True Crime Analysis, Breakthroughs, Insights & Discussions Hosted by Bestselling Author Nick van der Leek

Is Chris Watts Mentally Ill?

Did Chris Watts suffer side-effects from the Thrive vitamin patches? Did he have some sort of disorder or syndrome? Is he a narcissist and does that fully explain what happened? Is he a psychopath?

Some people have also noted that the GPS number identifying CERVI 319 includes the number 666.

Did the devil make him do it? Did pop music flick a switch in his brain?


Monster, devil, madman, psychopath, narcissist.

These are the stock  answers and labels that float to the surface of social media whenever true crime jolts us out of our daily routines. They’re easy and soothing. We’re shocked by this crime and the label tells us we have it all under control, we understand it because we have a word that explains it.

The answer to Chris Watts’ state of mind is a critical indicator of our own ability to fathom not just the criminal mind and true crime, but ordinary everyday life, and even ourselves.

So what’s your call?

If he was a madman or devil or a psychopath, how was he able to convince everyone what a nice guy he was, including the woman closest to him?

If he’s not a madman or a monster it means he’s a normal guy just like you and me.  Which one of those is the more terrifying? If it is the latter, then we have a very difficult job: we have to understand how and why someone just like us made a calm, calculated decision to do something monstrous. We also have to ask what’s going on in the world if this is happening every day to families somewhere in the world.

It’s a simple question with no easy answers.


What does Chris Watts and this crime say about us, and the world we live in right now?


  1. Suzanne Weijers

    A fake world in which we keep up fakeness. Just for the picking eyes of another. I think Chis had already something in his personality which was different. Shannan by the way too… I think they were both inmuture. Not taking responsibillity enough. Care about what others might think slipping into the consuming sociaity. Leaving core values behind. Seeing the crime for what it is, those poor children its indeed devilisch. No sane person would kill his/her daughters and get rid of the corpses the way mister Watts did. That is not love and holding dear. Those childeren are of his making. How can you do this afters years of getting to know the souls you put on this earth by yourself? I can’t and will not understand the mind of someone who is cableble of doing so! Keep up the good research and asking the right questions! Thank you!

  2. Suzanne Weijers

    They cared about their looks, clothing fysical appearance. Their home, their car, their trips. They cared about material things. They cared for the wrong things in life. And ended up like this.

    • Kelly McCauley

      They put their “image” , huge house and cared about looking “rich” above everything, i just don’t understand why couldn’t he tell her no, no, we’re not buying a half a million dollar home, no, we’re not being sucked into a MLM, divorce was so much easier

      • nickvdl

        Because it happened gradually. Getting sucked in is a long process. Death by a million tiny bites. Once you’re in it can be tempting to want to get out quick, without waiting.

    • hg

      so true

  3. Suzanne Weijers

    As so many do! The lesson in this is value things stuff for what it is worth.

  4. Suzanne Weijers

    Their parents “look” normal, living by their means. Did they try to intervere?

  5. Pauline

    This is the pill that’s the hardest to swallow. Look what the neighbors said about Chris – he was the nicest guy, he would help you move, he’d always be there to lend a hand, etc., seemed like a devoted father, he loved those girls. He’s the guy next door, the family man, he’s your son, your brother, and look out ladies, he could be your husband, but what is the most horrifying is he’s YOU.

  6. Cheryl

    I don’t think Chris is a monster. I don’t think Chris is crazy. I think he’s human, which encompasses a wide range of behavior, even murdering one’s children and spouse. To entertain this behavior as part of the human condition means we have to consider our own capacity to commit a monstrous act or to even engage in monstrous fantasies, such as murder. To look into our own heart of darkness is what scares us most of all. In the same sense that people watch horror movies as a way of, in part, confronting or exercising their own inner-monster, I think they are also drawn to true crime as a way of wrestling with their own inner-demons, which involves the gamut of very human emotions, motivations, and behavior: love, hate, betrayal, jealousy, lust, insecurity, greed, self-loathing, indifference, emptiness, and fear.

