I watched American Murder: The Family Next Door on Netflix this past week. I realized while watching, that sometimes we get so involved and fascinated with the murder part of the story that we forget about the real people who get hurt. As I watched Shanann Watts walk up to her front door and enter her lovely house for the last time, I was incredibly sad for her. She could literally be any of us- any woman, every woman -who loves their family and struggles to do what is best for them.
Shannan was pregnant with a baby boy she eagerly called Nico. She had two beautiful girls named Celeste and Bella. For all intents and purposes, she was living a normal life, a perfect life. She had a wonderful family. She had a good looking husband whom she loved but was deeply worried about the current state of their marriage. We have all been there. It just usually ends in a painful divorce and shuffling the kids back and forth depending on the custody agreement.
When does marital discord cross the line to become something as extreme as murder instead of divorce? Are there signs during the marriage the woman chooses to ignore? How can a woman love a man who has the ability to murder her and their kids and not know it? How soon into the marriage does the husband even realize himself what he is capable of? I cannot wrap my head around it.
Did Shanann ever once imagine the horror of Chris brutally murdering her, her unborn son, and her two sweet baby girls? Any woman knows that it had taken a lot of time and effort for Shanann to create such a beautifully decorated and perfect home. Anyone could see that it was full of hopes, promises, and dreams of the future. Her family was her life- you could see it. Shannan wanted to grow old with Chris while raising their beautiful children together. That is the dream.
In the documentary, after Shanann’s worried friends call the police, we see Chris arrive to the house. Watching Chris talk to everyone, trying to act innocent when he had just killed his entire family a few hours before disgusted me. He did not just viciously murder them- he desecrated their bodies afterwards and treated them like they were nothing. He annihilated them. I know that he had literally pushed and shoved his older daughter through a tiny hole so that she would fall into a large vat of oil to decompose. It is such a savage and brutal act to do to someone you love. I cannot fathom it.
Even if we can acknowledge that maybe in the heat of the moment – feeling intense anger- maybe Chris could not remember his love for Shanann and he attacked her and killed her. I can almost understand that. I can wrap my head around it. But what about the little girls he gave piggy back rides to – the love you have for your kids is a natural and constant manifestation, isn’t it? He had to have some measure of love for his girls, right? He could not have pretended that much- could he? Could he have hidden his deep animosity towards his family that well and for that long of a time? And no one be the wiser? I just can’t understand it. The only thing that makes sense to me is just to say that he is evil. He is a monster. He makes me sick.