agree to have a third child. I can’t remember where I read it (I think it was in one of Shannan’s text messages to her friend’s about her marriage problems) that he had said that he thought that another child would fix things (something to that extent). I don’t think he ever loved his kids because if he had, he never would have been able to murder them, dump their bodies in oil then go on the news and smirk and chuckle while pretending to look for them. Shanann had some seriously annoying flaws but she is not responsible for his feelings for their kids changing. If he had genuinely loved his children…nothing that their mother did would have changed that. Personally I believe that he sees people as disposable objects and pretended to be a loving father until he became bored of his life with them\Shanann and they no longer served a purpose for him.

  14. Hock

    It wasn’t until I started reading about this case that a lot of my questions about my ex husbands behaviour came into focus. There is a text somewhere where Shannan says she doesn’t know who Chris is anymore and he is not the same man she married 8 years ago.
    After my ex and I separated and the month leading up to it when I was trying to make things work I didn’t know who he was. He had changed into an entirely different person. I wasn’t the only person that noticed this. Not only had he disengaged from me but to are only son as well. He cut us out of his life entirely. He too, as it turns out was with someone new. I don’t know how long he had been with her but it must have been awhile as he had all his ducks in a row regarding divorce. He was ice cold, it’s like he had grown this whole other person that I never ever had seen before. If I had all day I could go on about the changes.
    Point of my essay is …. I think in order for some men to justify their decision to leave a relationship they have to disengage so they can reingage. I was blamed for things that never happened I was told things I said that I never said but he believed them to be true. I think you’ll find the new Chris Watts is not the same Chris Watts that you see loving, playing and caring for his children. Maybe there are levels of disengagement depending on the circumstances. All I know is my son and I are left scratching our heads
    asking ourselves “Who is this new person”?

    • NannaMcFhi

      Exactly my experience as well with my ex. I recognise the Chris Watts who emerged from the person he was previously. And I see a ‘cardboard cut out’ in all of the photos of him being the wonderful family man and husband. In every one he looks the same. ‘Pose for a photo Chris!’ and there he is. A cardboard cut out striking the pose.

  15. Tracey

    I believe Chris Watts from day 1 was controlled by woman. First by his mom and then his wife and daughters. He never got a chance to ” be a man”. When he met NK he experienced being in control and his needs validated. This caused more resentment than he already had for his family.
    I think he did love his kids and wife at one point, but 6 or so years of belittling and devaluing him took its toll. And then with another baby on the way he had enough and couldn’t handle the pressure or another person disrespecting him. Not to also mention his Mom and wife not getting along. With NK he felt important and human. Not just a pawn in someone else’s life. The 5 weeks he spent without being belittled and bossed around was probably what caused the final resentment towards his “bullys”. For once he FELT like a man. Shananns pregnancy to him probably felt like his nightmare would go on even longer than it already was going on. I’m not sure if the gender of the baby really mattered at all I think he just felt outnumbered as it was and one more kid to betray and belittle him and you value him sounded like a nightmare to him. And as you might notice when he was in the interrogation room and he asked for his father he asked for his father not his mother I did notice that I thought it was ironic that he wanted his father after what he did to his children but it made sense at the same time. I mean look what is mother said in court nothing about being sorry for what he did but we forgive you son of course she did she hated them in the first place. And I think the reason he had to look up what does love feel like and when do you say I love you and all that wasn’t because of narcissism or psychopath e it was because he really never felt that from them he only felt like a puppet in their game. He showered shannan with love and did not get in return unless it was on social media or a video so that everybody else would see it. Almost like showcasing not true feelings or emotions. I’m not sure if he had married his mistress instead of shannan that maybe things would have turned out okay I think he just needed to feel like a man for once maybe killing them made him feel like a man made him feel strong made him feel powerful and made him feel in control who knows but I know he’s held a lot of resentment. That’s why it was so easy for him to blame her because he felt no respect for her at all. That is my opinion I am not in any way by the way just to find what he did it was horrible it was terrible it was sickening but I kind of see where he’s coming from when it comes to being belittled and just feel like a little piece of speckled of dirt on some shoes that they use when they need it that is a horrible feeling.

  16. WTH

    There were many catalysts that happened in 6 short weeks. The biggest #1 was NK. Also CW was now getting the mail and seeing the bills, learning how deep they were in financial debt. CW learned only a couple weeks before SW went to NC that they were having baby #3. CW shared with NK that SW was always telling him to shut up and the girls had now started telling him to shut up. For CW to share that with NK it obviously bothered him. According to NK, CW was into fitness and working out and SW would get angry when he would work out. Never, ever will I understand why CW, who supposedly has a genius IQ, chose murder over divorce. Unless, is it possible he believed SW’s posts when she gushes about CW and his wonderfulness, is it possible he believed they could not live without him? CW says more than once he is not a monster, he is not cold hearted. He would say that if he feels he killed them for their own good, this was done to spare them pain. He sacrificed himself. In his eyes he’s not a monster.

  17. Heather

    Was Shannan actually diagnosed with ocd or do I have to suffer through another opinion piece where people throw my disorder around all over the place like it’s a cute quirk?

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