    In this regard, I believe what is so unsettling about the Watts case is this horror evolved in a seemingly normal suburb, in a seemingly familiar tract house. This horror also transpired within a family, which we are culturally conditioned to acccept as nurturing, safe, a sanctuary. Was Chris simply an anomaly whose monstrosity intruded on what would otherwise be a healthy family (“The Stepfather” trope comes to mind), or did the insulating nature of the family itself nurture and exacerbate darker emotions and neuroses tranported from childhood? I ask this because the organizing feature of the suburbs—large maintenance-intensive tract homes with reclusive basements and back yards—creates disconnects with community, even family, that could balance one’s own or a family’s interiority with wider social engagement. In one of the videos, Shan’ann mentions all of the community activities that are available where they live, such as family-oriented music festivals. However, how much time did the Watts really have to take advantage of opportunities to connect with people, even with their immediate neighbors, such as the Thayers? Supposedly the Thayers spent enough time with the Watts to imagine that they “knew” them. However, what did this time actually involve—watching football, playing video games, discussing the next luxury car purchase, extolling the benefits of the Thriving life? Did they actually “talk” with each other versus relating to each other as middle class symbols or product promotion vehicles? I doubt it; otherwise, they would have had a better sense of who the Watts were versus what they seemed to represent or possess.

    Overall, I don’t believe we have any sense of Chris’s or even Shan’ann’s upbringing that may have affected their ability to navigate the complexities of relationships in adulthood. Given that we live in a time where we seem to avoid sharing ourselves in favor of talking to each other about stuff or gazing into our electronic devices, I don’t know that we will ever thoroughly understand Chris Watts.

  7. Pauline

    Great discussion Cheryl. Of particular interest to me is how Chris and Sha’nann met. Was it a friend of hers who suggested they meet (via facebook) or a friend of his? I’d love to read that email – “Have I got a great guy for you. He’s a rock solid loner who’ll be a great rock for you.” Then she says she gave him a hard time, pushed him away, was probably really bitchy too. Why would he stick around? What was in it for him? A cool house and a way out of his lower middle class upbringing and away from Vass Road? Or so it might have seemed. Where did they go on their first dates? The hospital? I think he was possibly just as conniving as she was or manipulative, he was a covert manipulator, she was an overt manipulator.

  8. Cheryl

    Excellent points, Pauline, especially about their both being manipulators–one covert and the other overt. Also, you question how they met. In keeping with some of my comments above, I kind of imagine their initial meeting as a product placement seduction via Facebook, because I’m sure Shan’ann had many pictures of THE HOUSE posted on her site. To a young man from a “hard-scrabble” background that would be major eye candy inextricably linked to Shan’ann.

    • Pauline

      If her house was the hook, he took the bait, didn’t he? Skip along to the next house in Colorado and then possibly a third house in Mooresville. I think it’s possible she wasn’t looking at that house in Mooresville for herself and the kids but he was going to be asked to go there too and start over again. It’s role reversal. Usually the man has the job where he is transferred or asked to move to develop an expanding business in another area and the woman and children must move. Only she didn’t have that kind of job and neither did he. But picking up and leaving, selling the house, was her MO. I know Spock thinks that she was the one who wanted to hold on to the house in Frederick, not Chris, but I see a guy who was tired of being pushed around and would not have wanted to give that Frederick house up. It was his first house as a homeowner, but not her first.

