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

“She wants more marshmallows.” “Okay.” – More Insight into the Watts Family Dynamic

At 01:32 in the video below, Shan’ann absently tells her husband, “She wants more marshmallows.” Watts immediately responds and exits out of the background. The whole video is worth watching, if only to get a sense of how Watts is basically there but not there. He tries initially to contribute, but ultimately is excluded from the video, even though the two children are often addressed directly. Watts is never addressed. He’s never asked:

“Hey Chris, what do you think?”

Instead he’s often addressed in the third person, as if he’s not actually there.

At 5:02 Shan’ann turns the camera onto Bella and says, “You’re cuter than daddy. We’ll just have you…talk to the crowd.”

Cindy Watts has thus far been dismissed as little more than “the monster’s mother”. In some of the few interviews she’s given, she’s said she didn’t like the way Shan’ann spoke of him to her, and possibly didn’t like the way she spoke to him.

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At 03:48 in the raw video of Cindy Watts, she says:

Christopher was…[shakes her head with agitation] always seemed anxious. And he…er…when she needed something, I mean he would run. He wouldn’t walk, he would run. He would get it. He just always seemed to right there…a-at her beck and call. 

REPORTER: Did that seem odd to you?

Very odd. It was very odd. He just seemed nervous. 

Has Cindy highlighted something here that was a real issue for her son, or are her comments unreliable exaggerations?

Page 58 of the Discovery Documents highlights an insight from someone who actually lived with the Watts family for two months in 2017. That’s a lot of inside access. Cristina Meacham refers to Watts getting aggravated while hanging a picture by Shan’ann’s input. She also mentions Watts feeling Shan’ann was often putting the kids first, ahead of him.

In the video cited above, that appears to be the case, doesn’t it – the children brought forward while he is pushed to the background.

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  1. Bella

    He seemed excluded in this video. It was a dynamic, I believe, they both lived by. She could bark an order, and he would comply. Kind of like a pet, sorta. He is guilty for allowing it, and she is guilty for doing it. I blame him more. He had equal partnership, he could have put his foot down many times, but he let her do whatever she wanted. She was comfortable with this, until he stopped all of a sudden. She was left scrambling to figure out how to get him back the WAY he was….not so much getting the person he is. For some reason, he didn’t feel she accepted the person he is. So he was what she wanted. It’s really all kind of sad. Maybe he had to kill them all because he knew it wasn’t real for him. None was real.

  2. Harold

    If you’ve ever been around a narcissist there are repercussions to standing up to them, I don’t think Chris was the kind of person to confront anyone, let alone Shanann. He himself said in his police interview that he had to “walk on eggshells” around her. It is very disabling being around a narcissist, you become not just hopeless but helpless. Blaming Chris for not “growing some balls” is just as bad as blaming Shanann for her death. Even worse are the people saying that his mother Cindy is also a monster. Those kinds of people are part of the problem when it comes to domestic violence and why the abused don’t speak up. Cindy told the truth and all it got her was “monster in law of the year award”!

    • Lester

      Exactly what I was going to say. Until you have experienced life with a narcissist like Shannan, you have no idea. It is not just that easy to stand up to them! You do things their way to keep the peace. They simply will drive you crazy until you do it their way and you literally lose yourself by just bowing down to avoid the conflict and their mouths!

      • CDB

        I disagree that Shan’Ann was a narcissist. Being vain and having a big social media presence is different than being a narcissist. She seemed to display empathy for other people and was seen as caring by all except for her in-laws

    • Sheis

      Exactly. I think Chris had “learned helplessness”. Shanann bullied him.

  3. CBH

    I agree with Harold: I have an older brother who is an extremely narcissistic type, and for years I complied with him not because I wanted to, but because I didn’t want his psychotic fury directed at me. He ruined his kids, as I have no doubt Shannan would surely have ruined Bella and Celeste as they developed.

    In no way am I excusing or condoning what Watts did. I think he should have sought an advocate to grant him full custody, and tried to find a woman who perhaps would want to adopt the girls as her own. The boy, too. I grew up with major narcissistic siblings derived from one narcissistic parent: it’s deadly. Not just bad, but massively, seriously malignant.

