Shocking Family Crimes: Chris Watts, the Menendez Brothers and More
These people killed those closest to them
After his pregnant wife and two young daughters disappeared in August 2018, Chris Watts gave television interviews pleading for their safe returned. Many people felt something was amiss with his demeanor — and they were right.
Authorities soon discovered that Watts choked wife Shanann, and smothered daughters Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4, before burying their bodies in an oil field.
His motive? Prosecutors believe he wanted to be free to pursue the affair he was having with his co-worker, Nichole Kessinger. Nine days before Watts killed his family, Kessinger spent more than two hours on Google searching for wedding dresses.
Watts pleaded guilty to the murders to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
At the February 2014 funeral for Brad and Andra Sachs, no one appeared more distraught than their 19-year-old son, Ashton.
“He collapsed on me, crying,” Andra’s childhood friend Ruth Briscoe told PEOPLE.
Less than one month later, Ashton confessed to police that he fatally shot his wealthy parents with a semi automatic rifle as they slept in the family's $2.4 million mansion in San Juan Capistrano, California. He also shot his 8-year-old brother Landon, who was left paralyzed in the rampage.
Asked by police why he did it, Sachs replied simply, "I don't have a reason why. Just a lot of problems."
Sachs pleaded guilty in September 2016.
“She immediately pulled the weapon out and pointed it at Mr. Sheats and wanted to blame him: ‘You made me do this, you’re making me do this,’" Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls previously told PEOPLE.
But she didn’t shoot Jason. Instead, Sheats chased her daughters, Madison, 17, and Taylor, 22 into the street, killing them before authorities arrived and fatally shot her. As for why she didn’t shoot Jason, Nehls says, “She wanted him to suffer.”
Angered that his wife wanted a divorce, actor Michael Jace, best known for playing police officer Julien Lowe on The Shield, fatally shot his wife in 2014 after she returned to their Los Angeles home after picking up their sons from baseball practice.
Jace shot April, a financial aid counselor at Biola University, once in the back and two more times in the legs. After the shooting, Jace called 911 and turned himself in.
Jace was found guilty of second-degree murder after a week-long trial in 2016.
During his sentencing, Jace, who also appeared in Forrest Gump and Boogie Nights, tearfully told his wife's family members in court, "There is absolutely no justification for my actions on that night," according to Associated Press. "I am profoundly sorry for the pain that I've caused everyone."
He was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2016.
Heather Mack and Tommy Schaeffer had been dating on and off for several years when they decided to kill Mack's 62-year-old socialite mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, while on vacation at an Indonesian luxury resort in 2014.
Schaeffer bludgeoned the widow to death while she was sleeping. Schaeffer and a pregnant Mack then stuffed her body into a suitcase, placed the luggage in a taxicab and fled the scene. A taxi driver later found her remains in his trunk.
THE MENENDEZ BROTHERS
Lyle and Erik Menendez were 21 and 18 in August of 1989 when they fatally shot their wealthy parents in the den of their Beverly Hills mansion. Jose, a 45-year-old Hollywood executive, was shot point-blank in the back of the head. Kitty, 47, was shot 15 times, including once in the face.
The brothers initially blamed the killings on the mob, but then claimed they shot their parents in self-defense after years of sexual abuse by their father. Prosecutors said the brothers were after the couple's $14 million estate.
After two hung juries and a retrial, they were both convicted of first-degree murder.
On the night of Feb. 17, 1970, then-Green Beret Surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald claimed that drug-crazed hippies broke into his family's North Carolina home and killed his pregnant wife and their two daughters.
MacDonald described one of the intruders as a blonde haired woman, wearing a floppy hat and knee-high vinyl boots, carrying a candle and chanting: "Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs."
Authorities didn't believe his story and instead argued that MacDonald killed his family after he became enraged when his youngest daughter wet the bed he shared with his wife.
MacDonald was convicted of the slayings in 1979 and sentenced to three life terms, though he has maintained his innocence ever since.
In 2018, a federal appeals court denied a motion by MacDonald's attorneys to vacate his conviction based on alleged new evidence.
GYPSY ROSE BLANCHARD
Friends of Dee Dee Blanchard, 48, became panicked when a frightening status was posted on a Facebook page she shared with her 23-year-old daughter Gypsy, who many believed was disabled.
"That bitch is dead!" read the post.
On June 14, 2015, police served a search warrant on her Springfield, Missouri, home and found the ostensibly doting mother stabbed to death and Gypsy missing.
Disturbing secrets about Gypsy and her mother quickly emerged. Dee Dee had claimed her wheelchair-bound daughter was terminally ill and had the intellect of a seven-year-old, but in reality Gypsy had an adult intellect and could walk.
Dee Dee pleaded guilty to her mother's second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Her boyfriend, Nick Godejohn, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after being convicted of first-degree murder.
The case has been cited an example of Munchasen by Proxy, a form of abuse in which a caregiver fabricates an illness or injury to someone in their care to elicit sympathy for themselves.
MICHAEL A. JONES
Police were first called to Michael A. Jones's Kansas City home the day before Thanksgiving for a domestic disturbance call. Once there, they discoverd that Jones' seven-year-old son Adrian had been missing for months. Police came back the next day and found the boy's remains in the family's pigpen.
Adrian's grandmother, Judy Conway, told PEOPLE that she discovered her grandson had been repeatedly abused and made to stand outside in a pool of stagnant water overnight, and had regularly been shocked with a stun gun.
In 2016, Jones was sentenced to life in prison. That year, the boy’s stepmother, Heather Jones, pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree murder and two counts of child abuse.
Michele MacNeill, a mother of eight, was found dead in a bathtub in her upscale home in Pleasant Grove, Utah, on April 11, 2007. Authorities alleged her husband Martin, a doctor, had drugged and drowned her because he wanted to continue a years-long affair.
Martin, who claimed he had nothing to do with the former beauty queen's death and was at work when she died, was convicted in 2013 and served less than four years of his sentence before he was found dead in prison last April in what prison officials said was a suicide.
SARAH LYNN KRUEGER, RYAN SCOTT WARNER
In 2014, Sarah Lynn Krueger, 27, and her 29-year-old boyfriend Ryan Scott Warner, killed her three-year-old daughter, Kayleigh Slusher, who was found partially frozen at the couple’s apartment after having been put in the freezer.
“She was in there for at least a number of hours,” Napa Valley Deputy District Attorney Kecia Lind previously told PEOPLE of Kayleigh, who died of multiple blunt force injuries. “Her body was still extremely cold to the touch when the officers found her."
The couple was arrested the following day shortly after a woman spotted them at an IHOP Restaurant.