      • Spock

        And therein lies the double edged sword of speculation. A flip side can appear to fit just as neatly as it’s opposite side and at the same time both sides could fit. It’s so much harder to put the puzzle together if you don’t have the box cover with the picture on it. 🙂

  9. Meranda

    In one of Shannan’s videos she said he sent her a friend request. If you watch the interview with the Thayers, the wife said Shannan told her that she made all the moves on him bc he was shy & wouldn’t make any moves. Mrs. Thayer also said Shannan thought Chris was cheating but Shannan said Chris “had no game”. So I’m confused on how they really met. Also Chris was making really good money when he met Shannan so I don’t think her big house caught his eye. I’m thinking she seen him bc she was in Dirty South Customs & he worked at Ford. I believe. I also think she was the one who made the moves to begin with.

  10. Seymour Glass

    Cheryl and Pauline – I always anticipate reading your comments. They are brilliant. You both get it, and see life on a whole other level. I appreciate what Nick is doing here as well with the screen shots from the classic movie, Seven. He’s asking deep questions to us via Morgan Freeman’s character.

    Brad Pitt’s character’s reaction is a total ego response, and missing Morgan Freeman’s point altogether. That’s the same as saying “Chris Watts murdered his whole family because he is mentally ill.” Or even better, because he is a psychopath.”

    There’s a difference between mentally ill and human evil. Where I used to live in the Upper West Side in NYC, near Central Park, there was a man who stunk like shit, who looked like shit, pushed a shopping cart full of shit, and would yell at anyone offering to help him. One time, I bought him a pair of thick, weatherized socks as his bare feet were poking out from the sole of his shoes, and this was in the middle of winter mind you. After I gave him the pair of socks and a plate of warm food, all while pushing my bundled-up children in a double stroller on Amsterdam Avenue, he told me I was setting him up to be arrested. This man, bless his heart, was schizophrenic. He was mentally ill. Notwithstanding, I do think that a good portion of mental illness starts off as negative coping mechanisms from a myriad of childhood abuses be it neglect, verbal, emotional, psychological, physical and sexual – pick your poison. Therefore, a lot of people may not be organically ill but circumstances may have activated their brains differently in response. It’s the same nature vs nurture argument.

    Interestingly enough, Cheryl, my brother is doing his doctorate thesis on the perils of suburbia/consumption as it relates to the decline in community as a whole. He is an amazing teacher, well liked by his students.

    I have entertained the archaic idea that Chris Watts was temporarily possessed. I know this thought is unpopular…cue eye roll. But it’s not uncommon. Just Google. Ask a priest or pastor. The Bible talks about the devil walking to and fro the earth, looking for someone to devour; that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but the principalities of darkness (Ephesians); the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy. Because every living human being is made in God’s likeness (Genesis – Let us make man in our own image). Every single person has a target on our heads. That’s why Christ said to be sober and vigilant.

    I’m not going to get into it here. But I experienced things in my own life that was darkness, just can’t explain. As I got closer to the Lord, those things stopped. It was the scariest experiences I’ve ever had, and still can’t explain empirically. To 100% trust your 5 senses as reality is crazy. Just ask any pilot that has pulled out of a graveyard spiral, who were disoriented minutes ago – up was down, left was right. That’s what happened to JFK Jr when his Cessna crashed in 1998. Our senses lie to us all the time. What we sense can always be manipulated. Chris knew that very well.

    • Cheryl

      Thank you, Seymour. I am not not religious. That being said, I do not deny there are universal/cosmic forces outside the realm of our five senses, of our mortal understanding . I have always viewed religion as a human endeavor to understand these forces, our genesis, our purpose, our role in the universe, for the Bible and other religious doctrines, I believe, were imagined and written by fallible men. I’ve also understood these doctrines as an effort to infuse meaning, civilizing rules, into an existence that might otherwise be chaotic, or appear meaningless—we live, we die, so what. Ultimately, I believe that treating each other well (thou shall not kill) is foundational to our finding meaning in this vast cosmos. One of the greatest social justice movements was inspired by religious tenets, e.g., the 1960s Civil Rights Movement spearheaded by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. All of this brings me to what I learned from my own upbringing.

