More details in Colo. family killings expected next week

Associated Press


Colorado authorities prepared Friday to file formal charges against an oil and gas worker accused of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters inside their suburban home, then dumping their bodies on his employer’s property.

Police said the mother, Shanann Watts, was found dead on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the state’s largest oil and gas drillers, where 33-year-old Christopher Watts worked as an operator. Investigators found what they believe are the bodies of 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste nearby Thursday.

The operator position charges employees with routine visits to oil fields, checking on the status of wells, maintaining the equipment and fixing any issues. Watts was fired Wednesday, the same day he was arrested, the company said.

The family’s two-story home is outside Frederick, a small town on the grassy plains north of Denver.

According to a June 2015 bankruptcy filing, Christopher Watts had gotten a job six months earlier as an operator for Anadarko, and paystubs indicate his annual salary was about $61,500. Shanann Watts was working in a call center at a children’s hospital at the time, earning about $18 an hour.

But the family remained caught between a promising future and financial strain from debt and other obligations.

The couple had a combined income of $90,000 in 2014. But they also had tens of thousands of dollars in credit-card debt, along with student loans and medical bills – for a total of $70,000 in unsecured claims on top of a sizable mortgage.

Police have not released any information about a motive or how the three were killed. Authorities did not respond to messages Friday seeking information about exactly where the families’ bodies were found.

Details about what led police to arrest Watts late Wednesday on suspicion of three counts apiece of murder and tampering with evidence likely were to be revealed next week.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.