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Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops
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Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

‘Daddy, no!’: Chris Watts’ Daughter Begged for Life After Mom, Sister Murdered

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Dave Baumhover’s post-traumatic stress disorder can be triggered by the most innocent, the most innocuous of things: The sight of little girls.

The Frederick, Colorado, police detective experienced a flashback during a recent vacation to Phoenix, according to The Denver Post. The sight of two little girls walking into a restaurant triggered horrible memories from last August.

The smell of crude oil. The suits of the hazmat crew. And the tiny, oil-slicked bodies of Bella and Celeste Watts, pulled from the oil storage tanks where their father, Christopher Lee Watts, stuffed them after suffocating them with their own blankets.

>> Read more trending news 

Nearby, Watts’ pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and their unborn son, Nico, lay in a shallow grave. Shanann Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant, had been strangled.

Baumhover, who is currently on leave for PTSD and may not return to his job, told the Post the memories are relentless.

“It’s like when you’re a kid and you go on the wrong carnival ride and all you want to do is get off,” the detective told the newspaper. “But you can’t. You have no choice until the ride shuts off.”

Tuesday marked a year since Chris Watts killed his 34-year-old wife in their bed and then drove their daughters, ages 4 and 3, to an oil tank battery 60 miles away, where he first killed Celeste, known to her family as Cece, and then Bella, who he told authorities begged for her life.

Their mother’s lifeless body lay at their feet as they rode to their deaths.

The Denver Post via Getty Images
Pictured is the Andarko Petroleum oil battery where Chris Watts dumped the bodies of his wife, Shanann, and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, the morning of Aug. 13, 2018. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the murders.
Close

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: The Denver Post via Getty Images
Pictured is the Andarko Petroleum oil battery where Chris Watts dumped the bodies of his wife, Shanann, and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, the morning of Aug. 13, 2018. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the murders.

>> 'Daddy, no!': Chris Watts' 4-year-old daughter begged for life after mom, sister murdered

Two grieving families

Shanann Watts’ father, Frank Rzucek, spoke to the media last month outside his daughter’s Frederick home, which the Post reported remains empty and is up for public auction next month. According to ABC News, Rzucek said his family has been unable to grieve properly because of online trolls.

“For the past 11 months, piled on top of pain and the grieving of this devastating loss, our family has been subject to horrible, cruel abuse, outright bullying on a daily basis,” Rzucek said. “I don’t want to draw more attention to the viral material that has been posted online, but I will say that our family, including Shanann and her children, our grandchildren, have been ridiculed, demeaned, slandered, mocked in the most vicious ways you can imagine.”

Rzucek said strangers have tried to capitalize on false rumors and lies about his daughter and grandchildren.

“It is cruel. It is heartless,” he said, likening the family’s experiences to the harassment and conspiracy theories that have plagued the families of the children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Families like ours should have the right to be safe, the right to mourn in peace,” Rzucek said.

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' father, Frank Rzucek, weeps in a Colorado courtroom Aug. 21, 2019, as Shanann's brother, Frankie Rzucek, comforts him. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of Shanann, his wife, and their two daughters.
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Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' father, Frank Rzucek, weeps in a Colorado courtroom Aug. 21, 2019, as Shanann's brother, Frankie Rzucek, comforts him. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of Shanann, his wife, and their two daughters.

The Rzuceks have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Watts in Weld County District Court. Because Watts has not responded to the suit, the court found him in default in May, the Post reported.

Watts’ own family has struggled to deal with what he confessed to doing to his wife and children. His mother, Cindy Watts, who in November questioned her son’s plea deal, was recently interviewed for an HLN special, “Killer Dad: Chris Watts Speaks.”

During the interview, Cindy Watts read from a letter her son wrote from prison, in which he claimed he has found God and is a changed man.

“I’m still a Dad! I’m still a son! No matter what,” Chris Watts wrote, according to an excerpt obtained by People magazine. “Now, I can add servant of God to that mix! He has shown me peace, peace, love and forgiveness, and that’s how I live every day.”

Watch Cindy Watts talk about her son and his family in raw footage from 9News in Denver.

In a February prison interview with investigators from the Frederick Police Department, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, Watts said he has photos of his wife and children in his prison cell and that he reads one of the girls’ favorite books to their pictures each night. An April Change.org petition sought to have prison officials remove the photos from Watts’ cell since they are of his victims.

Prison officials in Wisconsin, where Watts was being held, responded by saying that the photos did not violate prison policy.