    • Harold

      Yes CBH I understand completely what you and your family have been through. For those of you who have never been in a family situation with a narcissist let me tell you in a nutshell that they hold the whole family “hostage”. You try to avoid, you try to just be quiet and get through it, but mostly you dream of escape cause you feel there is no way out and so you often become somewhat dead inside, showing little emotion because no matter what you do the narcissist will find fault with you, And this is no way to live. Narcissists are often touted as charming, bubbly, full of life- to outsiders- but to those living with the narcissists they are controlling, demeaning and yes they can be nice but they will also turn on you without warning. And I agree with you CBH that in no way Shanann deserved to die, but to get to why these murders happened you have to expose all the truths in these kinds of cases and Nick is doing just that. I am so glad we have civil conversations here and the right to express differing opinions, try that on youtube and you will be called all kinds of abusive names. Thanks Nick for telling “all” truths in this tragedy. I read all your books on this except for the newest one but will be doing that shortly (and I did leave you great reviews cause your writing is in depth and you put a lot of research into your books, thanks!

      • CBH

        Very eloquently stated, and much appreciated.

    • Cheryl Filar

      I agree.

    • Karen

      I’m addressing your statement ( I have no doubt Shannan would surely have ruined Bella and Celeste as they developed.) I completely agree with you because the biggest influence on kids is the same sex parent and the three of them were very close

  4. Shannon

    I guess this is why she’s dead.

    • CBH

      It is, but I think we can safely say that everyone wishes CW had had the necessary virtue and strength to get a divorce, get legal help with custody, and professional psychological help for Shannan. His choice was horrendously wrong and catastrophic for everyone, including himself. Hard to believe he actually chose it.

      • Shannon

        Then there years of BS to go through when you want nothing to do with that person. No more murders anywhere if all the Couple decided to go your way.
        If he had, had more time, proper Council and the smarts…crime wise. It might have turned out different.

        • CBH

          Here is my reply that I posted separately: @Shannon:

          Believe me, I see your point. I said what I did mainly to direct it at some posters who say, “Oh, so it was ok for him to kill them all?” , etc.

      • Shannon

        Have you gone thru a divorce and child custody battle.
        I have. If I wasn’t Stoned on Hash going to Court sitting across from my ex and his new pathetic wife.
        I might have done something I should not be doing.
        The anger and hatered is extremely high.
        People, kids get killed over this every day.

        • CBH

          I replied to you down in the comments;didn’t know that there is this way to reply to a reply 😉

  5. Harold

    I have a question, in this video from “411 now” channel he says at about 13 minutes in that Shanann made about 61,000 a year, has this been confirmed anywhere?

  6. Daisy

    My take on this video is at this point the cracks in their marriage were apparent and they don’t seem very happy together. Who knows what happened leading up to this video. Could be they had words etc. It’s a snippet in time without context. We don’t see behind the scenes of what really went on only these for the camera videos to sell a product.

    We do know the neighbor said he heard Chris screaming a lot before she left for North Carolina. So much so they wondered what happened to Shanann and if she left him. Was Chris now standing up to Shanann and they were arguing a lot. We don’t know what was really going on behind closed doors but we do know he killed his wife, and daughters, and shoved those precious girls in an 8 inch hole and went about his day like it was nothing. Texting flowers to his mistress, etc.

    Folks go on and on about him being so called “abused” well most of this stuff people are citing are common things that occur in many marriages. The woman is bossy the man is compliant, the man gets aggervated because the woman wants things a certain way, etc. etc. These husbands don’t run around killing their entire families over this stuff they either work it out or get divorced.

    I don’t blame Shanann for asking him to stand up to his parents IMO his mother does seem controlling and overbearing. The way she spoke of her dead daughter in law in this interview was horrible absolutely no empathy. I bet Chris was scared to stand up to his mother! That left Shanann to do what he should have done and then look like a witch for doing so. Isn’t that why her and Shanann clashed. Both strong women and I bet she didn’t like it one bit that the wife was now controlling her son instead of her.

    This marriage had a dynamic, she was in charge and Chris complied. Right or wrong, LOTS of couples have this dynamic and it worked for both of them till it didn’t work for Chris anymore. Instead of getting a divorce like a normal person he went off and killed them all. Why? IMO it’s because he wanted a way out quickly and in his mind easily without having to deal with the hard consequences and man up to his responsiblites for years to come.

