How Chris Watts’ neighbour cracked the murder case within hours

Footage of Chris Watts nervously watching CCTV footage of himself moments after murdering his own family features in the new Netflix documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, which arrived on the platform today. 

The US has been gripped – and horrified – by the tragic case for the past two years. In August 2018, Chris, 35, murdered his pregnant wife Shannan Watts, 34, and their two daughters Bella, four, and Celeste, three, in their family home in Colorado.

Initially, Chris attempted to push the narrative that Shannan had fled with the kids without his knowledge. But just a few hours later, it became clear that he was hiding a lot more. 

Thanks to suspicions raised by the Watts family’s neighbour, police were able to put the pieces of the puzzle together much quicker. 

In the documentary American Murder, body cam footage from a police officer is included showing Chris pacing around a living room, sweating and looking nervous as his eagle-eyed neighbour, Nate Trinastich, slowly rewound a tape. 

The tape in question was CCTV from a camera installed by Nate looking directly onto Chris’ driveway. 

The officer watched on as Nate continued sifting through the footage, trying to pinpoint the moment he recalls seeing Chris loading up his car at 5am. 

Nate was suspicious as he noted it was unusual for Chris to be up so early but also, the car wasn’t parked in its usual spot. 

According to Chris, it was simply ‘easier to lug everything with all the tools [he] had to bring in’ before his busy work day. 

It would later emerge that Chris was actually loading the bodies of his wife of six years and two young daughters. 

As the neighbour and police officer watched the clip, Chris’ behaviour changed and he became increasingly uncomfortable. 

After he found a reason to leave the tense situation, Nate told the officer, ‘he is not acting right,’ while looking completely unconvinced by Chris’ version of events. 

Nate even replayed the video for the police officer once Chris had gone and said: ‘Watch. You’ll see him get out and then he walks back and forth a couple of times,’ noting that Chris looked ‘fidgety’ while ‘rocking back and forth’. 

The neighbour’s compelling statement, that Chris wasn’t ‘acting right’, became a defining moment for the early investigation into Shannan’s disappearance. 



Even if they already suspected Chris’ involvement, Nate’s evidence certainly gave the authorities more reason to look closer at the supposedly doting husband and father-of-two. 

Nate later sat down for an interview with Dr Oz and recalled why his suspicions were raised so early on. 

‘He was loading tools, but I thought that was a little bit odd because I had never seen him really back the truck into the driveway ever,’ Nate explained. 

‘He always parked it out front, so I definitely thought it was kind of odd. 

‘The other thing I thought that was definitely weird was he wasn’t watching the footage at all.’ 

Nate continued: ‘He would look at it for a second then go back to his phone or look at it for a second and then look away and if my family was missing, I would be glued to that TV 100% to see if I could see absolutely anything.’ 

On August 13, Chris strangled Shannan inside their Colorado home before driving her body as well as Bella and Celeste, who were still alive, to an oil field where he worked. 

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It was then that Chris said he smothered his daughters in the back of the car before leaving their bodies inside oil tanks. He buried Shannan’s body in a shallow grave nearby. 

The successful businesswoman, who documented their family life heavily in Facebook vlogs, was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death. 

Chris was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

After his conviction, Chris revealed that he had a fight with Shannan on the night of the murder and told her he wanted a divorce. He alleges Shannan threatened to take the children away. 

American Murder: The Family Next Door is available to watch on Netflix now. 

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