“Incarcerated inmates are permitted to possess certain identified items of property, including photographs,” a statement obtained by People read. “Some photographs are not allowed, such as those depicting gang signs, colors or insignias, or photographs that include nudity.”

RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' mother, Sandra Rzucek, reads a statement Nov. 19, 2018, in a Colorado courtroom as her son-in-law, Chris Watts, sits in the background. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of his wife and their two daughters.
Close

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP
Shanann Watts' mother, Sandra Rzucek, reads a statement Nov. 19, 2018, in a Colorado courtroom as her son-in-law, Chris Watts, sits in the background. Chris Watts is serving multiple life sentences in the deaths of his wife and their two daughters.

A baffling disappearance

The details of the Watts murders are heartbreaking.

Shanann, Bella and Celeste were reported missing Aug. 13 after Nickole Atkinson, Shanann’s best friend and co-worker, could not reach her, Watts’ arrest affidavit says. Atkinson had last seen Shanann around 2 a.m. when she dropped her off following an out-of-town business trip.

Home security footage showing Shanann climbing the steps to the front door and entering the house are the last images of her alive.

Watts initially said he awoke around 4 a.m. that morning and talked to his wife about a separation. Watts said that despite an “emotional conversation,” it did not get confrontational and when he left for work around 5:30 a.m., his wife and daughters were in bed.

He claimed Shanann told him she was taking the girls to a friend’s home later that day for a play date.

When Atkinson went to the Watts home, however, no one would answer the door. Shanann’s vehicle, purse and cellphone were there, as was medication for Cece’s allergies, including an EpiPen. Atkinson called 911 out of fear that Shanann, who had lupus, was suffering a medical emergency.

Atkinson also called Watts, who in turn called another of Shanann’s friends, Cassandra Rosenberg. Rosenberg told the ABC news program “Nightline” that when she told Watts that Atkinson was calling police, Watts said he didn’t want the police involved.

“I said, ‘You’re an idiot and you need to get to the house because something’s wrong,’” Rosenberg said.

In the days that followed, Watts played the part of the worried husband and father, giving a TV news interview outside the family’s home and pleading for their safe return.

In an interview with “Nightline,” Shanann’s parents, Frank and Sandra Rzucek, said they immediately suspected Watts had something to do with the disappearance of their daughter and granddaughters.

“I told the police to find his GPS, because his GPS was gonna tell them where my family is,” Frank Rzucek said.

Watts, who police learned was having an affair, broke down and confessed Aug. 15 to killing his wife. He claimed he strangled Shanann in a rage after she killed their daughters because he asked for a divorce.

Using an aerial map, Watts led investigators to Shanann’s shallow grave at a tank battery belonging to his employer, Andarko Petroleum. Bella and Celeste were found submerged in crude oil inside two tanks 100 feet away from their mother’s grave.

Watts went to work at that location just hours after he got rid of the bodies, co-workers have said.

Watts pleaded guilty to his crimes to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced in November to five life terms, including three to be served consecutively, plus 85 years.

Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Pictured is the home at 2825 Saratoga Trail in Frederick, Colo., where Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife, Shanann, before driving their daughters, Bella and Celeste, to a rural oil battery and suffocating them. Watts is serving life in prison.
Close

Chris Watts case: A year after brutal murders, scars linger for loved ones, cops

Photo Credit: Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Pictured is the home at 2825 Saratoga Trail in Frederick, Colo., where Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife, Shanann, before driving their daughters, Bella and Celeste, to a rural oil battery and suffocating them. Watts is serving life in prison.

‘What’s wrong with Mommy?’

It wasn’t until Baumhover and other detectives visited him in February in a Wisconsin prison, where he had been transferred for his own safety, that Watts told the truth about the murders of his wife and daughters.

Editor’s note: The following depiction of the deaths of Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts is graphic in nature and may be upsetting to some readers.

Watts said he and his wife had sex about 30 minutes after Atkinson dropped her off at home, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation report on the February interview. In his head, Watts said, he felt like Shannan knew about his affair with his co-worker, Nichol Kessinger.

“Having sex with Shanann may have been a ‘trigger point,’ or like you hit the push button on a bomb and it just blows up,” the report states.

Watts told the investigators he and Shanann fell asleep after their sexual encounter, but he woke her up after getting ready for work. When Shanann awoke, she turned over onto her back and Watts said he straddled her to talk.

Shanann, who told him he was possibly hurting their unborn baby, told him she knew there was “someone else” and began crying, Watts said.

He initially denied the affair with Kessinger. Watts said he told Shanann he didn’t think their marriage would work, the report says. When he told her he no longer loved her, Shanann allegedly threatened to keep the children away from him.

