By Dillon Thomas, Ben Warwick and Lindsey Schwartz

DENVER (CBS4) – Newly-released audio recordings in the Chris Watts case paint a clearer picture of the leadup to the murder of his wife, Shanann, and their two daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. The confession happened in a recorded jailhouse interview with investigators from the FBI, CBI, and Frederick Police at a prison in Wisconsin last month.

Warning: some of the contents of these recordings are disturbing.

A large part of the early conversation centered around Watts’ relationship with Nichol Kessinger. Watts told investigators he met Kessinger at work after taking a dysfunctional gas meter to her to have it fixed.

Nichol Kessinger with Chris Watts (credit: Weld County DA)

They then ran into each other a few times around the office. Watts said the fourth time they met, he mentioned that “we moved (to Colorado) from North Carolina. She asked what he meant by “we,” and he showed her pictures of Bella and Celeste on his phone. She also saw a picture of Shanann on his lock screen.

Watts said Kessinger knew he was married, and claimed to investigators that she was trying to “save face” trying to “keep things together and control everything around her.”

He says he has not talked to Kessinger since his arrest, but he wishes he could just once to get closure and apologize for what she went through. She refused to speak to Watts’ attorney. He hopes that she has found normalcy.

Watts said he didn’t wear a ring at work because it was getting resized after he lost weight and it kept falling off.

After a while, texts between Watts and Kessinger “kinda went to a different level.” She talked about meeting up after a trip Watts took with Shanann to San Diego in June 2018. After that trip, the two met at a park in Thornton and continued to see each other through most of July.

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Watts tells investigators he thought initially his relationship with Kessinger “was just flirting.” Watts says “I didn’t think it was something that would actually happen.” He said when he went from a rover to a field coordinator, he’d spend more time in the office and would constantly run into Kessinger.

FBI investigators asked Watts if he believed that he loved her. Watts responded, “It felt like it was true.”

Watts detailed his dates with Kessinger, saying they went to a car museum in Boulder, which he enjoyed. They went to a drag race at Bandimere Speedway, which reminded him of his childhood. They also went camping at Great Sand Dunes National Park, which he had never done before and had always wanted to do.

“I wish I had met her at work and just kept it that way,” Watts said about his relationship with Kessinger.

“It feels like a roller coaster ride that I just kept punching a ticket on and never could get off,” Watts said.

Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.

Ben Warwick is an Assignment Editor at CBS4 and is a native Coloradan. He loves sports, particularly baseball, and telling stories from around the state. Connect with him on Twitter @BenCBS4.

Comments (2)
  1. I believe there is so much more to this story that the general public are not privy to. I don’t think we have heard the end of this case quite yet. Mainly due to Nichol Kessingers inconsistencies and lies.

  2. Gabrielle Weems says:

    This is absolutely insane. I think this entire thing is just a giant symptom of what this world has become. I’ve never seen this kind of raw, naked obsession with a familicide – or any other (non-celebrity) crime in my entire life. I just finished reading the transcript and I feel sick, slightly insane, and oddly vindicated – because a lot of what he says happened is what I assumed happened. I’m glad NK’s lies were exposed – while she didn’t commit the crime, I don’t think it’s fair to Shannan and the girls for her part in this to be any less than forthcoming. She knew he was married, and completely did not care. She also made it very clear that she wanted to be number one, and between her nattering and his weak spine, it exploded in the most tragic homicide I have seen in recent memory. Do we remember that these were real children who were murdered by their father, and a real woman who was murdered by her husband? That this isn’t a television show that goes away when we hit the off button? I can’t account for my own obsession with this case other than to understand why the f%^k it happened – but it sounds like many things could have prevented this from happening. It’s so frightening to think that if just one or two little things had changed that this man would still be at home with his beautiful, growing family. His fabulous and beautiful wife would be at his side with the new baby, and none of us would ever have heard of him. If he was going to lose it, why couldn’t he have snapped and killed someone else? If NK was the one that triggered this massive explosion of violence and got in the way, then yeah, maybe there’d be an article in the back page somewhere, and he’d do a few years for manslaughter after his lying-ass attorneys whittles everything down, and his family would still be alive and they would patch things up – or they wouldn’t, but they’d still be here. Human beings are so delicate, and quiet, repressed rage is a dangerous thing. So very sad…..

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