    • CBH

      “The woman is bossy the man is compliant, the man gets aggervated because the woman wants things a certain way, etc. etc. These husbands don’t run around killing their entire families ……”
      Right, they drink themselves to death, or die slow deaths of cancer, or commit suicide.

      • Daisy

        I think any of your alternatives, howevere grim they are would have been better than killing your own children and putting them in oil tanks. Divorce is another option but that would have required him to be an adult and take responsibility for his life, clean up the financial mess they both made and support his children. No, he didn’t want to do that, he wanted a quick and easy way out. Just kill them all and be free to dance off with his mistress. Even the way he wanted to exit from this marriage was immature and childlike….He just abuptly decided he didn’t want to be married anymore so he runs off to get a mistress and asks for a divorce all in the span of several months. Seriously? No counseling, no trying to work it out with his wife…..just wants to end it with 2 children and one on the way. Very immature. I am not saying Shanann was perfect, she had her faults as we all do, but IMO Chris was just like having another child and not a husband.

        • CBH

          “I think any of your alternatives, howevere grim they are would have been better than killing your own children and putting them in oil tanks.” Quite possibly, yes, but he made that choice and now has to suffer the consequences.

    • Love/hate true crime in equal measure

      I agree Daisy, I think that’s a really good take.

      I also don’t believe that he was “abused” in this relationship. What I see is a man who was more comfortable with his wife taking the lead, and I think that dynamic probably worked for a long time. Shan’ann described herself as the pusher and Chris as the withdrawer, and both of those traits are equally capable of deteriorating a relationship.

      I think Chris’s weight loss and the attention he was getting from NK gave him a confidence and a level of control that he had probably never experienced before and he was just desperate to hang on to his new life. How he arrived at the idea of killing his family as a solution is still beyond me.

      • Ralph Oscar

        “I think that dynamic probably worked for a long time.”

        The 2015 bankruptcy says it wasn’t actually working in anything approaching a healthy manner.

  7. Sylvester

    Then I see something like this and I think there was nothing wrong with this guy. This was genuine caring for his daughter:

    • CBH

      Indeed, he was the authentic and loving parent. It’s obvious, and the more tragic.
      They left a true record of themselves for the world to see.

    • Love/hate true crime in equal measure

      I think your comment pretty much sums up why many people are so fixated on this case… look at everything, try to understand everything, but you’re still left wondering “Huh?” “Why?”….

    • nickvdl

      My impression is he was a more caring and considerate father and husband than most. And then something happened that made him feel resentful of what he’d given to his family. Not just because of the affair, but something that made him start the affair in the first place.

  8. CBH


    Believe me, I see your point. I said what I did mainly to direct it at some posters who say, “Oh, so it was ok for him to kill them all?” , etc.

    • Shannon

      That’s ok. So many thoughts on here. Processing all, plus Nick’s brilliant writing.
      No one really knows what Triggers someone to do heinous crimes.
      It’s going into the unknown that makes it interesting.
      If you dare to enter the world of the unknown, the consequences can be mystifying so we must use our imagination….to conquer all.

  9. ncam619

    It would also be helpful to understand the dynamic of shannan’s parents. I recall the father mentioning multiple times that shannan & her mother were exactly alike & i recall both chris & shannan’s father (during separate interviews) describing how they each had to wake up shannan & her mother very delicately or else there would be problems. They both described shannan & her mother as waking up with one eye open like an alligator. I just remember how similar the descriptions were. The way you treat your significant other is learned behavior.

    • Shannon

      Have you seen her mother….. yikes.
      Video of her talking when Shanann away at their house….she sounded drunk.

