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

“The oil had absolutely saturated these two little girl’s bodies…”

At around ten minutes into “Sesh 16” Jay & Kay discuss information from an anonymous source close to the investigation. The remains of Bella and Celeste were so saturated with oil, according to the source, they had to be flown separately to North Carolina for burial because they were considered combustible. This suggests the remains were significantly chemically degraded by the time investigators retrieved them. Whoever the source is, it sounds like they’ve had access to the autopsy reports.

To get an idea just how toxic petrochemicals can be to human tissue, consider this comment posted on social media. Someone who works in the industry was saying simply walking around a gas site gave them nosebleeds.

Fullscreen capture 20181117 092204

Also that the temperature in those tanks is extremely high, which would accelerate the breakdown of human tissues, boiling the remains, dissolving them to nothing within days.

Fullscreen capture 20181117 092046

At about 12:20 in “Sesh 16” Jay & Kay discuss “the condition of Shan’ann’s body” according to their source. Shan’ann’s body was in “really, really, really bad shape. Lots of bruising. Lots of contusions. Lots of defensive wounds. The defensive wounds are indicative of a brutal struggle. And it is…uh…was readily apparent that she was strangled with bare hands…she struggled very hard for her life.”

Jay & Kay then go to some length speculating on why the murder wasn’t a stealthy “ninja attack”. I’m not sure one can draw inferences like that. Once Chris Watts started strangling her, the fight was on. But let’s move on.

What the extensive tissue trauma suggests, if the source is accurate, is the rage – the hatred in fact – that was brought to bear by Chris Watts on Shan’ann when she was murdered. He was determined to snuff out her life. A strangling is a silent crime, but asphyxiation as a manner of death is the slowest and most agonizing death of all. It’s a death that’s usually slower than being stabbed, and much slower than being shot. One literally has the breath, the life, the fight, slowly, steadily, squeezed out of one’s body.

Murder Rap Sesh have done some amazing work, but not all the commentary is entirely accurate. Jay & Kay mention that the couple never fought, for example, but there’s at least one eye witness account where they did as recently as the summer of 2018.

On the whole, however, the point Jay & Kay raise is valid, Chris Watts seemed like a mild-mannered, calm, quiet, reserved guy. So what drove him to break the mold of his own identity? It’s a question worth asking, but it’s also one worth pausing on and making an effort to answer.

What drove him to break the mold of his own identity?

What drove him to break the mold of his own identity – and to commit triple murder?

I think people have it the wrong way round. They keep looking to Chris Watts for signs of abuse, for domestic violence, for bad behavior and violence. They don’t want to entertain a mechanism for this crime; it simply erupted out of thin air as evil does. Why does there have to be a reason?

Nobody likes to entertain the idea that Shan’ann was the pushy, controlling, coercing personality in the house, and Chris Watts – for eight years – did as he was told.

Fullscreen capture 20180902 053300

And the rage simmered. And the rage eventually boiled over.

People don’t like that dynamic because it sounds like Shan’ann is to blame, or is being blamed. So they prefer the idea of Chris Watts and Shan’ann as one-dimensional cardboard cutouts, where he is an evil monster, and she is an innocent victim. People like this cartoon because it’s comfortable. But the reality is, no one is all good or all bad, not you, not me, not murderers, and not their victims.

The bottom-line isn’t that Shan’ann deserved to die, or that Chris Watts was justified in killing her. That’s not what’s being argued, certainly not here. What is being argued is that there was a real dynamic going on, just as all marriages and relationships involved idiosyncratic dynamics, so did this one.

Eventually, that dynamic got so rough and raw and chafing it was like a tangible thing. It was becoming unbearable. And that dynamic, that conveyor, is what drove someone who seemed nice on the outside, and who started off nice on the inside – to commit a holocaust against his own flesh and blood.


  1. Kaye

    I saw a Radar article posted in Reddit about Shanann being beaten; I believe it cited Murder Rap Sesh as the source. It hypothesized that Chris strangled and beat Shanann in the loft area. That would explain the phone being jammed down into the couch in that place. The article also said the struggle might have awakened the girls and then he had to deal with them, but I still think he must have killed them earlier. I don’t want to believe they would have seen what he is doing. It is crushing to imagine.