      Due to witnessing terrible crimes against humanity (lynchings of Black people in Jim Crow South Carolina) perpetrated by White people who claimed to be devout Christians, my father had no use for religion and was a hardcore Atheist. Growing up I asked him about his experiences, because I was amazed how he had emerged from that environment, that time seemingly unfettered by its intolerance and virulent bigotry, including that promoted by religion. He told me that after his father died when he was only nine, he befriended a Black man who became his surrogate father. This man spent a great deal of time with my father, teaching him how to fish and hunt. My father also told me that to this day, which was the late 1960s, he was ashamed that he had told this man he couldn’t use the water fountain dedicated to Whites-only use.

      For many years after my father told me this story, I wondered whether it was my father’s friendship with a Black man and/or a core decency that enabled him to transcend the terrible limits of his environment. In the intervening years I’ve come to believe it’s both, which brings me back to Chris Watts and the mystery of what led to his crime. Was there a fundamental lack of empathy, decency in Chris Watts that enabled him to destroy his family? Would any of us in Chris Watts’ shoes be capable of such a horrendous crime? I don’t think so. Having said that, I still think we as human beings have to lay claim to Chris Watts’ crime as part of the human species to which we all belong. To do otherwise is to deny our own humanity and Chris Watts’ crime against it.

      • Seymour Glass

        Hi Cheryl. Your father clearly didn’t raise no fool. I can see where you get your empathy, understanding and wisdom from. I was touched by his story, and his fatherly friendship with a black man during a time of such hate and bias. And you’re right, a lot of white bigots were WASPS, too. They went to church, and professed to love God. Jesus speaks of this, about those who say they love God but hate their brother. There’s also the story of the Good Samaritan. The greatest of these is love.

        That’s why a lot of people see red when they see Trump’s Make America Great Again red hats. What era is Trump exactly referring to? The day of the 80’s Wall Street Greed-ethos? The days when white privilege ran amuck, and blacks were wrongly perceived as less-than? Or a time when women were seen as merely objects, when the casting couch was accepted as the norm?

        I respect your views. I, too, struggle sometimes with my faith, but I keep coming back to Christ and his teachings. When I first heard about the Watts case while on vacation, I was shocked and upset. I saw my own two daughters and their beautiful friendship reflected in the videos of Bella and CeCe. What beautiful children, who were filled with bright light? How could anyone, let alone a father, extinguish that?

        And you and Nick are right. This case compels one to look inside and ask themselves if they, too, are capable of committing such evil. We are searching for the red flags, the warnings Shan’ann and her friends and family missed. On the surface, their social media presents a happy and normal family.

        Did Chris snapped under the pressure of financial debts, third pregnancy, feeling of being trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman, he felt, was verbally and emotionally abusive? But when I trace this line of thought, I pause at the fact there was a witness who saw him outside BBQ around 7pm, and at a birthday party earlier in the day. These are usually not the actions of a despondent, about-to-snap husband and father. So I go back and forth. To think the latter, that Chris methodically planned these murders days, weeks, months ahead, I shutter in the chaos of evil.

        Evil hides among the good. Jesus says it comes as an angel of light, it deceives. They can shape-shift: wolves in sheep’s clothing.

        To think we die, and that’s it makes life meaningless. I carried two babies, and felt life inside me. Pregnancy, carrying human life, was a deeply spiritual experience, which led me back to church after 10 years away. During those 10 years, I was miserable. I agree with you, religion is man-made. I despise religion. But what I’m talking about is having a relationship with God, practicing what Jesus teaches, and trust me forgiveness is so hard (my response to Sam is proof it’s still a daily struggle for me). I try to treat everyone kindly, especially the homeless. There’s a warning in Matthew 25 – What you did to the least of your brothers, you did unto me.

        But I respect your views, Cheryl, and where you’re coming from, and where your father was coming from as well.