“You’re never gonna see the kids again,” Watts quoted his wife as saying. “You’re never gonna see them again. Get off me. Don’t hurt the baby.”

That’s when Watts strangled Shanann, the report says. Watts said she never screamed or fought back.

He believes she may have been praying as he took her life.

Read the chilling details of Chris Watts' February statements to law enforcement below.

Chris Watts Feb 18 Interview by c_bonvillian on Scribd

Watts mused on whether he already had the seed of murder planted in his mind before that morning.

“Every time I think about it, I’m just like, ‘Did I know I was going to do that before I got on top of her?’” he said.

Watts theorized that noise from Shanann’s death may have woken Bella, who walked into the master bedroom holding a blanket. She asked what was wrong with her mother.

“Mommy don’t feel good,” Watts told the little girl, according to the report.

He wrapped Shanann’s body face-down in a bedsheet, which was later recovered at the Andarko oil site. As Bella watched Watts drag her mother down the stairs, she began to cry.

“What’s wrong with Mommy?” she asked again.

Watts repeated that Shanann didn’t feel well but told investigators during the interview: “Bella is a smart girl and knew what was going on.”

Watch a “Nightline” segment on the Watts murders below, courtesy of ABC News.

Surveillance footage from outside a neighbor’s home captured Watts backing his truck into the driveway of his home and some of his movements back and forth as he loaded his wife’s body into the vehicle.

“Nightline” obtained police body camera footage that shows an officer, Watts neighbor Nathan Trinastich and Watts watching the footage at Trinastich’s home the day Shanann and the girls were reported missing.

Watts is obviously nervous in the footage.

At one point, he is seen putting his hands on the back of his head. He also sways back and forth nervously.

“He’s not acting right at all,” Trinastich tells the officer quietly after Watts leaves the room.

‘Daddy, no!’

After Watts drove away from the home, Bella and Celeste, each carrying a blanket and Celeste cuddling a stuffed dog, dozed on and off on the ride to the Andarko site, Watts said. They held each other in their sleep and lay in each other’s laps.

At one point during the ride, Bella told him, “Daddy, it smells,” the report says.

The document indicates that as Shanann was being strangled, her bowels evacuated.

Once at the tank battery, Watts removed Shanann’s body from the truck and dragged her over to where he planned to bury her. Both girls asked what he was doing to her, but he said he couldn’t remember what he told them, according to the report.

Back at the truck, Watts said, he grabbed the blue New York Yankees blanket Celeste was holding and put it over her head, the report says. He strangled her in the back seat of the truck as her older sister sat at her side.

“He put his hand over Celeste’s mouth and nose (over the blanket) and his other hand around the front of Celeste’s neck,” the report reads. “Bella was seated right beside Celeste as he strangled her, but Bella didn’t say anything.”

Watts told investigators he wasn’t thinking as he killed his daughter.

“If I was thinking, this wouldn’t have happened,” Watts said. “Or any partial hint of what I feel for those girls and what I feel for my wife, then none of this would have happened. So I wasn’t thinking.”

Once Celeste was dead, he carried her from the truck and over to one of the oil tanks, where he opened the hatch and dropped her inside, feet first, the report says. He closed the hatch and went back to the truck.

Bella asked what happened to her sister, the report says.

“Is the same thing gonna happen to me as Cece?” Bella asked her father.

Watts told the investigators he was not sure if he responded affirmatively or not.

He put the Yankees blanket over Bella’s head.

“Daddy, no!” she cried.

Watts said those were Bella’s last words.

Bella put up a fight for her life. Watts told the investigators he could hear her “grunt” as she tried to breathe, and her head twisted back and forth under the blanket.

Autopsy results on her small body showed she bit through her tongue multiple times as she struggled against her father.

After using the same suffocation technique he had with Celeste, Watts carried Bella to the second oil tank on the site and dropped her inside, according to the document.

“Bella seemed harder to get into the tank than Celeste, but he just had to manipulate her to get her inside,” the report says.

After disposing of his daughters’ bodies, Watts said, he returned to where Shanann lay and began using a rake to clear away some weeds. The rake broke, and he left part of it at the site, where it would later be found by detectives.

He used a shovel to dig Shanann’s grave and bury her, the report says. Though she was not bleeding or cut, Watts noticed her eyes were bloodshot.

Watts said he later got rid of his clothes and the Yankees blanket in a construction dumpster in the Watts’ neighborhood. He did so on his way home from work the day of the slayings.

