Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife and their two young daughters because he wanted to start a new life with his secret lover, a criminologist has speculated.
The dad could get the death penalty if he’s convicted of killing his wife Shanann and girls Bella, four, and Celeste, three.
Watts, 33, was having an affair with a colleague at work, although police have not yet revealed a suspected motive for the triple murder.
But a criminologist has speculated that Watts killed the trio and attempted to cover up the crime as "an out" so he could be with another woman.
After studying the allegations known so far, Dr Denise Mowder, who has worked with thousands of victims of family violence, told Denver 7: "I think he had a vision of another life with this other woman – carefree, no responsibilities.
"Two children and another on the way, that’s a big responsibility."
Watts, from the US town of Frederick, Colorado, gave an interview to a TV station after police began investigating his wife and children’s disappearance.
He pleaded for their safe return, but was arrested on suspicion of murder the following day.
Dr Mowder, an associate professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, said: "This whole facade he put on right after they started looking for them, that was very odd and it makes me wonder if he wasn’t trying to find an out to be with the girlfriend.
"Somebody else did it. I’m the poor grieving father."
She said the TV interview suggests that he planned to blame an intruder, play victim and start a new life as the killings remained a whodunnit.
Watts has claimed to police that his wife had strangled their daughters in revenge after he told her that he was having an affair and he wanted to split.
He told detectives that he flew into a rage and strangled her after catching her in the act on a baby monitor screen.
But police rejected his story and charged him with three counts of first-degree murder.
Mrs Watts, who worked in sales for the nutritional company Le-Vel, was last seen alive as she returned to the family’s home north of Denver in the early hours of August 13 following a business trip to Arizona.
Police believe she was murdered that day and the girls may have been murdered before she returned home.
The Watts family murders
Mrs Watts was reported missing later on August 13 when a colleague who had dropped her off from the airport told police that she wasn’t answering her calls or text messages, and had missed a doctor’s appointment.
Police went to the home and spoke to Watts, but didn’t notice any signs of foul play.
The following day, on August 14, Watts gave an interview with a TV station pleading for their safe return.
But within hours police had begun looking for the bodies of the mum and girls at the oil worksite where he was employed.
Watts was arrested on August 15.
The bodies were found on property owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corp, where Watts worked as an operator, on August 16.
The girls had been dumped inside oil barrels that were almost full, while Mrs Watts, who was 15 weeks pregnant with a baby boy, was found in a shallow grave.
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