  10. Kim C.

    She seemed irritated with him and possibly rightfully so. From what I’ve gathered he was socially awkward – possibly missing ques. He seems sort of child like. To me, it appeared as if she senced he wanted to pop his face in those videos possibly because he had been given some sort of past attention from her viewers chiming in or something similar. Maybe this need for “childlike attention” got old to her. Maybe this is what we are seeing with her irritated demeanor which is similar to the way she responds when the children are acting up. Maybe she felt as if she had 3 children at times. As to all of the post and videos…use of social media platforms is very “pushed” with MLM. I’m sure she felt like she had to do these stupid videos to have any success and possibly saw it as a menas for turning around the family’s financial crisis. I think it was pure work to her and not her first rodeo either. She certainly understood the psychological art of sales and had a good bit of experience with it. She may have longed for her husband’s ability to relate and participate with growing the thrive business but he seemed to have had no real inclination or awareness to do so. Trust me its not all glamourous for those who think she “loved” every moment of it. It is commission only sales and it gets old. I do think she was desperate to help dig them out of a crisis that they BOTH created. Often these are the very people that MLM’s attract. I’m sure she would rather be sitting on the couch watching a good movie bc she had some kick ass degree that allowed her a normal job with god pay. It certainly appears she’s trying to have her husband take some responsibility off her hands with getting the kids out of her hair so she can shoot a video which she feels compelled to do because her mlm up line is breathing down her throat. As to her venting to her in laws early on in the game…I’d be willing to bet, given the comments she made to her MIL and the way that she talked to him, that she WAS somewhat disappointed with him as a man and husband in many aspects. It is likely she sensed that he had no sense of urgency and certainly did miss social ques. This gets old and is frustrating. I see him as very robot like. She may have figured out early on that if she didn’t suggest it, then It wouldn’t get done if left up to him and not out of laziness but rather a lack of awareness of some sort.
    He may have been the kind that needed a “leading hand” with certain aspects of his life. I think when he met his new lover, she only had time to meet his new body and mask and he was very much empowered by his new toy. He felt like a big boy now and his confidence was so childlike that he took he took off his training wheels and wrecked! His mother even alludes to this with her tone and references about “being proud of him for making and saving his own money” or something like that. In my opinion, something was very off with this boy. Many time if a DIL is attempting to figure that out, she will say these things early on, to the seemingly normal MIL, in hopes for some clarity, which certainly can and often does and certainly DID backfire. It seems to be she was irritated with him but at least she didn’t take clamp down on his throat for several minutes until he went limp, took his final breath and pissed himself. . I think given a little more time his new lover would have figured him out and dumped him flat on his face. In my mind the problem will ALWAYS lie with the one who choose to handle his emotional problems by physicals means. The one who deviated from natures norms and society’s laws to get his way.

    • nickvdl

      So maybe they both ought to have felt a compatibility issue had developed.

    • Spiaggia

      Well said Kim C …well said!!

  11. CBH

    Very illuminating and enlightening all around. There are always two sides to everything.

  12. Diana

    Great insight Daisy, I agree with most of what you wrote. As a woman formerly married to a man who literally tried to kill me and our kids on more than one occasion over 11 years, plus using my nursing degree and experience to volunteer at a shelter for abused women and children, I feel people are throwing the word “abusive” around too freely in regards to Shan’ann. Of course I don’t know if there was any abuse going on, but neither does anyone else. Its a pet peeve of mine when that word gets thrown around because it’s like the boy who cried wolf one time too many. Just like the words narcissist, psychopath and sociopath, they shouldn’t be thrown out there on a whim when we don’t really know the person they’re meant for.

    • Ralph Oscar

      Careful with the “tone police” presence. We’re all here to have a discussion, and only Nick should be setting the boundaries. Unless we are free to explore without restraint, it’s very likely we’ll miss key information that contributed to this tragedy. And if we can understand this tragedy, perhaps we’ll be able to see the clues in a potential similar one before it gets to the final act.

  13. caseykaufman6922

    I keep thinking about how much Chris reminds me of a good guy turned junkie.
    I remember countless years around one of my SO’s best friends – everything was normal and good and there was always mutual respect – quality friend stuff. Years down the road, this same friend quickly became addicted to heroin and ended up robbing my SO’s parents house. He knew his way around and knew what was valuable from years of hanging out, and drugs took over his brain [typical addict story ].
    It shocked the hell outta me to hear about this, i kept thinking , ‘No way, he is SUCH a good guy! This has got to be a mixup. He would NEVER do that to a friend, or worse – a friend and their family that he had been so close to for years.’
    Well. Heroin happened. Nothing else mattered to him. Full blown addict.

