Shanann Watts' father says his family has been targeted online by a 'constant stream of ugly, evil insults and attacks' in the year since she was murdered

Getty/FacebookFrank Rzucek’s, left, daughter Shanann and two granddaughters, right, were murdered by his son-in-law last August.
  • Frank Rzucek’s daughter Shanann Watts and his two granddaughters were murdered last year by his son-in-law Chris Watts.
  • On Monday, the mourning father released a statement revealing how he and his family have become the targets of death threats and cyberbullying.
  • He is calling on Congress to pass laws to protect victims like himself and for social media platforms to “stop this despicable conduct.”
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

In the year since Chris Watts murdered his pregnant wife Shanann and their two young daughters, Shanann’s father says the family has become the targets of death threats and online abuse.

Shanann Watts and her daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, were reported missing last August. A few days later, Shanann’s husband, Chris Watts, led authorities to where he hid their bodies at an oil site where he worked.

He pleaded guilty to their murders in order to avoid a death sentence. He is currently serving three consecutive life in prison sentences, without the possibility of parole.

On Monday, Shanann’s father, Frank Rzucek, issued a statement to 9News.com, detailing how people online have been making “wild false allegations” and subjecting them to a “constant stream of ugly, evil insults and attacks.”

“Every time we turn around, there is someone trying to capitalise on this tragedy by spreading false rumours, or outright lies, about Shanann and our grandchildren,” he wrote in the statement.

Chris wattsRJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesChris Watts was sentenced to life in prison in November.


Read more:
From a happy pregnancy announcement to a shallow grave: The full timeline of the Chris Watts murder case

Rzucek said they have even received death threats.

“We have even been subjected to threats on our lives, all because we are the victims of a painful tragedy,” he said.

He added: “Families like ours should have the right to feel safe, the right to a basic level of privacy, the right to mourn in peace.”

Rzucek wants tech companies to ‘take some responsibility’ in preventing this from happening

Rzucek decided to issue the statement in hopes that Congress will “pass laws that will protect victims of unspeakable crimes from this kind of abuse” and that social media platforms will “take some responsibility” and “stop this despicable conduct.”

The family’s attorney, Steven Lambert, told NBC News that they have reached out to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter about the torrent of abuse, but have found it difficult to get a real person to file a complaint to.

A spokesman for YouTube said in a statement to INSIDER that the company removes hateful videos when users flag them.

“Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered tragic losses due to violent events,” the spokesman said in the statement. “We rigorously enforce our policies that prohibit harassment, including removing videos that target victims of violent events or their families and claim these events were ‘hoaxes’ or didn’t happen when flagged by our users.”

Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.

Read Rzucek’s fill statement below:

“Hello. I am Frank Rzucek. Last summer, on August 13, 2018, my daughter, Shanann Watts, and her children, were murdered. They were killed by Shanann’s husband, and the children’s father, Chris Watts.

I can’t possibly describe how painful the last eleven months have been for myself and my wife, and for our son, Frankie Jr., and for everyone else who cared so much about Shanann and her children.

Just dealing with this type of tragedy is more than any family should have to bear. But I am making this statement today because, for the past eleven months, piled on top of the pain and grieving of this devastating loss, our family has been subjected to horrible, cruel abuse and outright bullying on a daily basis.

I don’t want to draw more attention to the vile material that has been posted online, and so I won’t go into specifics. But I will say that our family, including Shanann and our grandchildren, have been ridiculed, demeaned, slandered and mocked, in the most vicious ways you can imagine.

We have been subjected to wild false allegations, fake Facebook accounts, hate speech and a constant stream of ugly, evil insults and attacks. Every time we turn around, there is someone trying to capitalise on this tragedy by spreading false rumours, or outright lies, about Shanann and our grandchildren. We have even been subjected to threats on our lives, all because we are the victims of a painful tragedy.

This is wrong. It is cruel, it is heartless, and it is flat wrong.

It breaks my heart to know that we are not the first family to have to live through this kind of tragedy, and we won’t be the last. Families like ours should have the right to feel safe, the right to a basic level of privacy, the right to mourn in peace. And it boils my blood that my family, and other families dealing with the worst imaginable tragedy, have to deal with this kind of cruelty and bullying. It needs to stop.

To Congress, and to anyone in a position of power, we are calling on you to do something, to pass laws that will protect victims of unspeakable crimes from this kind of abuse.

To online social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – we have contacted you many times reporting this abuse, but to no avail. We are calling on you again to do the right thing, to take some responsibility for your platforms, and to stop this despicable conduct.

To the people who feel they are entitled to profit off of our loss, we urge you, please stop.

And to the people who are interested in this case, who feel compelled to comment and discuss, please, stick to the truth. It is painful enough for us just dealing with reality – reading the insane conspiracy theories, the ugly false rumours, the lies, only makes it more painful.

Finally, to the people who have stood by us, who have supported us, and prayed for us and our family, for Shanann and our grandchildren: we can’t thank you enough.

God bless everyone and thank you for your time.”

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