    • nickvdl

      Yes, they’ve speculated that it was in the loft area. They’ve also speculated the children were killed after Shan’ann, and that there was a lot of screaming. If it was a spontaneous triple murder, where was Deeter when this happened?

      • Joe S

        That’s a great question! Where was Deeter? I thought that as well when I heard that theory. I can’t imagine that dog not reacting, especially after hearing him in so many videos.

        • Karen

          I have a dachshund and he acts just like Deiter. When the commotion starts, it seems he senses it’s a different energy, he runs and hides under a bed. I’ve had this dog for almost 11 years and I think I know him quite well. If no neighbors heard Deiter barking, he wasn’t. If he was trying to intervene then he would have been barking.

      • Kaye

        Yes, plus why didn’t any neighbors hear any screaming? I’m sure it was at a time when most people are sleeping soundly but I couldn’t imagine the noise did not go on for a while.

      • Karen

        If there was a lot of noise and activity you can bet Deiter was hiding.

      • Karen #2

        Autopsy says bruising in neck area only. DA said not a vicious strangulation, hyoid bone not broken. Her fingernails were long and not broken, no fight.

        I gotta get off this site. Too much contradictory info.

  2. BAMS13

    This has been my unwavering thought process on why it happened all along too. Until I know otherwise or more concrete details come to light, I will continue believing this.

  3. BAMS13

    I don’t think he was trying to off his whole family like the majority believe. Either one child’s death was accidental thus sparking a hasty cover-up ending in Shann’an’s and the other child’s death OR she was killed in anger and the kids afterwards (as humanely as possible) due to panic and confusion. OR his story is partially true.

    • Blexy

      This was my first thought too, that through negligence or inattentiveness (with his mind on NK) something happened to the younger child. Maybe an accidental death, maybe even Bella even alerted him to it and was a witness, and would tell the mom asap. I feel like they did die before she got home. A lot of time went in to thinking how to be rid of his wife though. I really wonder when was the exact moment that he looked at those oil tanks and had the idea they would be a great place to hide a body.

    • Wendy Anne

      You are delusional if you believe that. He had the murder of his wife and children planned out. He want a fresh start with Nicole Kessinger and his family stood in the way of that.

      • Shannon

        It was a combination of many factors. In his marriage. It wasn’t just Nicole.

  4. Shannon

    Why kids on Seperate planes. After a Autopsy, all the fluid should be gone…?
    I wondered about bruises.
    I said he killed her in a Rage. Over time, Hatered.
    Uhm. Wonder what will happen on Monday with him.

    • Karen

      Seperate planes because of the high combustion, Shannon

  5. Karen

    Nick, have you addressed the issue of why Chris would have thought that getting a divorce wasn’t an option? I’d like to revisit that. Thank you, and also thank you for all the work you put in to these writings. It has really opened up my mind and helped me to understand the things I don’t normally see. When do you sleep? lol

  6. Blexy

    I haven’t commented yet but I’ve read everything here about the watts case and agree with your insights and ideas. I came across this last night, it’s pretty crazy, check it out-

    Also have you seen where CW cousin comment said SW used to tell him he should kill himself? I can’t remember where I saw that and have no idea if it’s legit.

  7. Shannon

    Yes Karen.
    Autopsy performed in the state their found.
    States keep their crimes.
    So Colorado would do an autopsy there. Meaning all fuilds drained, body probably cut into. Body embalmed.
    Then ready for shipment.
    Just strange they would blow up after these procedures.

  8. Shannon

    Oh forgot sorry Karen.
    Before body on plane: death certificate, police clearance, Embalming Certificate.
    The bodies Should not Blow up.
    Maybe they are lying or didn’t do job right?

