American Murder: The Family Next Door premiered on 30th September 2020 on Netflix. Directed by Jenny Popplewell, the 82-minutes-long crime documentary is produced by James Marsh.
Did He Kill His Own Spouse and Children?
American Murder: The Family Next Door revolves around the horrifying 2018 Watts Family Murders case which took place in Frederick, Colorado. The documentary gives us insight into the sudden disappearance of Shan’ann Watts and her two young daughters, Celeste and Bella, on 13th August 2018 with no strong reason known to anyone in the family’s contact. The incident left the entire family and the neighbourhood in a state of shock. As police investigate further into the matter, they realize something is not right with the husband, Christopher Lee Watts, who hasn’t shed a single tear and is calm and composed beyond reason. What unravels is the story of a heartless and heinous crime.
It is later revealed that the husband and father of two, Chris killed his daughters, four-year-old Bella and three-year-old Celeste, by smothering them with a blanket and his 15-week pregnant wife by strangulation at midnight. The children’s bodies were later found hidden in the oil tanks and Shan’ann was buried in a shallow grave nearby.
Shan’ann was a strong woman who stepped out of a toxic marriage after years, stood for yourself, and achieved everything she wanted to while a fatal disease tried to pin her down, and still, she denied losing. She celebrated sharing her life with people and was active on Facebook, where she shared a lot about her struggles and happiness.
The documentary is embellished with beautiful footages of Shan’ann with her daughters and more which will make your heart overflow with the strength and sunshine Shan’ann brought forward. However, things turned grotesque when Chris started detaching himself from her. The documentary shares with its viewers a few intimate text exchanges between Shan’ann and her best friend around her dying sex life and Chris’s unloving behaviour.
As soon as you start believing Chris is innocent, events take a turn and his true face is unveiled. The documentary is sad, disturbing, and painful. It is narrated in such a manner that you can’t help but sit and hope for Shan’ann to return. Truly, the path to truth is ugly, bloody, painful, and cruel.
One thing that particularly struck, me apart from the whole heinous crime committed by Chris, is the difference between Shan’anns’ real life and online life. She shared almost everything out and shared copious amounts of optimism, but on the inside, she was sad and broken. Social media forces us to mask our real pain as everyone out there just wants to seek inspiration or criticize you for who you are.
Christopher Lee Watts – Sentenced
After all the pain Chris brought upon Shan’ann’s family, the family requested to not put forward Chris’s death penalty plea in front of the District Attorney for the murder of their daughter and 3 grandchildren, wishing for no further deaths and pain. Thereafter, he was sentenced to five life sentences – three consecutive and two concurrent – without the possibility of parole. He also received an additional 48 years for the unlawful termination of his wife’s pregnancy and 36 years for three charges of tampering with a deceased body. There was no way for Chris to escape what he did.
Later, in December of 2018, Chris was moved to an out-of-state location due to security concerns and continues to serve his life sentences in a maximum-security prison till his last days.
Stream It or Skip It
STREAM IT! American Murder: The Family Next Door is a heart-churning story that finds its strength in a narrative that doesn’t victimize the victim but depicts the honest and ugly side of relationships and humans. The documentary is well worked into and includes archival footage including home movies, social media posts, and law enforcement recordings, taking the viewers for a deeper and clearer ride into what went wrong, how and why!
American Murder: The Family Next Door is now streaming on Netflix.
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