'American Murder: The Family Next Door': Why does Chris Watts receive fanmail and provocative photos in prison?

Chris would amass many supporters and fans online after reports of Shanann being 'bossy' convinced them that he was led to murder her and the kids


                            'American Murder: The Family Next Door': Why does Chris Watts receive fanmail and provocative photos in prison?
Chris Watts (Getty Images)

On August 13, 2018, the disappearances of Shanann Watts and her two daughters, four-year-old Bella, and three-year-old Celeste "Cece" Watts, shocked the neighborhood of Wyndham Hill in the town of Frederick, Colorado. Shanann's disappearance was first alerted to the authorities by her best friend and colleague, Nickole Atkinson, who noted that Shanann had missed her doctor's appointment the day after she dropped her off after a business trip. After the police came over to the Watts household, Shanann's husband, Chris Watts was informed while he was supposedly away at work at the oil and gas field where he worked as an operator.

While Chris said his wife had told him she was going to stay at a friend's, Nickole went through the Watts household and discovered that Shanann's wallet, medicines, and car were still in the house. Shanann had suffered from lupus and was 15 weeks pregnant at the time, so it was highly unlikely that she would leave willingly without her medicines. Meanwhile, Chris looked flustered and spent the days following the disappearance seemingly collaborating with the police and giving radio and television interviews where he would ask for the return of his family.

A week after Shanann, Bella, and Cece were reported missing, Chris confessed to murdering Shanann. While at first, he said he killed Shanann because she smothered their children, Chris later confessed to killing his children as well. It was also revealed that he had been having an affair with a colleague and wanted to leave Shanann. Chris is now serving five life sentences after pleading guilty on November 6, 2018, to multiple counts of first-degree murder as part of a plea deal when the death penalty was removed from sentencing. Netflix's latest documentary, 'American Murder: The Family Next Door' chronicles the events on the days before and after the trio was reported missing.

Chris Watts (Netflix)

The Watts family murders is pretty much an open-and-shut case. Not only did Chris detail the ways in which he murdered his family, but he also told prosecutors where he had hid their bodies. Yet, the murderer would amass many supporters and fans online after reports of Shanann being "bossy" convinced them that Chris was led to murder her and her kids. Some even believe that Chris's first confession is the truth where he said Shanann killed their kids, which has since been proven false by the court of law. There is also the fact that Chris is seen as an attractive individual by many.

In fact, Chris would continue to receive letters and fanmail just days after he was arrested. These letters were obtained by the Daily Mail under the Colorado Open Records Act. In one letter, a woman writes, "I'm not expecting to hear back from you (at least not yet) and I totally understand. And my purpose in writing to you is to solely give you a glimmer of HOPE, and maybe a laugh or smile." In another, a letter from a woman in Ohio says, "I just wanted to reach out and be your friend if you'd like... I'm not fake, I'll never lie to you, I don't want anything from you and I don't want to discuss your case." A woman had also enclosed a picture of herself in a bikini at the beach.

So why do these women (and sometimes men) find convicted killers fascinating enough to send them fan mail that borders on love letters? Katherine Pier, a psychiatrist on the faculty at the University of California at San Francisco, told The Washington Post that the convicted or incarcerated person is likely to have become part of a sadomasochistic fantasy for many of these women, given how popular true-crime shows are and how accessible the offenders are. 

“It’s a way of flirting with danger while risking nothing,” Pier told The Washington Post. “The women writing killers are often victims of abuse and gravitate toward aggressors. Getting involved with a man behind bars puts them in positions of control. These women will most likely never have the chance to meet the man they’re pursuing. And if they did, they’d be protected by the prison system.”

'American Murder: The Family Next Door' is now streaming on Netflix.

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