  9. Cheryl

    I heard this podcast yesterday and have been thinking about it since. A beating of this magnitude and ultimate murder by strangling Shan’ann with his hands speaks to a lot of rage and an immediate trigger event or cause that set off Chris. The upstairs loft area is located, I believe, between the children’s and the parents’ bedrooms. Shan’ann arrived home from another Le-Vel boondoggle. Their finances were likely hemorrhaging due to about two years’ involvement in a scam that enriches the top one percent and bankrupts just about everyone else, including the Watts. In preparation for divorce, Chris, per the mistress, was planning to rent a family-sized apartment. What plans was Shan’ann making? She didn’t have a job; she had a failing enterprise in LeVel and was pregnant with yet another child. However, true to her Pollyanna nature, she still seemed committed to the LeVel fantasy and along with it the marriage—fantasy or otherwise—that supported her venture. No marriage, no LeVel—at least not one with the Barbie house and Ken doll. Did the “emotional conversation,” when Chris perhaps reaffirmed or confirmed his intent to divorce, lead to the children’s deaths—deaths executed by Shan’ann in retaliation for Chris’s leaving?

    I ask this because in considering their mutual situations and end-of-marriage psychology, I believe Shan’ann’s state of mind would have been much more fragile, as she had no fallback in a real job. Even more importantly, I believe she was addicted to the image she had created per the LeVel enterprise: sales team leader, big house, luxury car and two beautiful daughters—all props in Shan’ann’s self-fantasy—the one she stared at daily in her cellphone. Moreover, in reviewing the videos, I get the feeling that Shan’ann didn’t exist but for her ability to gaze into her cellphone mirror. Therefore, the reality of Chris’s leaving the marriage presented an existential crisis for Shan’ann that maybe erupted in a narcissistic unraveling where she vengefully dispatched the props that to Chris were Bella and Celeste.

    Having suggested this, I realize that Chris’s post-murder behavior does not fit someone who should be grieving for his children. And, of course, the disposal method for the children is callous to say the least. I’ve thought that he could have panicked, thinking he’d be blamed since he’s male and the only survivor. I’ve also thought he’s somewhere on the autism spectrum (the absence of expression in the childhood photos and social awkwardness in adulthood), which might account for the emotionally disconnected behavior after the murders. I don’t know. Not even Chris’s parents can reconcile the children’s burial site with what they insist is their son’s innocence per the children’s deaths; yet they still suspect Shan’ann, I think, because of her past behavior—behavior that perhaps six years ago caused them not to attend their own son’s wedding and caused Chris to write an alleged cautionary letter to his sister regarding Shan’ann and his safety.

    I am certainly not bound to this theory about the Watts family tragedy. In fact, I’m sitting on the fence. Assuming the sentencing goes forward (it looks as if it is), we’ll have more information per the autopsies and any partial motive offered by the DA. However, absent knowing the full context of this case per its going to trial, I doubt we will ever have all of the answers.

    • Blexy

      That’s a good point about the autism spectrum! I see him as the passive aggressive type that could be fuming on the inside and never say anything, low emotional intelligence and poor communication skills and avoidance of addressing relationship issues with courage and honesty. Narrow minded pinpoint focus on selfish desires and out of touch with reality, fully invested in fantasy to the point of losing all common sense. If he only had the balls to take off the mask and let people know him as the asshole who walked out on his family and pregnant wife. He would do anything to avoid being shamed, to hide his true self.

    • Blexy

      I agree with your analysis of SW completely! I don’t know how anyone could put up with the whole facade on social media and turning life in to a shitty product sales pitch. Exploiting and cheapening private moments for the constant need for attention. It’s so self obsessed and pointless when you look at the big picture of life. All he had to do was leave, just because he can’t stand them doesn’t give him the right to squash the life out of him. The ultimate control freak.

    • BAMS13

      I didn’t know that NK claimed that he mentioned wanting to rent a family sized apartment… Wow, if this is indeed true then there goes the premeditation theory which I have never believed anyway.

