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A new Netflix documentary examines the case of an N.C. native who murdered his family

A new Netflix documentary examines the case of an N.C. native who murdered his family

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The 2018 murders of Shanann Watts and her two small daughters, CeCe and Bella, are the subject of a new Netflix documentary premiering next week.

"American Murderer: The Family Next Door" chronicles what led Chris Watts to kill his 34-year-old wife and their two children, ages 3 and 4, in Frederick, Colorado, and the investigation that followed.

Chris and Shanann both grew up in North Carolina, and Chris is a native of the state. Both Chris and Shanann's parents still lived here at the time of the murders.

The case gained national attention in August 2018 after Chris was interviewed by a local Colorado TV station — while wearing a North Carolina Tar Heels T-shirt — to beg for the safe return of his family.

Chris Watts said his family seemed to have vanished and he was worried someone had taken them.

But police were suspicious of Chris, and he was soon arrested. After some questioning, he led police to the bodies of his wife and daughters, and eventually confessed everything as part of a plea deal that took the death penalty off the table. He was sentenced to life in prison in November 2018.

The new Netflix documentary, streaming on Netflix on Wednesday, Sept. 30, is told entirely through archival footage with no narration, no re-enactments. That footage includes social media posts, law enforcement recordings, text messages and never-before-seen home videos. It is directed by Jenny Popplewell, who "pieces together an immersive and truthful examination of a disintegrating marriage," says Netflix.

Popplewell and Netflix believe this look at the case — and there have been many — stands out because it "gives voice to the victims and also brings urgent attention to the issue of domestic violence."

Chris and Shanann met in 2010 while they were both living in North Carolina. Chris grew up near Fayetteville, and Shanann, born in New Jersey, grew up in Aberdeen and went to high school in Southern Pines. The two married in Charlotte in 2012 and then moved to Frederick, Colorado, just outside of Denver.

Shanann and the girls had visited with her parents in North Carolina in the weeks before she was reported missing by a friend.

Shanann was buried along with her daughters in Pinehurst in August 2018.

The Watts story told in Lifetime movie, other specials

The tragic Watts story was the subject of a controversial Lifetime movie in November called "Chris Watts: Confessions of a Killer." It starred Sean Kleier as Chris Watts and Ashley Williams as Shanann Watts. Shanann's family denounced the film as an inaccurate portrait of her life.

Along with the movie, Lifetime aired a special called "Beyond the Headlines: The Watts Family Tragedy."

The Watts story was also the subject of a Reelz documentary earlier in 2019, "Capturing Chris Watts," which included some footage of Watts' horrifying confessions of how he killed his family.

The story was also told in the Investigation Discovery special, "Family Man, Family Murder," and the case was featured on an episode of "Dr. Oz" in 2019.

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