    So in my brain, Chris was that guy. Respectful, loving, caring, yadda yadda. Sheds some pounds, gets stoked over new attention from a younger hottie, and bam. Addicted.

    Wish I could ask him if he felt that way, now that he’s been through a pretty lengthy withdrawal + sobering period now.

    Could be way off base, but the addict thought keeps creeping into my brain. 😶

    • nickvdl

      Your addict analogy works.

    • Terry

      I completely agree! That Thrive stuff is bad news for some and if this case went to trial I think the defense would have been all over it. I tried that stuff for about six months, I was down to 98 pounds, not eating, not sleeping, and I ended up in the ER. They sent me to a psychiatrist and he weaned me off of it and it took about six weeks before I felt better. It affects people differently and I think Chris was addicted to it, as I was. I feel sorry for the guy but more for thise little kids and the families. His life is ruined too and he will have to pay for it. It’s all just a shame, never should have happened.

      • Sheis

        Terry, many people have said the same about Thrive.

        And I believe it. They have to make it addictive if they want people to keep buying it!

        So very glad you’ve gotten off it, and so sorry you had to go through that

      • Terry

        Sheis, thank you for your kind words, yes I am way better now after getting all that “ Thrive” out of my system. I can’t imagine what kind of damage that stuff would do to someone with Chris’s psychological makeup.

  14. Ralph Oscar

    “I disagree that Shan’Ann was a narcissist. Being vain and having a big social media presence is different than being a narcissist. She seemed to display empathy for other people and was seen as caring by all except for her in-laws”

    Perhaps if we substituted the concept of “addict” for “narcissist” it would make more sense to you. The addict lives to pursue his/her next “fix”, sacrificing everything in that pursuit. It was a psychologist working with alcoholic men who noticed an odd suite of behaviors within their families, which she went on to describe as “co-dependency”. The families of the alcoholics were all just as sick, with different symptoms.

    You don’t ever want to get between an addict and their drug, whatever it is. Shan’Ann’s addiction was MLM scams – she’d been involved in at least 7: Amway (while still in NC), Lularoe, Origami Owl, ItWorks!, Thirty One, Younique, and finally Le-Vel/Thrive. The 2015 bankruptcy is testament to their financial incompetence as a couple – just how much of that was due to Shan’Ann’s MLM addiction? By all accounts, Chris seemed like a quiet, goes-to-work/comes-home-to-the-family kind of guy; it honestly appears to be all Shan’Ann’s doing that the Thrive MLM was such an overpowering, overbearing presence in their lives. He couldn’t get away from it except by going to work. By all accounts, he was a good, dependable worker. What the media has described as a “work trip” that Shan’Ann went on just before she and the girls were murdered was an MLM required rah-rah trip that she had to pay for out of her (their) own pocket. Out of their dwindling financial reserves. Don’t forget that Shan’Ann had taken $10,000 out of Chris’s 401K to try and pay their mortgage current.

    So it doesn’t sound like Chris was the one spending them into bankruptcy. Yes, he allowed it, but the dynamic of living with an addict is crazy-making – look it up sometime. You can’t “make” them stop.

  15. Ralph Oscar

    Here’s something interesting you can do. Cover the lower half of a person’s face in a picture and see what the upper half looks like. I’m in particular thinking of the photo of Shan’Ann with Bella – Shan’Ann’s smile is convincing, but if you cover Bella’s pasted-on (required) smile, she looks ghoulish. That was not a happy little girl. Her younger sister CeCe seems to still be smiling genuinely – how long would it take for her to realize she was simply a prop in her mother’s façade family?

    • Betsy

      See here’s the thing. People who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (very different than “being narcissistic”) – NPD’s wear a mask. They mimic others throughout their lives to appear “normal”. I don’t see any mask being worn by Shanann.

  16. Fhiona Brett

    And all the time, whenever I read about CW and the face he showed to the world, that song ‘The Stranger’ by Billy Joel comes to mind.

  17. Jess

    They didn’t open the garage in the morning to not wake the kids. But Chris backed truck into garage that fateful morning. That right there, the evidence of this shows that the children were already gone and he knew it, or he didn’t care if they woke. In his story they were running around panicked at that time.

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