    • Jay

      I thought that b but he must have done somethkng to invite that possession or maybe the person he was with did something.nk father was masonic. I know they so rituals what would have caised him tk be

      • Ralph Oscar

        Maybe it was goblins. Or pixies – I hear they can have nasty tempers. Of course, there’s always the possibility he got in with some mermaids – you never want to trust mermaids, they’ll flip on you in a heartbeat. Or maybe there was a werewolf living somewhere in the neighborhood and nobody else realized it. They can be pretty sneaky, you know.

  11. Sam

    Honestly, I am the daughter of two parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (one diagnosed, one likely to have it but unwilling to sit with a psychiatrist) and people, even friends, saying he was the nicest (and Shan’ann as well) were the nicest people in the world don’t mean much. My parents are pillars of the community they lived in, my mother helped people victim of abusive households. My father is a cancer researcher. My dad would help you move, he would invite you over for scrabbles etc.

    But behind closed doors, they were both immature, extremely abusive towards their kids. They ONLY abused their kids, didn’t do anything to outsiders. The only people who knows even now about how abusives they were is one aunt who believed my brother, and my siblings. Even now, my extended family and my friends who know them don’t believe me.

    I am not saying he is a narcissist, or not, or Shan’ann was. I am saying if he is, it is not impossible nobody knew about it.

    My mother is a covert and my father an overt. It is possible their couple had that same toxic dynamic. That being said, nobody deserved to be murdered, especially not the poor kids.

    • Seymour Glass

      Hi Sam,

      I’ve been estranged from my mother for 7 years, and understand the Cluster B – encompassing NPD, sociopathy, histrionic, borderline – parent all too well. It’s a pain that you can’t even describe, and most people can’t wrap their heads around the concept of a mother and father wanting to harm their children, and not only wanting, but enjoying your expression of pain like a drug. Like your parents, my mother is beloved in her extended, large Italian family, church and neighborhood communities, her second husband’s family. She plays the airhead, sweet as pie role to a T. In fact, my sister, whom I’m also estrange from as she is our mother’s golden child and knows the truth of our mother but won’t take a stand against it, once said to me, “Mom is dumb as a fox.”

      From my earliest memories, my mother isolated me from having any meaningful relationships with my siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. I was never allowed to form relationships where she wasn’t the center of it, and in control. Whenever she would meet my friends’ parents, those same friends over time would stop hanging out with me. She wanted me alone, miserable, controlled and her personal, emotional plaything. She told me crazy lies since I was little, telling me “if anything ever happened to her, to tell the police my father murdered her and made it look like an accident.” She put a wedge between me and my father my whole life. She told me in high school that the reason she had so many kids was because my father raped her. But if you look down the line of all her sisters (6 in total), you can see she got pregnant to coincide with each sister, even at 42 years old.

      The worst thing she ever did was start a slander campaign behind my back by way of false concern, tears, you name it. She did that to me in high school, too. At my grandmom’s birthday party, she came over to me crying, telling me my mom calls her crying because I’m so weird, because I stay in my room all the time, that something wasn’t right with me. Well, what would you do if you had a charismatic sociopath as a mom and a father who couldn’t stand your presence?

      As an adult, the campaign almost turned me into human husk (read Coraline). All my good, beautiful qualities were gone. I looked in the mirror and saw her black soul. I had people, strangers, be so hateful to me because of her lies behind my back. For example, when my father was getting surgery, my family were all gathered in the waiting room. My mom wasn’t there though. The surgical nurse came out and the first thing she asked was “Where is the baby of the family?” I raised my hand with a smile. And suddenly her face morphed into such disdain, and she said, “I heard all about you. I hear you are a spoiled brat.” Non of my siblings, a few on their 2, 3 and 4 marriages, said nothing in my defense like, “That is no appropriate thing to say.” If I had any self-esteem, I would have gone right then and there to her manager and complain. This is why I had to leave. I constant emotional baiting, the gas lighting, the hatred. She took my whole history away, then re-wrote it to fit her narrative. She’s an evil bitch.

