American Murder: Chris Watts’ polygraph interview lasted seven hours and he scored -18
-4 is the usual indication you’re lying
In new Netflix documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, the 2018 case of the Watts family killings is brought back into the spotlight. One of the key moments in the case was when investigators carried out a polygraph test with Chris Watts, whose wife and children were missing. This would be one of pivotal moments which lead to Watts confessing to killing his family.
On 15th August 2018, investigating agent Tammy Lee conducted an interview and polygraph test with Chris Watts. This was to do with the disappearance of his pregnant wife Shanann Watts and their two daughters, Bella and Celeste. Lee began the interview by saying that at that moment only one person in the room knew the truth, but the “cool thing” was that at the end of the test, two of them would.
It was this test that would get the investigators one huge step closer to finding out what had really happened.
In his polygraph test, Chris Watts scored -18
Chris Watts didn’t just fail his polygraph test, he scored shockingly low. The normal score to indicate that someone is lying is around -4, and Watts scored -18. If someone scores two or higher, they’re probably telling the truth. Whilst polygraph tests aren’t enough to stand up in court and convict someone, they do quite often break people down and get them towards telling the truth – and in the case of Chris Watts, this worked.
After failing his lie detector, Watts requested to speak to his father and later confessed to killing his wife. He was still adamant that he didn’t hurt his daughters, but the test got investigators much closer to the full truth.
During the test, he referred to his missing wife and daughters in the past tense
In the Netflix documentary, American Murder: The Family Next Door, it shows a very limited amount of the full polygraph test with Chris Watts. It showed him being asked basic questions about confirming who he is, and if he physically caused Shanann’s disappearance. He was also asked if he lied about the last time he saw Shanann and if he knew where she was. This was mainly just the pre test phase and some “known truth” questions – as a control measure.
But actually, the full interview with Tammy Lee and Chris Watts is said to have lasted around seven hours. The same questions were asked to Watts time and time again, to make sure the results were accurate. During the interview, Watts was shown a photograph of his family and referred to them in the past tense, despite there being at that time no evidence that they were nothing more than missing persons. During the questioning, he repeatedly said “they had” and “they were” in sentences.
You can watch the full lie detector test and interview between Tammy Lee and Chris Watts here:
Just a warning, it is very very long. The full polygraph test can be found around half way through video two, below. During the test, Watts was instructed to lie to any questions Lee began with “before 2018”, so the machine can pick up his response to lying.
Tammy Lee, a highly respected interviewer, smartly says lines such as: “Obviously if you had anything to do with their disappearance it would be really stupid of you to be here” to Watts. During the control questions, where Watts is told to lie so the machine can pick up his reaction to lying, Lee thanks Watts for being “awesome” at being a “terrible liar”.
Watts eventually confessed to killing his family, and is now serving five life sentences with no chance of parole.
American Murder: The Family Next Door is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
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• American Murder: What happened to Chris Watts’ other girlfriend Nichol Kessinger?
• What is life like for Chris Watts now? The latest on Netflix American Murder subject
• The full true story behind Netflix true crime ‘American Murder: The Family Next Door’