In Facebook posts Tuesday afternoon, Rosenberg and Atkinson mourned for their friend, for Bella and for Celeste. Rosenberg wrote that she suspected something was terribly wrong even before speaking to Watts that horrible day.

“His voice begging me to not call the cops still rings in my head,” Rosenberg wrote. “I’m so glad we didn’t listen! I wish I could have done more or seen something sooner to save you all in some way.”

Atkinson wrote that the reality of their absence still does not seem real.

“I will never understand why you were all (taken) so soon. I hear you talk to me every day,” Atkinson wrote. “I hear the girls’ laughter as Madison tells me they are playing. You all will always be in our lives and hold a special place in our hearts.”

To Nico, she wrote that she believes he would have been a good mix of Bella’s sweet shyness and Cece’s rambunctiousness.

“Your mommy was so happy and excited that you were a boy,” Atkinson wrote. “I got the wonderful honor of telling your mommy what you were going to be.

“We had so many plans and dreams for you all.”

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Washington Insider

  • On a day of big losses on the stock markets sparked first by China levying new tariffs on imports from America, President Donald Trump wasted no time Friday afternoon in announcing higher import duties against the Chinese, plunging the two countries even deeper into an economic standoff which could have negative worldwide ramifications. 'China should not have put new Tariffs on 75 BILLION DOLLARS of United States product,' the President tweeted about an hour after the close on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones dropped over 600 points. 'Starting on October 1st, the 250 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, currently being taxed at 25%, will be taxed at 30%,' the President wrote.  'Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%,' he added. The President also called on American companies to take their manufacturing businesses out of China, arguing that the United States was the victim of an 'unfair Trading Relationship.' 'Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,' Mr. Trump tweeted. The White House did not provide any explanation as to how the President would have the power to force U.S. companies to abandon their manufacturing operations in China. Economic experts and businesses were worried by the days events. “(T)his is a major risk as it's the economy - households and businesses - that are in play,” said Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. “The administration's approach clearly isn't working, and the answer isn't more taxes on American businesses and consumers,” said the National Retail Federation. “Where does this end?'  “These added tariffs will ratchet up consumer prices, stall business investment, escalate uncertainty and cost American jobs,” said the pro-free trade group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland. “In just the past three years, U.S. soybean exports to China have fallen nearly 80 percent, and once these tariffs kick in, things are likely to get worse,” said Roger Johnson, the head of the National Farmers Union.  The standoff with China was a far cry from President Trump's prediction in March of 2018, when he wrote on Twitter that trade wars are 'easy to win.' As for Democrats - even though many of them would like to see the United States be more forceful with China - their answer is not retaliatory tariffs and a trade war. “Our economy is showing signs of weakening due to the president’s trade war, and these back-and-forth tariffs will only make things worse,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “The facts are clear: President Trump's destabilizing and reckless trade war is undermining growth,” said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). “Your tariffs are hurting our country badly,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “There's nothing funny about tanking people's retirement accounts with a failed trade war,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).
  • With the United States set to slap a new 10 percent tariff on billions of dollars in Chinese goods coming into the U.S. on September 1, the Chinese government officially retaliated on Friday, announcing its own new tariffs on American products, and denouncing President Donald Trump's get-tough actions on trade. 'The US measures have led to the continuous escalation of Sino-US economic and trade frictions, which have greatly harmed the interests of China, the United States and other countries,' the Chinese Minstry of Finance announced. The documents released by China today apply to over 5,000 categories of items imported from the United States, covering everything from diapers to pipes and cigarette holders, to a range of agricultural products like barley, wheat, oats, corn, sorghum, soybeans, peanuts, cotton, covering about $75 billion in U.S. goods. Much like a 122 page list of targeted items put out by the United States earlier this month, China issued over 100 pages of products which would face new import duties. The reaction from Congress and business groups was negative. 'This trade war is not holding China accountable,' said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). 'It's hurting farmers and small business owners all over the country who are just trying to earn a living.' “The fact of the matter is that nobody wins a trade war, and the continued tit-for-tat escalation between the U.S. and China is putting significant strain on the U.S. economy, raising costs, undermining investment, and roiling markets,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. As for President Trump, he has not wavered in his public statements about taking on china, tariff for tariff, as one of his Friday tweets caused some shock on  the markets. “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China,” the President wrote. “Here’s the thing: Somebody had to take on what China was doing to the United States economically,” the President told reporters this week. “We’re winning big. I took it on. And it should have been done by previous Presidents,” he added. And on Twitter Friday morning, the President expressed no concerns about the Chinese response. Asked by reporters earlier this week about the trade war with China, Mr. Trump said he was the only President who had decided to actually confront Beijing. “I am the chosen one,” the President said, as he looked skyward.
