FREDERICK, Colo. (NBC) — A Colorado man has been arrested on three charges of murder in connection with the disappearance of his wife and their two young daughters, police said early Thursday.
The development marks a stunning turn in the search for Shanann Watts, 34, who was 15 weeks pregnant, and her daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Their case had made national headlines as her husband, Chris Watts, 33, took to the airwaves earlier this week to plead for his family’s safe return.
Chris Watts was taken into custody Wednesday night, the Frederick Police Department said. The mother and the two little girls were killed Monday, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Their bodies have not been found. A law enforcement source told NBC affiliate KUSA in Denver that Chris Watts admitted to killing all three of them. NBC News has not yet confirmed that report.
Overnight, Shanann Watts’ brother, in a distraught Facebook post, wrote that he just wanted “to know why. My precious family.”
“Bella, Celeste, and [Shanann’s] just found out unborn son Niko. I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath,” wrote Frankie Rzucek.
In addition to the three counts of murder, the father faces three charges of obstructing justice for allegedly tampering with physical evidence.
An Amber Alert for the case was never issued because Shanann Watts’ vehicle was found at the family’s home in Frederick, a small suburb outside of Denver, authorities said. Police had canvased the neighborhood, circulating photos and asking residents if they had seen the three.
Speaking to KUSA on Wednesday, Chris Watts said the couple had an emotional conversation after she returned home from a business trip early Monday. Before he left for work a few hours later, he took in a last view of his daughters on a baby monitor, he said.
“I texted her a few times, called her, but I didn’t get a response” later Monday, Chris Watts said before his arrest. “That was a little off.”
About noon Monday, Chris Watts said he spotted one of his wife’s friends come to the door of the family home as he watched on a remote security camera. When no one answered, he became worried, he told KUSA.
“I don’t feel like this is even real right now,” Watts said. “It’s like a nightmare I can’t wake up from.”
Shanann Watts was reported missing at 1:40 p.m. MT (3:40 p.m. ET) on Monday, according to Frederick Police Department Detective Dave Baumhover.
Authorities are expected to hold a press conference on the case later Thursday.