      When I see Shan’ann, I do see those controlling aspects. When she was spraying Bella in the face after seeing her her negative reaction, Shan’ann should have stopped right then and there, and said, “I’m sorry Bella.”

      Sam – You are not alone.

      • Cheryl

        It seems at least a few of us here, including myself, are products of less than ideal upbringings. I certainly wasn’t raised by June and Ward Cleaver—just the opposite. However, I think the bland normalcy portrayed in those shows might have been an issue, too, producing its own crazy myopia. I know this sounds odd, but I believe the complexity and anguish of my upbringing (and yours, Seymour and Sam) gifted me a sensitivity that others who come from less problematic backgrounds simply can’t imagine.

        To move on from my childhood and take responsibility for my life instead of blaming my limitations on my past (I suffered from very low self-esteem), I had to do a lot of forgiving, which meant not seeing my parents in the black-and-white world of June and Ward, but in the living color complex world of Bob and Cherie, my parents’ names. I had to face that the same father who was in so many respects a kind and decent man was also a pathological liar, because of the lies he told to others about himself. I also had to face that the same mother who counseled me to always rely on myself, to always feed my mind with books because “your mind is the ultimate plaything,” and “to be kind, to be kind,” to be kind” because it’s core to preserving one’s own humanity as well as others’ dignity, was the same woman who regularly beat and psychologically abused me. How do you account for those polar extremes? Like me, they had problematic upbringings, in particular my mother who was born in the extreme poverty of the Great Depression and was molested at seven by an unemployed alcoholic, violent father who threatened to kill with an axe my mother’s mother and her five children. You don’t escape such a childhood unscathed, which doesn’t excuse what my mother did to me, but it does explain at least some of it.

        I can’t say I have completely recovered from my childhood or that I’ve completely forgiven either of my parents, mostly my mother. However, like both of you, Seymour and Sam, I’ve made great strides and continue to do so through forums such as these that try to understand what led to the Watts family tragedy.

      • Ralph Oscar

        I hope you moved far away, Seymour. Sometimes that’s the only way to deal. In fact, I’ve noticed that how far the children live away from the parents is often an accurate estimate of the amount of dysfunction within that family. Of course, some children end up so damaged that they stick close, if only to continue to suck off mom and dad, regardless of the personal cost…

  12. P Nichols

    He was the great imposter, mimicking the other fathers and how they spoke using the words they used and ACTED how he was supposed to act while his inner world was seething with rage.

  13. joematch

    Chris Watts is insane.

    • thetinytech2018

      Do you have any proof of this? What does it say in his medical files since you have them?

    • Ralph Oscar

      “Chris Watts is insane.”

      Easy to say. Maybe all of us are. How would we tell until *after* we’d killed someone?

  14. Liz

    I found an article that some of you could find relevant. Male Pre-Partum Homicidal Syndrome. I haven’t seen anything on the site relating to this. Most mental health evaluations do incur labels of some sort. You can toss the thought around or just discard at your discretion.–male-pre-partum-homicidal-syndrome-mphs-300699507.html

    • nickvdl

      I often find the experts in true crime to be the least informed and the least knowledgeable. You develop expertise in true crime not because you’re an expert in a particular field [psychology, medicine, law etc] but by becoming an expert on a particular case.

      When Ablow writes:

      “Such a man [displaying MPHS] comes to equate the impending birth of a son or daughter with his own impending psychological death. The pathological arithmetic comes down to, ‘It’s that child or it’s me. One of us has to go.'”

      Does that provide a satisfying answer or insight?

      He’s onto something when he refers to psychological death, but it would be truer in the Watts case to refer to “fear of social death”. You can also substitute a host of expert sounding labels – narcissism, Asperger’s Syndrome, psychopath etc – and you end with the same hollow nothing nonsense appraisal that explains everything while explaining nothing.

      You should also be aware:

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