FREDERICK, Colo. — After his pregnant wife and two daughters disappeared, Christopher Watts stood on his porch in Colorado and lamented to reporters how much he missed them.
He longed for the simple things, he said, like telling his girls to eat their dinner and gazing at them as they curled up to watch cartoons.
“Last night, I had every light in the house on. I was hoping that I would just get ran over by the kids running in the door, just barrel-rushing me, but it didn’t happen,” he told Denver TV station KMGH.
On Thursday, Watts was in jail after being arrested on suspicion of killing all three family members, probably before he spoke those words. Authorities did not offer a motive.
The body of 34-year-old Shanann Watts was found on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the state’s largest oil and gas drillers, where Christopher Watts used to work, police said. Investigators were looking for the bodies of the two girls, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste.
“As horrible as this outcome is, our role now is to do everything we can to determine exactly what occurred,” John Camper, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said at a news conference in Frederick, a small town on the grassy plains north of Denver, where fast-growing subdivisions intermingle with drilling rigs and oil wells.
Watts, 33, has not been formally charged. Because he had not yet appeared in court, there was no immediate record of whether he had hired a lawyer.
A family friend reported Shanann Watts and her daughters missing on Monday, police said.
In his previous interviews with Denver TV outlets, Christopher Watts said his wife of nearly six years returned home about 2 a.m. Monday after a flight for a work trip was delayed.
He said the two had an “emotional conversation” before he left for work a few hours later and that he became concerned after she did not return his calls or texts or those of her friends. He said he came home to an empty house after a friend knocked on the door at noon and got no answer.
Shanann Watts’ Facebook account paints a portrait of a happy married life, with a constant feed of photos and videos of friends, relatives and herself. Her comments were typically upbeat, whether she was running errands, playing with her kids or promoting a health program.
She posted selfies of her and her husband smiling in restaurants, at the ocean on vacation and at their house. On May 5, she wrote: “I love this man! He’s my ROCK!”
On June 19, she posted a photo of some texts with her husband after sending him a sonogram. He replied that he loved the baby already. She posted: “I love Chris! He’s the best dad us girls could ask for.”
Her page has photo collages and video slide shows praising Chris Watts, describing how their love was growing stronger and explaining how the couple agreed to have a third child.
The two filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015, estimating they had the same range of assets as liabilities, according to court records. At the time, Christopher Watts worked for Anadarko, earning about $61,500 a year as an “operator.”
The company said Thursday that he no longer works there but did not say when he left.
Shannan Watts was one of the first customers to visit Ashley Bell’s tanning salon in nearby Dacona two years ago. The two women quickly became friends, and before long they were texting or calling each other almost daily. Their daughters also played together during salon visits.
On Thursday, Bell and her family added several items to a memorial of stuffed toys, candles and flowers on the lawn of the Watts family home.
Bell said she never detected that anything was wrong between Shannan and her husband. Bell also got to know Christopher Watts and described him as a loving father.
“I just don’t understand it,” she said, reaching out to accept a flower that her daughter picked from a nearby lawn.
Shannan worked from home as a saleswoman for a freeze-dried food company and took her two girls everywhere, Bell said.
“She was always about her girls,” Bell said. “She would do anything for her girls.”
One day she came into the salon and announced that she couldn’t tan for a while, then grinned and confirmed she was pregnant.
Shanann Watts was from North Carolina, and her parents’ next-door neighbor, Joe Beach, said he saw her recently when she visited the neighborhood of modest homes in Aberdeen.
“We were talking about general things, about how her two girls were doing and how life was out in Colorado. She didn’t give me an indication that there was anything wrong. She seemed pretty happy.”
Shanann’s father, Frank Rzucek, said on Facebook that the family did not want to talk to the media.
She moved to Colorado from North Carolina with her husband in 2012, according to property records and her social media accounts.
• Drew reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Associated Press writers Colleen Slevin in Denver and Courtney Bonnell in Phoenix and researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.
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