      I believe CW had lots of time to ruminate on their escalating financial stress. SW was away, again, perhaps was spending money on credit and had also been spending up big on Nico even though she was in early stage of pregnancy. CW was back home with two kids under age five which is hard work in itself without adding SW’s constant spending into the mix. A volcano with pressure building…

      Who knows…

      • nickvdl

        I didn’t know that NK claimed that he mentioned wanting to rent a family sized apartment… Wow, if this is indeed true then there goes the premeditation theory which I have never believed anyway.>>>How does saying he wanted to rent an apartment cancel out premeditation? It’s not like he had one when they died. Talk is cheap.

        Let me just take another minute here to deal with the “myth” of premeditation. When you have a triple homicide, it involves killing three people. Those three people aren’t killed simultaneously. It’s not like a bomb exploded and wiped out three lives in a single moment. There is a single murder. That murder has been completed. Now there is a second murder. Then that murder is complete. Then there is a third murder. Is your non-premeditation theory that he sort of went crazy and when he woke up there were three people dead around him?

        And then the next day he was able to be very cagey and put up a fairly unconcerned face onto the situation? Just trying to understand how you’re thinking about this.

        You might want to take a few moments to imagine what a triple murder involves. An easy way to do it is to go and wash three separate dishes. Probably the murders took longer than that, but while you’re washing each dish, and going on to the next one, ask yourself if your mind is blank, or if you’re not thinking about three dishes, then two, then one, and what to do with them.

        I’m bringing all this up because at some stage it would be good to graduate from knowing nothing about this case to getting some sort of handle on it.

        Final point, the DA has charged him three times with “first-degree murder after deliberation”. After deliberation. So to be simplistic about it, the DA are accusing Watts of murder after deliberation, murder after deliberation and murder after deliberation. After deliberation is another way of saying “premeditation”. Why do you think the DA accused him of premeditated murder?

        • BAMS13

          Good points of course. I guess I’ve never imagined it to be premeditated right from the very start, I have no idea why I still maintain this stance.

          Like his own mother said – who probably knows him more than anyone else – I just cannot wrap my head around him killing anyone, let alone his own flesh & blood and let alone on a premeditated basis. Factoring in the fact that I am a little naive in some respects and always prefer to look for the inherent good in people.

          In the back of my mind lurks thoughts that he probably never revealed the real Chris? Perhaps he had a few serious issues going on that no one knew about. He did seem awkward & reclusive and they had many stressors but billions of people the world over do too and they don’t do anything near as despicable…

          I “prefer” to think it wasn’t premeditated because I know a “Chris” in real life and that’s why I’m following this so closely.

          Of course it’s just a theory and I’ve no way of knowing what went through his mind.

          • nickvdl

            That’s why I’ve asked you to try to imagine. As I say, the next time you wash dishes, pick up three and observe your own thoughts. Are you blank, or are you able to think about what you’re doing, and think about how you’re going to go about the next one. Strangling someone to death takes a lot of time, and thus a lot of resolve.

            This is what happens when you have no premeditation:


            You lack resolve.

          • BAMS13

            I can’t open your link… is it the one about the woman with the nail in her forehead? Lol.

        • BAMS13

          Oh and I guess the DA “accused” him of premeditated murder because they have the facts that I do not. My mind is always open to change.

  10. Shannon

    Sorry. I can’t find the Post about Rzucek family affording a lawyer.
    Fundraising amounts:
    1) 98.632.00
    2) 56.363.00
    Outback Steakhouse had fundraiser also
    No amount given.
    Plus more fundraising.
    No amounts given
    Seems like they are and still are milking it.

    • pacificnwjz

      Wow, pretty hard on a family that lost their only daughter and grandchildren. I don’t understand people like you, not do I want to.

      • Shannon

        It’s all on the Internet.

  11. Diana

    Cheryl great insight, well thought out! Your thoughts on how and why these crimes occurred are definitely plausible. I’ve always believed Chris killed the kids, doubt I’ll change my mind on that, and like you, the way he disposed of them gave me pause. I think you really nailed it with your description of how Shan’ann saw herself in relation to Le-Vel. Only thing I’m on the fence about is whether Chris will follow through on the plea deal come Monday. If he does, I certainly hope the prosecution follows through with releasing the autopsies and telling us at least what the partial motive for these murders was.

