Lifetime's "Cellmate Secrets: Chris Watts" Uncovers a Shocking Confession of Murder

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Cover image for  article: Lifetime's "Cellmate Secrets: Chris Watts" Uncovers a Shocking Confession of Murder

Lifetime's continuing documentary series Cellmate Secrets (narrated by Angie Harmon) exposes new details in the case of Christopher Watts, the Colorado-based father who in November of 2018 was charged with the murder of his pregnant wife Shanann, but not his daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. After accepting a plea deal for his wife's and unborn child's murder, he received five life sentences without the possibility of parole. Cellmate Secrets: Chris Watts offers two different viewpoints of Watts: That of Christa Richello, who believes he's innocent, and that of Cheryln Cadle (author of Letters from Christopher: The Tragic Confessions of the Watts Family Murders), to whom Watts would admit killing his whole family. From the day Watts stood on the family porch, pleading for their safe return, Cadle (pictured at top) believed he was guilty, but she never dreamed her interest in the case would lead to his shocking admission. Her intent was to clear Shanann's name after Watts had accused her of killing their children.

"[Christopher] was getting all these letters from women," Cadle explained in an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "This fan club that he has, when I wrote him, I told him up front that's not where I was coming from. I was honest and I think he needed someone to talk to and get things off his chest. People still [believed] Shanann had killed the girls, and he hadn't seen anyone else since being imprisoned in August, except for the night before his hearing when he was able to spend a half-hour with his parents and his sister.

"He had been alone all that time and had experienced trauma," she continued. "A lot of things went on in prison. I think he just needed someone to talk to and that he could share this with, and I was easy. I think maybe he thought he could manipulate me somewhat.

"He didn't."

Cadle's relationship with Watts became personal after he agreed to an in-person visit for the book she was penning. However, unlike his supporters, she was never captivated by him. "That first meeting he was kind, gentle and considerate," she recalled. "He just seemed like a nice guy. It wasn’t until we started talking about what had happened that I saw darkness in this man. I see why some people might be enamored by him, but I never felt that way. I had empathy for him in the beginning, because it's such a horrible story and to think that he could do that, yet he seemed so normal and so nice -- at least in the beginning.”

It wasn't until Watts forewarned Cadle of a letter he had written that she understood just how dark a spirit he possessed. "He warned me that he was sending a letter," she recalled. "He said, 'It's long, but you really need to read it as it's very important. The [contents] are hard for me to say. I can't say it to you in person. I had to write it down.'"

The letter shook Cadle to her core and forever changed her life. "It detailed how he had tried to kill the girls at home and they both woke up again," she said. "So, he took them both out to the oil field and killed them. He described that detail for detail. I sobbed afterward. It hurt hearing what he had done to his family. It's so shocking. From that moment I believed this guy was the awful monster [people] talked about. It's a heavy feeling, [thinking you are] responsible for bringing tremendous hurt to an already hurting family. I thought he was maybe manipulating me; allowing me to be the one to tell that horrible story. But the other side is that the story had to be told. He couldn't continue to be this nice guy everybody loved. Although, some still do."

The validity of Watt's admission would come under question by those still believing his innocence, and Cadle, already distraught by the confession, faced a barrage of differing opinions regarding the letter's authenticity. "I respect other people's opinions," she said. "But the bottom line is Christopher gave me, in detail, what he had done in the letter. I have no doubt what he told me is the truth. He killed Shanann and the girls. He had too many very specific details to have made it up."

Cellmate Secrets: Chris Watts opens an interesting dialogue -- how could a seemingly normal husband and father to a beautiful family do something so unthinkable? The image of Watts pleading for his family is ingrained in the minds of his supporters. However, Cadle has a very different image of him. "This is only my opinion," she said of the nation's introduction to Watts. "I don't know that he did this on purpose, but you saw what he looked like on the porch that day. You saw his physique. He was handsome and clean-cut.

"But seeing him in prison, he looked nothing like he did," she continued. "He'd lost his physique, was almost bald, and a far cry from that guy on the porch. He was a very different man. I think that's indicative of the affair he was caught up in, his narcissism, and it all being about him and how he looked. Now that he's in prison, that narcissism doesn't go very far. People [still] want to believe he's innocent, and I think that's true of different things in life. Good-looking people get a lot of things people who aren't don't."

Despite the anguish Cadle endured throughout her association with Watts, she's pleased she accomplished what she set out do to. "I think [Shanann's] family received closure," she concluded. "I think [Christopher] is very sorry that he's in prison, but I believe if he could get away with killing Shannan and not serve any jail time, he would do it again. The girls I don't know about, but I've never seen any emotion or remorse from him about Shannan."

Cellmate Secrets: Chris Watts will be telecast Friday, June 25 at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.

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