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

Chris Watts has been sentenced, it’s all over and justice is served – but does the DA’s motive wash?

It was most important to hear from “the evil monster” today, and yet the monster – true to his mostly introverted form, chose to remain silent. On his behalf, the District Attorney has described Watts’ motive as simply “a desire for a fresh start, to begin a new relationship with a new love”. But there’s a problem with that. Tens of millions of married couples have exactly the same motive when they choose to get out of their marriages. They separate and divorce with no harm done, no foul.

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So was Chris Watts too lazy to get a divorce? Was he too dumb to get a divorce? We know that prior to the murders he’d communicated to his own parents and to Shan’ann’s parents that they intended to separate, and incidentally, he communicated the same thing to his mistress, Nichol Kessinger.

One of the big questions that still remain is when did he express the desire to leave his wife for the first time? Was it before his wife became pregnant or shortly after? We know from Kessinger that their affair apparently began in mid-June, exactly when Shan’ann announced her third pregnancy. Was the third pregnancy an Oops we did it again! – or something else?

At 23:41 in the above conference, a reporter asks the District Attorney a question about why. He’s answer is slightly different to the one given in court. Let’s look at the transcript:

REPORTER: I know you don’t know why exactly [Rourke nods, sniffs, purses his lips] but can you talk about what the motive…was…or the reason for it [Rourke abruptly looks down]. Or the reason for a seemingly normal father to-to do something so horrible?

ROURKE [Gazes down, purses his lips]: Like I said this morning [gazing into the middle distance, Ren is in picture, glancing up at him]…I think that…based upon his…um…Google searches, his cell phone searches, some of things he was doing while Shan’ann and the girls were in North Carolina, I think it became pretty obvious that…he found a new love interest. And for whatever reason in his mind [blinks], divorce wasn’t an option. Um…I can’t speak as to why [shakes head] anyone…would take the…take the steps that he did…but during the course of our investigation, other than the normal stressors of financial stress, that I think most of us have, um…the occasional marital stress, we couldn’t find anything else [shrugs] that was a significant enough motive [gazes up and to the right, glances back at reporter] to…annihilate your family [purses lips]…in the manner that he did [purses lips again]. 

In my opinion, Rourke either knows the real reason and isn’t telling [and that’s part of the plea deal], or he doesn’t know. Which is worse?


  1. Cheryl

    “The normal stressors of financial stress…”. Yeah, right. I caught this, too. Subtext—Le-Vel…not normal financial stress—likely devastating financial stress. Just some preliminary impressions of the DA during the post-conference hearing, he seemed very nervous, on the verge of defensive, combative. What struck me is he kept raising his shoulders. I know we’re not supposed to project, but when I queried my now ex-spouse many years ago regarding suspected indiscretions, that’s exactly what he would do. It’s frozen in my mind to this day, because I didn’t absolutely know it then, but I was right: he was lying. Overall, I feel as if we’re only being allowed to look through a tiny keyhole as per these crimes. It’s very disturbing, because absent a public vetting, we’ll never know the full truth.

    • nickvdl

      Cheryl, it’s very good to have you here. What you’re doing is looking at it in a way so few are. Watts is evil, everyone else is good, Watts should rot in hell etc. That’s the majority view. What’s far, far more disturbing is – as you say – the honesty and the integrity of the other side of the equation. That that side is trustworthy is supposed to be beyond doubt, but is it? The keyhole has been made as small as possible in this case, but it remains a hole, and it remains a door that can be opened.

      • Cheryl

        Thanks, Nick. I very much appreciate being here.

  2. MVM

    What was the health condition covered by HIPAA? I believe that MLM product contributed to this crime not only by putting financial stress on the marriage, but by putting untested psychoactive drugs into both Watts. MLM company was the major beneficiary of this plea. A trial would have revealed the financial and mental devestation caused by the Watts involvement with MLM. (Took out name as they have a history of suing critical blogs.)

