Crime

Chris Watts Murders Get the Dr. Oz Treatment

A photo of the Watts family as seen in a preview of the November 3 Dr. Oz episode about the tragic crime.
A photo of the Watts family as seen in a preview of the November 3 Dr. Oz episode about the tragic crime. ZoCo Productions, LLC
Two years ago, we published a story headlined "Why Chris Watts's Sentencing Won't Be Last We Hear of Family Killer" — and that prediction has proven to be vastly understated.

Watts, a resident of Frederick, murdered his pregnant wife, Shanann, and their two daughters, three-year-old Celeste and four-year-old Bella, on August 13, 2018. The case continues to be the focus of widespread media coverage, including a hugely offensive Lifetime dramatization, an absolutely chilling Netflix documentary made with the cooperation of Shanann's family, and "American Murder: The Family Next Door," an episode of The Dr. Oz Show that airs today, November 3.

From early on, it was clear that the horrific acts would grab attention from well beyond state lines; in the days following Chris Watts's arrest, we explored the reasons the case was getting so much coverage across the country. "The Watts family slayings are only the latest Colorado crimes to grip the national imagination — and like many of the others that came before it, including the 1996 murder of JonBenét Ramsey, the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, it involves people who resided in a wonderful place and seemed to have ideal lives when their world was shattered by horror," we wrote.

Another lure for media organizations: As was the case with JonBenét, photos and video of the victims are plentiful, thanks to Shanann's habit of sharing idealized portraits of her clan on social media. The contrast between those images and the awful fates of the young mother and her daughters continues to both fascinate and appall, as Dr. Oz legal contributor Joey Jackson notes during the program.


"What is a person, a husband, a father's top responsibility?" Jackson asks. "To protect your family, to support your family, to uplift your family. What's shocking most to me is the disconnect between the appearance and the reality. You look at the appearance and you look at a family so in love, so together, so looking forward to a future. You look at two beautiful daughters, a pregnant woman, his wife, loving him so much. He has their trust. He has their love. He has their respect. So to think about how you can portray that in such a vile way is just totally remarkable. It reminds us that notwithstanding what you might see on social media, notwithstanding what's depicted in a picture, when you delve deeper into the issues, perhaps there's something amiss."

Here's a clip from the program:


 Dr. Oz's words on this subject will hardly be the last. Although there's no lingering mystery about what happened, the Watts deaths so vividly shake our ideas about the American Dream that the stories surrounding them will likely be told, and retold, many times over in the years to come.

The Watts episode of The Dr. Oz Show airs at 11 a.m. today, November 3, on KTVD, as well as many other stations across the country. Click for more details.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts