There is a topic that is capital B, Bothering Me.
It’s not usually in my wheelhouse – which is why I haven’t written about it before – but I’m talking about it now because it’s important.
Some of you may remember a reviling news story last August from Colorado where the Watts family – Shanann (a 34 year old mom, also 15 weeks pregnant), Bella (age 4), and Celeste (age 3) – all went missing without a trace from their home. It was just heartbreaking and made national news.
If you saw the interviews with the “distraught father” the next day, there was a sinking feeling that the family wasn’t okay – and that the police weren’t going to have to look very far.
Sure enough, it was revealed soon thereafter that Christopher Watts had murdered his family and taken them to an area owned by the oil company he worked for, burying Shanann in a shallow grave and dumping his daughters’ bodies in oil tanks.
It was horrifying.
It was so ungodly and unbelievable that it just stuck with me, haunted me really, and I paid attention to the developments in the case.
In the immediate aftermath, there were, of course, all of the friends and family members coming forward to say they were the “perfect family” and no one could believe he would do this. Later a mistress would be revealed and a desire for a “new life” and all kinds of things that looked very much like the Scott Peterson case from the early 2000’s. But there was more to this.
By November, Christopher Watts had plead guilty to murdering his family and was sentenced to the maximum sentence on all charges, for taking the lives of Shanann, Bella, Celeste, and Niko (Shanann’s baby). He was not given the death penalty – at the request of Shanann’s family, due to their faith.
After it was over, it was still troubling me and I went back and actually looked at the documents and evidence that were released after sentencing one night, intending to write about it.
And then I saw more. . .
Despite the “perfect family” claims of those interviewed after this happened, things had been failing apart badly enough when Shanann was visiting her parents in North Carolina from June to the beginning of August – and Christopher came out to join them briefly at the end, acting strange and distant – that her mother was very uncomfortable and tried to get Shanann to stay in NC with the children, rather than returning to Colorado.
Shanann returned to their shared home because she was pregnant, Celeste was on medication for a chronic condition, and they had good health insurance through Chris’s job.
Her mother’s concerns were significant enough alone to raise alarms as she had never had an issue with Chris prior to that time.
However, the thing that just set my hair on fire was that Shanann had texted a friend on August 7th – five days before the murders – that she did not feel safe with her husband as he had stated he no longer wanted the baby.
And then I started looking more closely at some other cases where things came “out of nowhere” and usually people HAD noticed really unusual or concerning behavior – and pushed it aside.
And, of course, there are FAR too many cases where there is a known history of abuse that ends in murder. This article from The Washington Post is deeply troubling:
In the Watts case, Shanann had also texted several friends that Chris had become a different person and she didn’t know him:
Looking over everything, I can’t help but wonder if, because nothing so overt as physical violence had happened in the Watts home, that is why Shanann pushed aside her own fears and her mothers concerns despite a total and complete change in her husband.
And no one ever wants to believe that the person they are intimately involved with could be capable of something terrible – but there were major behavior changes, she was afraid, and her mother, who had witnessed what was happening, was concerned.
In fact, when the family went missing, her mother suspected his involvement shortly thereafter:
I say all of this, not to dig into the Watts case (there was a great deal more), but to talk about domestic violence and staying safe and going with your instincts.
First and foremost, there is this:
‘If someone in your life has changed to the point you “don’t know them” – and even more so if others are observing it as well and are really concerned about your well-being, don’t worry about seeming paranoid or anything else. DO NOT stay in the same place as them. Get out.
In the case of the Watts family, he was stating he wanted a divorce at times and going cold at times and not wanting their baby and acting incredibly erratic.
Again, don’t worry who thinks what or what anything will look like. Safety first.
Second, if someone in your life threatens you, don’t stay for the second act. Get out.
Go to the police and get a protective order, of course – but, as article I linked from The Washington Post stated, that is a legal document. Y’all, it’s a piece of paper. One attorney in the article tells their clients to also have a backpack and a plan. Seriously, wherever you are staying, you need to be planning to stay somewhere else, at least temporarily, regardless of leases or roommates or anything else.
One of the murder victims in the article was still in her apartment – with her protective order – because she hadn’t been “allowed” to break her lease. NO. Safety first.
If you don’t have friends and family to help, I am listing the National Domestic Violence Hotline below and they will link you to local resources. It is worth it to be protected.
Finally, I have a thought for friends and family members.
As I was looking through some of the information from this case file, Shanann was just pouring her GUTS out to some of her friends via text, saying she didn’t know him, reporting his erratic behavior, saying she didn’t feel safe. . . And her friends were downplaying her concerns, saying the baby would fix it and she should pay more attention him and “he would NEVER” and all that stuff.
(Of course, this crime is ONLY the fault of the piece of human debris who committed it, no one else’s. Her friends meant to help. I only want to find ways that we can better help if we are in similar terrible situations.)
Ladies, I know as friends sometimes it may be our instinct to soothe and comfort and tell our loved ones things will be okay – but that isn’t the appropriate response in this situation. It’s important to remember how difficult it has likely been for someone to admit that they are in a fearful situation and to reach out and so we must be sure we are really hearing what they are saying.
“Oh, he would never do that!” is not the default answer to a friend telling you she doesn’t feel safe at home or that her significant other is acting in a bizarre manner. Sometimes it may well be “come spend the night with me” or “how can I help?” Listen first.
Also, just big picture, pay attention and “if you see something, say something.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
- Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, equaling 10 million people per year.
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence or sexual violence.
- 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have experienced intimate partner stalking to the point that they were very fearful that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
- There are more than 20,000 calls placed to domestic violence hotlines daily.
- The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
Take care of yourselves and pay attention to your loved ones.
Be well, everybody.
Grace and Blessings. ❤