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

Why did Chris Watts take the plea deal?

It doesn’t make any sense. Why go to so much trouble to commit triple murder of his own family, secretly dispose of their bodies only to confess, and then agree to a plea deal?

Or does it make complete sense?


This question is covered – and answered – in-depth in TWO FACE TWO POLLYANNAS due out in the next few days.

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  1. fromheretohome

    Can’t wait to read it!

  2. Kaye

    I wonder whether part of it is that he wanted to “protect” the person he had an affair with. If she were forced to testify, her life would not be normal again. Most people do not know her identity unless they are really closely following the story. Perhaps he figured he would never be found not guilty by a jury, due to the autopsy findings and other evidence, so he decided to spare her from going through the hell of a trial.

  3. Right44

    He took a plea to avoid being sentenced to death. Chris Watts continues to think only of himself. He didn’t enter a plea to protect his family from a trial or to protect his mistress or mister. He doesn’t want to die.

    • nickvdl

      Well, that’s what the media told you. Think there’s no more to it than that?

      • Right44

        Nick, the media didn’t tell me anything. 🙂 I stopped listening to them long before now. My knowledge of this case has come exclusively from Shakedown and TCRS. I exempt these sites and you from media status. You’re way above media.

        I do think it is just that simple. However, I continue to be intrigued at your deep psychological analysis of every tiny detail, hoping to somehow grasp its true meaning. That’s why I continue to read here and make an occasional comment. Because of my personal involvement in discussion and investigation of other crimes right now, I chose to skim the surface on this case. Had I chosen to give 100% on this case, my comments would be more acceptable to you, I’m sure.

        • nickvdl

          You’re right, in the thin-slicing aspect. The bottom-line is he wanted to avoid the death penalty. Casey Anthony was offered the same plea deal, and there was a shitload of evidence against her. She didn’t take it, and many would have said she was crazy not to. Think about what happened there though. The case went to trial and Casey didn’t mind putting her parents through the ringer. That’s really what the question is asking. Besides the bottomline, what other aspects played into the decision. See where I’m coming from?

  4. Diana

    Why did Chris Watts take a plea deal? Wow, that’s a thought provoking question Nick. I don’t think he took a deal to protect the mistress. These types of questions are why I’ve enjoyed reading your books and blog! People read for many reasons. Two of those reasons would be the very broad category of gaining knowledge or to read for entertainment. In the case of reading true crime, I’d say my reasons in particular would be a combination of curiosity, fascination, horror and trying to figure out how the mind of a murderer works. I’m just not good at peeling away the layers of a killer to see their thought process. In your book about the Watts murders, BENEATH THE OIL, I was on the edge of my seat when you describe Chris’s thought process and his movements in the last few minutes leading up to the likely strangulation of Shan’ann – very haunting! I will be looking forward to reading your latest book when it comes out! My guess is that your new book will contain answers to why Chris took a plea deal.

  5. fromheretohome

    Oh there’s a whole lot more to it than that. As humanbeings our conscious minds tend to be incredibly one-dimensional… Yet we ignore/disregard any and all of the multiple dimensions (both beautiful and monstrous) that make us human. We prefer to believe that these ‘monsters’ are pure evil or that they were somehow ‘posessed’ or ‘just snapped’ because facing the reality that we all have the capacity to be villainous is too hard to phathom.
    The psychology behind this ‘event’ is where it all lies.

  6. Sam

    I don’t know for sure why, but it makes sense to be angry if he truly believes he didn’t kill his kids.
    Individuals with personality disorders are very good at lying to other people, but also at lying to themselves.

  7. BAMS13

    Oh it’s certain that he didn’t take the plea deal just to take the death penalty off the table, nor was it to protect his alleged mistress. I agree with what Nick said, people will find the real truth heartbreaking. This case is full of nuances that most people aren’t aware of nor have the capacity to even try to understand.

  8. BAMS13

    I wonder… To go through the trial and have to confront and deal with her family for years would be like slowly and painfully committing the murders all over again as well as causing suicide of the mind to himself. Why would he want to do that?

    It just amazes me that the majority of people out there are so simple minded that they can look at the Watts family, the videos etc and just come to a basic conclusion that he’s a heartless monster that showed no remorse after killing his family. Now I’m not saying what he did was right, but like others here, I’m much more interested in the psychology behind this, the whole narrative of their lives and trying to understand the true natures of all those involved to get a proper snapshot of WHY it happened.

    My wild guess is that for reasons I don’t fully yet understand, this was – in his mind – the better of two scenarios he was faced with. What were those two scenarios? I don’t know. I think perhaps he had received verbal threats or his hand was being forced in some way and this was his way of regaining control for once. It may even have been to punish certain people as well. He didn’t want this, he felt he had no choice.