    • Cheryl

      I definitely think financial stressors were at play here. Okay, I’ll be discreet: I think the MLM was complicit as per the Watts’ involvement, but also believe their spending habits that preceded the MLM had a lot to do with their marital meltdown too. After today’s hearing, I don’t think Bella and Celeste had a hero to champion their well being—in either parent. Horrific beyond words—the description of their final disposal—right down to Chris identitying tank levels for law enforcement per hearing splashing in one tank versus the other as he disposed of the chidren’s bodies. I’m not generally given to broad emotional demonstrations, but Oh, my god. And then calling the school and the realtor the next day. He was moving on with his life; he did it—all of it. But why? To be able to do something like this, there are causes, stressors, but I also think you have to be hard-wired differently as well.

    • JC

      MVM, I wondered about this too. I don’t know about psychoactive drugs as I don’t have a medical background, but 5-HTP is a “natural” supplement in their products that can have adverse effects in combination with prescription anti-depressants. So many other ingredients, too, that don’t have a lot of clinical trials to confirm their potential benefits or adverse side effects. And no OB-GYN (I hope) would ever okay these supplements during pregnancy. Withdrawal symptoms after discontinuation is another aspect of these products that have been reported. Hopefully, the MLM that shall remain unnamed doesn’t happen upon this blog. I would hope that 1st amendment rights are here to stay. If not, I know a good lawyer that lives for protecting freedom of speech. Nick has my utmost respect, as he seems to have insight and intuitive intelligence that is rare.

    • nickvdl

      Yeah the HIPAA thing, good question. Le-Vel must still be high-fiving themselves.

  3. Eleni Palmos

    Chris Watts is a liar. His mouth is an open grave.

    I empathize with the DA here. There is almost no use to asking Chris “why?” There is no why. Chris is empty inside.

    I found your site and read your books just lately and the last two probably too quickly, Nick. You write extensively about their financial issues. I just did not see Chris’s position as that dire. Supposedly, he was a talented mechanic. He could never have made more money than he was in 2017 and 2018? Or had he pulled back because he did not want to support a family? Today’s proceedings proved my suspicions to me. How could he be carrying on affairs if he was that broke? And he obviously was not that broke. He took his mistress on a getaway and was researching additional vacation spots and looking to buy her jewels. When his penis needed money, the body found the cash.

    • Cheryl

      Credit cards—compounding his/her financial problems. Both living in Lala Land.

      • JC

        Yeah, that too, Cheryl. The spending was delusional, and he was a major contributor to perpetuating that fantasy.

      • Eleni Palmos

        Well, yes, but he and Shannan could have always dug themselves out of their financial hole(s). It is subjective, of course, but I have fixated on his passiveness and am convinced he purposefully brought home less money over the last few years. Men have ways of hiding extra income to spend on side pursuits and deny their families. Chris Watts can lie all he wants but with everyone else coming together to expose him there is nothing he can hide. Who knows what a very thorough audit would bring up on him?

    • Marcie

      Eleni – Chris was using gift cards he got at Anadarko for being a good employee, for meals when he took NK out. And the camping trip to the Sand Dunes was cheap. They used NK’s 4Runner to drive around. So his affair didn’t cost much.

      He probably made more income at Anadarko than as a mechanic. Plus, he quit Longmont Ford for Anadarko because he thought he was getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Anadarko pays well and has great benefits.

      The spender was Shan’ann.

      • scolbydoo

        No he took a substantial pay cut by leaving Longmont Ford for Anadarko, i believe nearly a 50% cut in pay. “He thought he was getting carpal tunnel syndrome” Where is the diagnosis, you do know a simple day surgery corrects CTS don’t you–that excuse stinks, he deliberately threw them into financial ruin because he is a dumbass.

        • nickvdl

          I would like to know more about the circumstances of him leaving Longmont Ford. Quite a drastic shift, a complete career change when you think about it.

  4. piktor

    DA has no idea.
    Watts has lied, manipulated throughout. He’s withheld information every step of the way. He will continue with this behavior because it’s served his purposes.
    He.will continue in this mode until he either commits suicide or has a Jesus moment and tells the “whole story” that will be more lies and manipulation. (Think OJ Simpson).
    His lying and manipulation is the only form of control over the crazy impulse to affirm his crazy new self. Crazy in colloquial sense of the term. Because he’s crazy like a fox. (Think Menendez brothers).

