Netflix's newest true crime documentary is a disturbing watch. American Murder: The Family Next Door tells the harrowing story of the 2018 murder of 34-year-old Shannan Watts and her two young daughters - Bella, four, and Celeste, three - at the hands of their husband and father, Chris Watts.
The show recaps what happened in the lead up to the killings; how Chris was having an affair, and then lied to police and the media about his family's 'disappearance', insisting he believed his wife had left him. It didn't take long for the grim truth to come out, however. Watts eventually confessed in police custody after badly failing a polygraph test, and later pleaded guilty to the murders in court.
But aside from all that, there's one aspect to this awful case that isn't really covered in any depth in the 80-minute documentary: the couple's finances. As was detailed by local media at the time of the murders, Shanann and Chris had previously filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after racking up credit card debt, student loan repayments and outstanding medical bills. Court documents indicate that Chris had been the primary earner in the run up to their financial woes, bringing in about $61,500 (around £47,000) per year, while Shanann had been making an hourly rate working in a call centre at a children's hospital.
Following their bankruptcy, Shanann landed a new job selling health supplements, and suddenly she became the main breadwinner with an $80,000 (around £62,000) salary. As well as providing the majority of the income while her husband stayed at home and looked after the children, Shanann's new job afforded her some luxuries she hadn't previously been used to.
As part of her employment she was given a new Lexus car, as well as taken on paid-for trips to the likes of Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Shanann's work trips meant she was frequently spending time away from the family, including the weekend before she was killed.
This information led US media to speculate, following the murders, about whether Chris Watts' motive had been driven by resentment over his wife's new success, and jealousy that she was earning well and out, enjoying life.
However, the financial details aren't included in any depth within the Netflix documentary, perhaps because it's never been confirmed whether or not that was the reason Chris Watts did such an unthinkable thing. Also, unlike several other true crime offerings from Netflix, American Murder is just one episode long, likely because the killer's confession came so swiftly into the investigation.
Chris Watts is now serving more than five life sentences for the murders of his wife, daughters, and unborn child in a maximum security prison in Wisconsin.
Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
You Might Also Like