    • Cheryl

      Thank you, Diana. I appreciate your comments, especially knowing your perspectives. I’m truly on the fence per this case, but expect the autopsy results will point toward Chris’s mudering the children. My misgivings about this complex case likely not going to trial is that witnesses and forensics can be evaluated and cross-examined through due process, which protects the rights of those involved, as well as the public’s.

  12. Shannon

    Nicole Kessinger, apparently married to Michael turtle Kelly since 2015, in Weld County. Colorado
    Not sure if children.
    She’s on various sites, twitter…..
    She looked or looks like a party girl.
    She not that innocent, sleeping with a Married man.
    They are calling her a Liar, saying the whole work area knew about Chris’s marriage problems and Seperation coming up. She knew his was married.
    Her 15 mins of fame, as they say.

  13. K miller

    Does anyone think like me – that something is off when he mentions the monitors in his interview? Could they have been used as a weapon??

    • BAMS13

      I personally think the monitor is a major feature somehow. I’ve always thought that perhaps he noticed one child had accidentally passed away on the monitor. The “blue” he mentioned would have shown up on the b&w monitor as a different shade to how they’d usually look. Dead, open eyes would be obvious too. So gruesome, I apologise if that sounds like TMI.

      I am so deeply sad for those little girls.
      🙁 They are the real victims in this tragedy and were 100% innocent no matter what either of the parents were facing in their personal and work lives. It’s a sobering reminder to everyone that each & every decision – no matter how big or small – has a consequence.

      • Debbie R

        I agree with you BAMS13 that the monitor was involved somehow.

        Perhaps the first thing Shan’ann did when she got home was check on the children, and Chris was watching her on the monitor as she discovered they were dead. Perhaps she ran to him in horror, telling him that Bella was “sprawled out and blue” and Cece was dead. Perhaps he was waiting for her in their bedroom to taunt and kill her…

  14. Shannon

    I don’t think Chris meant to hurt, the girls maybe I don’t know who or how they were killed.
    I think he truly loved them. His problem was Shanann.
    Her over demanding personality was over the top. Some partners don’t speak up….for many reasons.
    It is hard to change a domineering partner.

  15. Diana

    K Miller in reality, I don’t believe those monitors played any part in the murders. The screens were too small and the coloring appeared to not be clear enough for Chris to have seen what he claims he saw on them. His words were: He saw Bella “sprawled” out on her bed. He wouldn’t have been able to tell if Bella was dead or sleeping on that monitor. And saying one of the kids was blue? There’s not enough color clarity on those monitors to say that with any certainty! I guess they could’ve been used as a weapon as you’re suggesting. Its a case of needing to see the evidence that’s available to get a feel for what really happened in that house of horrors.

    • nickvdl

      They could have been used to watch Shan’ann enter the house remotely without being seen.

    • K miller

      Thanks Bams13 and Diana for replying. Im not sure what it is, that I can’t quite shake when I watch the video of him mentioning the monitors.

  16. Eleni Palmos

    Chris Watts was your classic passive-aggressive person. They will drive you crazy and it is near impossible for people on the outside to understand what is happening. We saw a bit of Cindy Watts and how domineering she is. Her type produces sneaky sons. Chris probably thought he was a fabulous liar and tale-teller because everyone in his life believed him all his life. (The collective we, the rest of us, do not care about him and so are not fooled.) He probably had to start lying from very young in order to get his way with his mother and became an expert.

    Nick, you go into detail about the “nut incident” in your book. What strikes me most about that situation is that Cindy Watts had grandchildren visiting for a short time from out-of-state and made sure that there was an issue. Another type of ice cream could not be selected? There’s so much out there!

    If Shannan comes across as domineering, it’s because she’s trying to prod her husband into being more… well, more of anything. Meanwhile, he keeps retreating and getting more passive. How could his salary have gone down so much if he was that talented a mechanic? Is there a recession in Colorado? Why didn’t they move to a bigger city for a better job? Why would he start making less money when she started working with the MLM? Was he making money off the books? Was he hiding a portion of his salary? (The latter is not so unbelievable. It’s how men keep mistresses living in apartments.) I read a comment on one FB group that stated he is the kind to come help you in your house and steal tools. I agreed and am glad that others see it too. Chris Watts was the vanilla-type on the outside and rotten within.