  5. Kaye

    I think it was a lot of stuff that swirled together, but what ultimately doomed them was being away those weeks in NC. I think Chris absolutely loved not having any responsibility and doing whatever he wanted. It was probably like living in Technicolor to him. No one wants to admit it, but when you’re a parent there are days where you secretly wish you could just be on your own, away from any tantrums or screaming and the constant lack of time for yourself. So he had that for a good long while, he really loved it, and he didn’t want to lose it.

    However, the majority of people who have kids and are emotionally connected to them want their kids to be happy no matter what. I know that no matter how frustrating or tiring some days can be, I want my kids to have long, healthy lives and I hope when I die I can look after them from the “beyond.”

    For some reason, Chris felt he needed to erase his family, which is the ultimate way of saying his needs and wants meant more than theirs. I truly believe if they had not been away so long, allowing his feelings of entitlement and resentment to grow, they might still be alive. Yes the girlfriend contributed to the motive but it was her plus having that long, parenting-free block of time that inspired him.

  6. Tbp

    I think the DA motive is definitely part of the motive, but I think CW had been changing over a long period of time. I believe he WAS a loving husband and father to his family. I do think things changed when she quit her hospital job, and she invested her time on social media. I believe she encouraged him to lose weight and exercise to show his weight loss on social media. Perhaps , she purchased shirts that showed off his physique. She may have brought him out of his shell by encouraging him to cut his hair a certain way, trim his beard etc. I think he started feeling better about himself. Other women probably noticed him, as well. I believe this may have been where this fantasy persona of his developed. A kind of “fantasy Chris” as opposed to his real life “reality Chris” were conflicting here. It took time, but “fantasy Chris” became more dominant in his life, especially when his family went away for 5 weeks without him. I think he is pretty transparent in what we see on television.

    I became interested in this case because of his “porch interview “. Just looking at his face, I remember thinking “this guy looks like he is relieved that his family is gone”. He almost had this evil and defiant look. That is the “fantasy Chris”. He is happy.

    Even in his first two court appearances, he looked still defiant somewhat. Still the ” fantasy Chris”. He is thinking it’s Shanann’s fault not mine. I will get away with it.

    Yesterday, it was ” Reality Chris” in the courtroom. He is even starting to look more like the “relationship speaker ” from 2012. Compare his internet pictures from the porch interview to his picture in court yesterday. He is not looking buff and groomed anymore.

    When people say Shanann made him what he was. Yes, she did. She thought she was doing a good thing for him. I think in the end, it was creating a monster that would tear her family apart in the end.

    Scott Peterson also had this reality and fantasy thing going on. Remember the phone calls from Paris?

    This isn’t to say that if someone changes their look and loses weight, they will become a family killer. Most of us aren’t as weak minded as CW.

  7. MVM

    Two more ways that the MLM contributed- 1) Materialism. Expensive cars, big houses, very important in the MLM universe. No way 5 people in two households could live the high life on Watts’ salary, so 4 had to go. 2) Belief in ability to convince others of nonsense. Isn’t this the essence of MLM?

    • nickvdl

      In sum – magical thinking.

  8. Alyson Marie Rogers

    I agree that there is more to this motive. MLM was a smokescreen- although by some accounts, Shannan was earning $80,000 (probably gross, she did a lot of free giveaways). She did seem somewhat obsessed with her new career- but for good cause, she thought she was building a sustainable life for the family. She deserved her life, and so did her children – it is heartbreaking to know that she was trying to salvage what she had when he threw her counselling books in the trash. I don’t think I have been more affected by a case other than Jodi Arias and her spiteful ( to say the least) ending of a young man’s life.

    • Marcie

      Alyson – Shan’ann was absolutely not making 80k. She was at the 80k “level.” And so far, no one has offered what that actually means in terms of cash income.

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