Chris Watts investigators speak at Family Violence Prevention Conference in Aberdeen

The 2022 Northeast South Dakota Family Violence Prevention Conference started in Aberdeen on Wednesday
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 5:14 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The 2022 Northeast South Dakota Family Violence Prevention Conference started in Aberdeen on Wednesday, and speakers included investigators from the 2018 Chris Watts case.

Chris Watts confessed to murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in 2018. FBI Special Agent Grahm Coder and Colorado Bureau of Investigation Field Agent Tammy Lee were lead investigators on the case. They spoke to the over 200 attendees of the conference about their investigation and what led to the arrest of Watts.

The murders occurred in Frederick, Colorado, which has a population half the size of Aberdeen’s. This shows that family violence can happen anywhere, even in small communities.

“I think, sometimes, that living in a rural community, that we think it will never hit our community, but as we’re hearing today, regarding the Chris Watts case, the population of the town it happened in was 13,000 people. Domestic violence happens in Aberdeen, and we have a lot of cases that we are concerned about when we go home at night, wondering what’s going to happen,” said Brittany O’Day, one of the conference committee members.

Watts had no previous history of violence, which made it even more shocking that he was capable of murdering his entire family. O’Day says the case is an example of how anyone can be a victim of family violence, and it can be committed by those who don’t seem like abusers to the outside world.

“The Chris Watts case, it really hit home once we heard about it. It was a very tragic incident, and we wanted to focus on that this year to really start talking about, how do we assess these situations? Is there something we can do to better identify some of these cases that sometimes are not a frequent person in our court system?” said O’Day.

Conference committee member, Jodi Brown, agrees.

“The Chris Watts case shows that we aren’t dealing with somebody we can clearly identify as an abuser. These individuals are smart, they know how to manipulate and they know how to get away with it. We have to train agencies on how to be able to read between the lines,” said Brown.

Brown says anyone who interacts with victims of family violence could learn a lot from the investigators speaking at the conference.

”What we want people to take away is that we do have family violence in our communities, and we want agencies to be aware of that, and how we can work together and try to combat that,” said Brown.

Joni Larson, an integrated health therapist at Sanford in Aberdeen, said that’s exactly why she attended the conference.

“Because I’m working with survivors and perpetrators, being able to pick up on some of the nuances and learning that there is no socioeconomic status that says this is going to happen. It can happen to anybody,” said Larson.

Lisa Wobst, a social worker for Sanford Aberdeen Children and Child Services, says residents of small communities can sometimes be in denial that abuse happens in their own backyard.

“I think that we all live in a little box and sometimes, we don’t realize what is happening outside that box. This is something that happens in our community, in our neighborhoods, in our town everyday, and I think it goes very unrecognized,” said Wobst.

The Northeast South Dakota Family Violence Prevention Conference continues Thursday, and speakers include detectives, attorneys, therapists and survivors.