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Colorado murder home sits in legal limbo two years after Chris Watts killed his family

Posted at 3:38 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 11:09:32-05

FREDERICK, Colo. -- When Chris Watts murdered his picture-perfect family in August 2018 in Frederick, it captured headlines around the world.

More than two years after Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife Shanann and their two daughters, Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4, the home where they lived still sits vacant.

Driving by, it looks like the All-American home. Two stories, five bedrooms and more than 4,000 square feet in the cookie-cutter suburbs of northern Colorado. But when buyers realize what happened inside, everything changes.

“There’s no mystery about what happened there. The neighborhood knows what happened there. Potential buyers know what happened there,” Denver-based bankruptcy attorney Clark Dray said.

Chris Watts strangled Shanann inside their home after an early-morning fight. Chris told her he was having an affair with a co-worker and wanted out of the marriage. The same morning, Chris murdered his two daughters, Bella and Celeste. He smothered them to death and tried to cover it up. He put his wife’s body in a shallow grave and his daughters in crude oil tanks on Anadarko property where Chris worked.

As Chris lied to investigators, he also went before Denver7 cameras begging for his family to return. He later confessed to police after failing a polygraph test. Chris is now serving multiple life sentences in prison.

Interest in the murder home

But the fate of 2825 Saratoga Trail, where the family lived, sits in legal limbo.

“It’s a beautiful home. I would hate to see them just take it down,” said a next-door neighbor who asked us not to use her name.

Neighbors are scarred by what happened and no one Denver7 spoke with wanted to use their name for this story. They all said they don’t want to bring any more attention to themselves or the neighborhood.

“For the neighborhood it’s just kind of difficult,” the next-door neighbor said.

She said the recent Netflix documentary about the murders has spurred new interest in the home and not the kind anyone in the neighborhood wants.

“Literally hundreds of cars have come by. They’re curious, they’ve been coming from out of state,” the neighbor said.

The neighborhood has seen so much activity since the documentary aired, neighbors put up “no trespassing” signs out front of the Watts house and are urging people not to leave any more memorials on the front porch.

"I totally understand everyone's interest in the home. I just want would ask that people just be respectful because you are coming into the neighborhood of, you know, other people that live here,” the same neighbor said.

She said cars speed in out of the neighborhood to see the home often, and she worries about the safety of children playing.

“People come late at night,” the neighbor said.

Home many see as unsellable is deteriorating

Currently, the grass outside the Watts house is dead and vacancy notes are plastered to the door.

Around back, memories of the family home are frozen in time. The girls' swing set blows in the wind and a stuffed animal lies in the grass.

“There’s a fascination with it,” said the next-door neighbor.

“It would be a great home for a traditional family,” Dray added.

But Dray, the Denver-based bankruptcy attorney, said it’s very difficult for a buyer to overcome the stigma associated with the home.

“At this point in time there's no financial incentive to anyone involved to pursue this home,” he said.

Shortly after the murders, the lender that owns the mortgage foreclosed on it and put the house up for auction. But nobody wanted it, so Weld County took it out of foreclosure.

“It’s a strategic decision that the bank has made. This is, this doesn’t have to be our problem. We’re OK not getting paid on this property for the foreseeable future,” Dray said.

Real estate appraiser says home price is ‘way too high’

The couple bought the home brand new for $399,954 in 2013, and according to, it’s now valued at close to $600,000. Real estate appraiser Orell Anderson said that price is way off base.

“It’s way too high — as if this never occurred,” he said. “I think that the property has been mismanaged.”

Anderson said for the home to sell, it needs to be heavily discounted. He believes they should cut the price by at least 40%.

“You see a pattern that tells you that when there are children involved in the murder, the discounts go higher,” Anderson said.

On top of that, Anderson said the seller needs to make the house look different. He suggests repainting it, changing the addresses or adding new plants — anything to wipe away the memories. Memories, he said, are kept alive through photographs and videos of the home in the media.

“And that’s been exacerbated because it’s been vacant for so long,” he said.

Several creditors have also placed liens on the home; the largest is from Shanann’s parents. They placed a $6 million dollar lien on the house after they won a wrongful death suit against Chris.

“That would make it very difficult to sell the home at a reasonable price,” Dray explained.

He said for a sale to make sense, a potential buyer would have to make a deal with the lien holders and have enough money to cover the original mortgage.

Neighbors have mixed opinions on what should happen

Michelle Pate lives close by the Frederick home where the murders happened. She would like to see it torn down.

“Who would want to start their life in that house? So, I don't understand why they haven't just knocked it down and maybe made a little park out of it or something,” she said.

Meanwhile, next-door neighbors Denver7 Investigates spoke with said they are hoping for new energy, and a new beginning for the home with a story that shocked the world.

“Once enough time has gone by, I think probably another family will move in,” the neighbor said.