    Shannan. Oh, I know the Shannan’s of the world. If you just will it hard enough, it will come. If you keep projecting your perfect life, it is sure to come. Refusing to open your eyes to reality is terrible.

    • BAMS13

      SW overreacted and would have had her half-hour immature and hysterical screaming fit in front of those poor little girls. It makes me wonder how often it happened and the effect it had on them over time. Some people have mentioned she deliberately caused a scene so that she had an excuse to never go see them again.

      I wonder if there is any truth to the claims of her trying to isolate Chris from his own family? I don’t know.

      • Eleni Palmos

        Shannan allowed his parents to watch the girls at some point so that suggests some sort of rapprochement.

        The problem with this case is that it is hard not to project. I know so many women who have problems with their MIL’s and it is hard not to make assumptions here. Instead of doing the “middle east thing” and backing down, American women double-down and make matters much, much worse – usually for nothing. Chris had two strong-willed women he was in-between and another two making their way up the ranks. He could of been thinking of his wife, mom and teen Celeste at some point. Why did he make a special point of mentioning Celeste in what Nick calls “Sermon on the Porch?”

        Does his mom realize that if she had been there, he may have strangled her too?

        • BAMS13

          I really don’t know what to think anymore. I know that SW allowed her MIL to come and watch the kids when she went to Thrive vacations but a lot of people say that suggests that it was ok to have her around when it was on “her” terms. A bit selfish?

          Right now there’s a fair bit of insight into SW’s personality & not a lot of CW’s, therefore it’s clear why she’s being so harshly judged and nit picked from her hundreds of videos, social media rants etc. I’d love to hear a bit more about CW’s volatility or lack of. In a Watts crime FB group, a friend of his was saying that when they’d play football at school, if something went wrong on the field, he’d virtually be the only even-tempered guy out there.

          This whole tragic saga is just beyond bizarre.

        • nickvdl

          You’re absolutely right about projection. It’s so easy to project into this case, because there’s a side and a character somewhere that fits all, that takes on all comers. What I’ve tried to emphasize is that if we want to understand this case, we need to do it through their eyes, and their identities, not ours.

  17. Shannon

    I wonder if that nite Chris gives girls, their medicine, maybe too much. Now there are Sickly kids anyways. An Overdose, he doesn’t realize maybe they died. Shanann’ comes home ,checks girls, there not moving. Perhaps she moved the one girl, sprawled on bed checks other one. Chris see her on top of kids thinks she’s strangling them…..this after their talk. He comes in grabs her, they fight, somehow he ends up strangling her…. strangling someone’s takes about 6-9 minutes, in the mist of fighting. There no visible marks on him, scratches. .
    Now all three are dead.
    My thoughts.
    Also they say that Nicole said Chris wanted an Apt for him and the girls. Not him and her.
    He’s not going to live with this broad, right away, he’s thinking of him and his girls.

    • julinka1981

      Watch the video interview where detectives are interviewing Chris wattts on 15/08 after he failed polygraph at 4pm.They are literally putting words in his mouth “they say did Shannan did something to girls?”we know you are a good guy who took care of them? straight away after they mention it-he asks to speak to his dad.he didn’t even think of explaining the murders before but as soon as detectives mentioned Shannan doing something to girls-light bulb switched on in Chris’s head and he thought about how he will explain and make him look in better light.Also,watch when his dad asking him questions.Before his dad says anything he says “she smothered the girls” and when dad asks unknowingly “did she like choke them” Chris agrees with him…yeah she did and then I did the same.But he already mentioned smothering,but he got tangled up in words of his dad.He confessed truly there but changed the story as he was going,including the time he woke up etc.Chris made the part of girls completely up including the monitors that he doesn’t even mention when talking to dad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *