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.