    I’m going to buy Nicks books tonight and have a “wild Friday night” in reading! 😉

  9. Karen

    Did I read that right that he has to give the reason as part of the deal? Whether or not its the truth from his mouth will be debatable

  10. Karen

    I too am looking forward to reading your book, Nick. I don’t know if you saw what I tweeted a couple days ago but it’s true, you look nothing like you sound. 🙂 With love of course lol

  11. Cheryl

    The news reported that Chris’s father was audibly sobbing when Chris pleaded guilty to all of the counts. I wonder if he did not want to put his family, particularly his father, through more pain. As far as his anger, I go back to Chris’s assertion that Shan’ann killed the children. While Shan’ann did not literally kill the children, perhaps he blames her behavior for the family’s deterioration and tragedy. At the same time, I believe Chris suffered abuse in the relationship. The inner dynamics of abuse are complex and involve readily blaming yourself, since over time you internalize the abuser’s criticism. At the same time, the abused is often consumed with rage because while he intellectually realizes much of the criticism is unjustified, he has nonetheless emotionally absorbed it and hates himself for doing so, loathes himself for his weakness. In Chris’s case, readily pleading guilty may have been a form of self-flagellation. Having internalized years of abuse, Chris destroys his tormentor, but in her absence becomes his own punisher. Just throwing out some ideas. I will be interested to read about this.

    • Kaye

      Hi Cheryl—I can definitely see that. I can imagine Chris getting angrier over time about the fact that he wasn’t being appreciated like he wanted to be. It seemed like Shanann might have been expecting to travel more for Thrive trips solo, which would mean Chris would always end up being the “nanny” in those cases. After that weekend, maybe he couldn’t bear the thought of having to be the one to take care of the kids while she was off on her trips. And to take care of three children once the baby was born—I’m sure that would seem overwhelming.

    • nickvdl

      I saw on twitter that the Watts family were sobbing. Do you have the link where they reported this in the media? I’m genuinely surprised the media didn’t capture a photo of the Watts family, not even outside the court.

      • Cheryl

        Hi, Nick. I forgot where I read this. I will try to find it and send it to you. I’m surprised, too, there are no pictures of the Watts family–in or outside the courtroom. There is one picture that I saw of Shan’ann’s family inside the courtroom.

      • Karen

        Nick, I saw it on @murdermesh. It was in a video clip

      • Karen

        my apologies. Its @murdersesh

  12. Cheryl

    Hi, Kaye, I suspect Chris had a lot of pent-up anger. As per the videos, he appeared to be the children’s primary caregiver or parent. I imagine he felt put-upon in so many ways, especially since Shan’ann seemed to demean him despite his efforts to appease her. It’s a vexing case and there’s so much we don’t and possibly will never know. That being said, I’m looking forward to Nick’s forthcoming book on this crime.

  13. Pauline

    Hasn’t anyone wondered on the witness list who Kodi Roberts, age 22, co-worker,(in the same business) male, of Greeley, Colorado is or why he was on the witness list. Figure it out.

    • Cheryl

      Regarding Kodi Roberts, I’ve read some narratives in chat rooms, but I don’t want to repeat them here because they are unsubstantiated and volatile.

  14. Pauline

    Also Rourke mentioned that he couldn’t promise the Rzucek family if there were a trial that Hickenlooper would uphold a death penalty verdict, given Hickenlooper’s inability to take a stand on another recent case. But, that Hickenlooper is term limited and the mid terms may make a difference. He couldn’t promise that the Rzucek family wouldn’t have to endure a five year delay for trial, or that they might not spend the next 25 years having to deal with Chris Watts in one way or another. Yesterday Jared Polis became the new Governor. Good new? No, not really. Polis has said that “he would sign a repeal of the death penalty” and in his interview with 9NEWS argued that he would sign a bill to abolish the death penalty should the legislature present it to him. So, Colorado has another Hickenlooper. Rourke made the right decision, for the Rzucek family.

  15. Right44

    There was no reply button to your last comment to me, Nick, so I’m tossing this in here. Yes, I certainly do see where you’re coming from. A trial would bring out the truth of exactly what Watts did to those babies and he certainly doesn’t want that to happen. After all, that might tarnish his image to the somewhat insane women who are posting online that they love him and want to marry him. I don’t think he gives a flip about hurting others, but he for sure doesn’t want to hurt Chris Watts.

    • nickvdl

      I don’t think this is about Chris Watts not wanting a trial.

      • Antibellum

        its about him not dying. That simple.

      • Mustang Sally

        TinyTech, and lots of others I’m sure, have pointed out significant implications why this didn’t go to trial! BIG oil company? Multi-million dollar MLM? Doctors? Prescriptions? Toooooooooooo much was at stake for this to go to trial for too many stake holders. Nobody cared about sparing CW.

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