  • Before the leaders of the G7 nations had even boarded their flights for the meeting in Biarritz, France, President Donald Trump was already stirring the political pot associated with the meeting of western allies, making it clear he wants to see Russia return to the group, after being exiled in 2014 over the seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine. 'We spend a lot of time talking about Russia at those meetings,' the President told reporters this week. 'And they're not there. I think it would be a good thing if Russia were there so we can speak directly.' Russia was a member of what was then known as the 'Group of Eight' - but Moscow was booted out in 2014 after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine. 'President Obama thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in,' Mr. Trump said to reporters. 'But I think it's much more appropriate to have Russia in.' But there seems to be little chance of that happening in the current political environment in Europe, especially with Russian backed forces fighting in Ukraine. During a meeting with Vladimir Putin earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron made clear his opposition to such a move proposed by President Trump, arguing that Russia must first address Crimea - and the ongoing proxy war pushed by Russian backed forces inside Ukraine - before any such change is made. 'In effect, the resolution of this conflict is a magic wand that will open the door for Russia to return to the G7 club,' Macron said . With the two leaders seated before reporters, Macron labeled the Ukraine situation an 'irritant' in Russian relations with the West. 'It is obvious that the return to the G8 format and normal relations with the EU requires the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis,' Macron added. Last year, the 2018 meeting of world leaders from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, ended in odd fashion, when President Trump suddenly left the meeting early, refusing to endorse a joint communique by the leaders. In order to avoid a dispute along those lines in 2019, Macron has decided there will not be a joint communique issued by the G-7. It will be the first time since the meetings began in the 1970's that the group will not issue a statement of joint goals. White House officials previewing the President's trip said much of his focus at the G-7 will be on free, fair and reciprocal trade, as he has often criticized Canada and the European Union of unfair trade barriers to U.S. exports.
  • Back in their home districts on an extended summer break, the drip-drip sound Democrats hear is not coming from the watering the plants, but rather from the halls of the Congress, where more and more Democratic members of the House are publicly announcing their support for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. A flurry of announcements were made on Thursday, as a series of Democrats said they would back an impeachment inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee, bringing the total number to 135 - more than a majority of Democrats in the House. 'I cannot ignore the call to defend our institutions, to safeguard our democratic norms, and to stand up for our democracy,' said Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) on Thursday afternoon. A few hours earlier, Rep. William Keating of Massachusetts told his Bay State constituents that the Mueller Report left too many unanswered questions about the President, accusing the White House of stonewalling legitimate Congressional oversight. 'No person in America is above the law, including the President of the United States,' said Rep. Lauren Underwood, a freshman Democrat from Illinois. 'I support moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, which will continue to uncover the facts for the American people and hold this president accountable,' said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), the fourth ranking Democrat in the House.  'This is not a position I’ve reached lightly,' Lujan said earlier this week. When Democrats left town four weeks ago for their six week summer break, the number of lawmakers endorsing the start of an impeachment idea was nowhere near 100. But it's been creeping up on almost a daily basis - and more lawmakers seem likely to join in the weeks ahead.
  • Unlikely to qualify for the next debate among Democratic candidates for the White House, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State told supporters in an email on Wednesday night that he was dropping his bid for the Democratic Party's nomination for President, further thinning the field with just over five months until the first vote is cast. 'I want to share a tough decision with you,' Inslee said to supporters, as he cited his top priority of climate change. 'But I've concluded that my role in that effort will not be as a candidate to be the next president of the United States,' Inslee added. Earlier in the week, Inslee touted that his campaign had hit 130,000 donors - one of the qualifying requirements for the next Democratic debate in Houston. But Inslee had no chance to register at 2 percent or higher in four different polls, leaving him on the sidelines - and off the debate stage. 'As a result, I don't believe we can compete for the attention and exposure needed to have a reasonable shot at the nomination,' Inslee said. Inslee had tried hard to be the loudest voice in the party on climate change, bringing it up in both debates, and doing numerous events on the subject. But the former Congressman, and current Governor, was never able to break out of the lower tier of Democratic candidates. “I want to once again thank everyone who helped in this effort. We have so much to be proud of,” Inslee wrote to his backers.  “Make no mistake, we also have a lot more work to do.” On MSNBC Wednesday night, Inslee said it was clear this was the right choice. “I'm not going to be carrying the ball,” Inslee said in an interview.  “I'm not going to be the President, so I'm withdrawing tonight.”