'American Murder' Subject Chris Watts Is Serving Out a Life Sentence In Wisconsin

It's the same prison system that houses Steven Avery, the subject of Making a Murderer.

By now, anyone with a Netflix login and an interest in true crime has likely tuned into the phenomenon that is American Murder: The Family Next Door, the streamer's new documentary about the 2018 Watts family murders. To recap: On Aug. 13, 2018, Shan'ann Watts—who was 15 weeks pregnant—and her two daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, were reported missing. Though Shan'ann's husband, Chris Watts, initially cooperated with investigators and claimed he had no idea where his wife and daughters were, he failed a polygraph test on Aug. 15 and eventually confessed to their murders.

So, what happened next? Nichol Kessinger, Chris' mistress, volunteered everything she knew to investigators after getting the feeling that Chris was lying to her about the whereabouts of his missing family; she's now living a quiet life under the radar. As for where Chris is now, the short answer, predictably, is maximum-security prison.

How long will Chris Watts be in prison?

In Nov. 2018, a Colorado judge sentenced Chris, who had pleaded guilty to the murders, to a total of five life sentences, with three served consecutively and the other two concurrently. With this hefty sentence and no possibility of parole, Chris will be in prison for the rest of his life.

At the sentencing hearing, Shan'ann's family members offered emotional testimonies in which they called Chris an "evil monster," and the judge labeled the murders "the most inhumane and vicious crime [he had] ever seen," according to a local CBS affiliate.

Additionally, Shan'ann's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Chris on the same day that he pleaded guilty to the murders. In Nov. 2018, he was ordered to pay $6 million to finalize the civil suit, the Denver Post reported at the time, though it is unlikely the family will ever receive the full amount.

Where is Chris Watts imprisoned?

Though he was originally held in a prison facility in Colorado, where he lived and committed the murders, Chris was transferred to a Wisconsin prison after only a few weeks. He is now serving out the rest of his sentence at Dodge Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Interestingly, Dodge is part of the same prison system in which Steven Avery, the subject of another major Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer, is housed. Avery is serving his own life sentence at the Waupun Correctional Institution, a maximum-security facility located just minutes from Dodge.

What is Chris Watts' life like in prison?

Within the Dodge Correctional Institution, Chris is kept on lockdown for 23 hours out of every day. During that time, he has reportedly turned to religion and communicates via snail mail with family members and several others, including Cheryln Cadle, who struck up a correspondence with Chris soon after he was imprisoned and published many of their missives in a compilation called Letters From Christopher in 2019.

And while Chris is not allowed to watch American Murder in prison, he is reportedly aware of the documentary and feels "a lot of shame" about its content, according to People.

Andrea Park

Andrea Park is a Chicago-based writer and reporter with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the extended Kardashian-Jenner kingdom, early 2000s rom-coms and celebrity book club selections. She graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism in 2017 and has also written for W, Brides, Glamour, Women's Health, People and more.