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

Watts’ Dark Fairy Tale – Which Dark Fairy Tale Character Are You?

It’s a story of princes and princesses, castles in the Colorado sky, a sly and seductive mistress, an evil monster and fairy Thrivemothers weaving their magic Thrive wands and spreading the happily-ever-after fairy dust all round.

Which [dark] fairy tale character are you?


Three minutes into the hearing, Shan’ann’s father described a “heartless monster”.

Eleven minutes into the sentencing hearing, Sandi Rzucek described her son-in-law as being given a crown by her daughter. That in itself is telling. Shan’ann put a crown on your head…That suggests Shan’ann was royalty to start off with. Was he not worthy to begin with, and did he not feel like an outsider and an outcast while it was supposed to be his happily ever after too?

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The king who was once a prince to his parents, betrayed his queen and his princesses-in-waiting, revealing himself as an evil monster, a clumsy sorcerer conjuring with blood and oil and slippery semantics.

Who is the wicked stepmother? Who is the cruel or jealous or greedy uncle in this story? Who is the heroic sheriff riding into Centennial on his white horse, ready to dispense justice [but with no need for a trial]? Are all princes and princesses destined to be revealed as gleaming fakes?


One of the reasons this story has captured the imaginations of the masses is because of its fairy tale aspect. The characters seem perfect and perfectly happy at face value. The house seems like a wonderful home from the outside. Shan’ann seemed like a happy and successful entrepreneur, her husband a thriving employee at the large Andarko company. The children seemed beautiful and well taken care of.


There was even an adorable little dog who, with his big floppy ears and self-deprecating personality, reminded one a little of Donkey in Shrek, an inverted fairy tale where ogres are heroes, princes are in short supply [ahem] and princesses are…well…neither here nor there.

After the tragedy it turned out the fairy tale was fundamentally untrue in virtually every possible way. The home – they couldn’t afford it. They were being crushed by debt. The woman who’d put a crowd on her husband’s head was suffering from a chronic autoimmune disease while working for a wellness company. Her younger daughter too had serious health issues including a deadly allergy to nuts. And haunting the family on the outside was a mistress who would say – when all was said and done – that she thought the family was already broken up…

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The real question though is which character are you? Who are we? Are we the innocent princess who comes to grief? Are we [secretly] the mistress pulling strings behind the scenes, skipping slyly but silently in the background, hoping to manipulate things to our own benefit, and slip away silently back into the shadows when we can’t?

Are we the wicked stepmother, looking on the family with chin raised, poking a crooked finger and crooked nose at the whole scene and saying in a cackling crone’s voice: “I told you so, she/he was never good enough for him/her.”

Are we the little fairies floating around social media, spreading our fairy dust with our extra special social media flourishes, meaning well but not doing much to save sleeping beauty, or wake her up from her spell, but yet busily involved in everyone else’s life except our own?


And who is the evil monster? In your world, I mean. Be careful you get it right, because as we’ve seen, the monster in this story was given a crown to wear. Are you sure you’ve not done the same to the monster in your world, and if you’re the monster in your world – would you – could you, confess to it?

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  1. Cheryl

    I’m not even done reading this blog but it’s brilliant. Thank you. I kept thinking her family thought of Shan’ann as their princess and you’ve taken it to another realm, because fairy tales are as much about dreams/fantasy as they are about nightmares/reality—Pollyanna/Cassandra.

  2. Cheryl

    I’d be one of the social media fairies busily involved in others’ lives partly out of curiosity but mostly as a means of understanding my own dreams and nightmares.

  3. Sylvester

    I’m all of them. The vengeful uncle, the covert husband, the happily ever after wife, the in- denial stepmother, the say not much father, the grieving father, the forgiving mother, the justice-seeking prosecutor and the social media junkie fairy. The only ones I’m not are the innocent babies although I was once, and the happy go lucky dog.

    • nickvdl

      Now that’s an answer Sylvester.;-) I am too. The happy-go-lucky dog is the only one who came out the holocaust with his authentic dogginess intact. We should aspire to be true to our authentic dogginess.

      • Seymour Glass

        Hi Nick,

        I came here to talk about the dog, and just read your excellent post. Strange, Chris destroys his entire family but let the dog, Deter, live. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love animals and it pains me to see any animal suffer. At the same time, Bella and CeCe should have been way, way above Deter in priority and preciousness. If he was starting anew, why let Deter live?

        In fact, I assume he took care of the dog while Shanann and the girls were in NC, unless they took Deter with them since he’s so small and all. If Chris, indeed, took care of Deter for those 6 weeks, feeding, walking, fresh water, even just the basics, that was more courtesy than he gave his daughters and pregnant wife in the end..

        Tony Soprano also had a soft spot for animals (ducks in his pool, race horse, Adrianna’s dog that Chris killed). Also, Hitler loved his German Shepherd, and was a vegetarian. Yet, they enacted the harshest cruelty to humanity.

        This case is haunting.

  4. Sylvester

    Yes, we should. I like that, “our authentic dogginess!” Wonderful phrase.

  5. Cheryl

    To be all of them is to reveal nothing and therefore avoid answering the question.

  6. Carrie

    Just wanted to drop by and tell you how much I love your books. I can’t say I have ever came across an Author quite like you. I read A LOT of true crime and I’m always anticipating your next book. Your insights to this case and others are always unique and insightful. Ignore the haters and keep doing what you are doing.

  7. Carrie

    I would also like you to look into the Delphi murders, You can find out A LOT of information on YouTube and other places such as Facebook excetra. If anyone could get some kind of information on this case it would be you. I’d love to see you go there and investigate, this is A HUGE unsolved crime.

  8. Cheryl

    “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.”

    Maurice Sendak, “Where the Wild Things Are”

  9. piktor

    • nickvdl

      Thanks Piktor.

  10. Jay

    There’s another possible explanation about the crown comment. Rzucek is a Polish name and part of their wedding ceremony involves placing crowns on the heads of the bride & groom. She could have simply been referring to that tradition, I’m not sure.

    • Nick

      God, can’t you see this is a symbolic analogy? Next thing dachshund is going to be interrogated not as meaning donkey but white horse.

      • Jay

        Ok, sorry for trying to contribute. The polish wedding thing was the first thing that popped into my head because I’ve been a part of several. Thanks for the mocking reply.

  11. nickvdl

    Contributions are welcome, but are you thinking about what you’re contributing? Bear in mind the title of this post and what it’s asking you to consider. The idea of casting this as a fairy tale is to show the symbolism of the whole thing. To then start interrogating the fairy tale elements is the opposite of trying to see the analogy. In other words, you’re reversing the symbolism. I’m not sure if you can see that.

    • Jay

      Just had a different thought than you did and wondered what your thoughts were. I no longer wonder, good luck to you.

      • nickvdl

        I’m trying quite hard to make this site better and more meaningful than “wondering aloud”. That’s why it’s called Rocket Science, it’s a better caliber of analysis, and I’d like that to extend to commentary too.

  12. patpolzin

    In this analogy I would have to be one of the wicked stepsisters. I want misery for Christopher Watts. In the 2nd interview I was distressed that he seemed to a little too “settled in.” I wanted him haunted daily by what he has done.

    I am also a wicked stepsister to Nicole Kissinger. I think she knowingly pursued a married man, didn’t plan on getting them out of the picture in this way but out of the picture nonetheless. Not wishing her happiness in life either. Best case scenario if she ever gets married some fluzy entices her husband away from her.

    Love Cindy Watts as the wicked stepmother!!

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