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

Verbal Slanging Match Between Shan’ann and her In-Laws using Narcissism as a Wrecking Ball

For all the talk about the “N” word in the mainstream, and on social media, how often does the word narcissism appear in the Discovery Documents? Answer: twice. Both instances are pretty loaded.

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Who’s right?

Interestingly, just recently Trent Bolte appeared on CNN saying that Watts referred to Shan’ann in similar terms as she referred to his mother [as a “fucking bitch”].

Someone made a comment recently on this blog that a true narcissist would never admit to lying, let alone confess to committing murder. Key narcissistic traits include exhibitionism, superiority and exploitativeness. It’s difficult to imagine an introverted character like Watts, who barely made a peep in all of his court room appearances, ticking any of those boxes.

By comparison, the MLM huns are all about those traits. The Thrive promotional spiels were all about narcissism – vanity, authority, exhibitionism [through cars, travel, wellness extravaganzas], superiority [live a premier lifestyle with Thrive] and exploitativeness above all. Buy this over-priced piece of shit product so I can make money off you. Sign up to get rich, healthy and live a better life [but really, fuck you, just sign up because I need the fucking money].

Personally, I cannot stand labels in true crime because it oversimplifies all aspects of the criminal enterprise. True crime is a complicated, subtle and shady business by default. It has many layers and levels to it. Labels oversimplify the psychology. Labels reduce motive to little more than an afterthought. Labels toss out the dynamics, circumstances and interiority of the people involved, but they made the expert handing them out seem very astute. The label gives us a sense of control, and manipulates us into thinking we have a handle on a person and a situation when we do not.

Rather than labeling criminals [narcissist, psychopath, evil, monster], or their crimes [annihilation, mass murder, serial killing], we ought to spend more time figuring out the entire dynamic. The cosmos of circumstances. That’s difficult and takes time, and requires us to start off by admitting what we don’t know. That’s hard. We live in a narcissistic society that prides itself in being right, in knowing things. So to admit we don’t know something, or that we might wrong is not only difficult, it runs counter to society and feels counter-intuitive.

But let’s try it anyway. Let’s pretend we don’t have all the answers and want to learn something, for example about this “N” word. Let’s be honest and open and ask a simple question [and be open to a complicated answer].

So here it is.

Do we know what we’re talking about when we use the “N” word?

Let’s find out.


  1. julinka1981

    Nick ,you know my view on narcissism and traits.I commented on one of your previous posts about Chris. I do not follow mainstream views but my comment was because narcissistic
    Personality disorder is often misinterpreted by general public.The key to understand whether anyone has any personality disorder is to look at the dynamics with his family and him,his childhood -most of the triggers / bad habits are embedded in childhood.That way we can understand better what happened prior to killing them.Not because we follow mainstream gurus. Chris hasn’t had a good reliatonship with his family and not just because of Shannan.I agree with you Shannan probably displayed more “mainstream” Narcisstic features But Chris’s parents (and I certainly wouldn’t take his fathers words for what they are)are not stable people-very selfish,spiteful and he still hasn’t called them from prison-I wonder why .You haven’t covered that much at all and I believe it would be helpful. If Chris felt he was being controlled by Shannan,this would have opened old wounds he had ugh his mum/family.His mum was certainly very controlling and if Shannan was similar to his mum, this would have triggered many suppressed feelings . His parents certainly have many features of narcissism and generally speaking unless there is a great deal of therapy,there is a high chance you will resemble similar features yourself. I am talking from my experience and years of therapy I had as a result of narcisstic mother and enabling father.Please do not take this as a criticism of your work,you have done a great deal of research and in depth analysis, I hope you take this in positive light ,not me disputing your work.

    • Cheryl Filar

      Cindy and Ronnie Watts have been demonized because their son is now a convicted murderer. It seems most of this demonization rests on their alleged mutual narcissism and instability; however, I have yet to see any specific incidents cited that support these claims. What has been cited is Cindy’s discussing having concerns about Shan’ann’s unkind, controlling behavior related to her son, or Ronnie’s talking about Shan’ann’s being bipolar. There is also the infamous nut incident where Cindy is cast as the instigator but Shan’ann’s histrionic, self-serving reaction is overlooked. How are the Watts’ concerns, which they both had from the beginning, narcissistic or unstable? Rather than being unstable or narcissistic, I view Ronnie’s and Cindy’s concerns as prescient. What they likely didn’t anticipate was how Shan’ann’s and Chris’s combined personality extremes (dominant/submissive) would result in such tragedy.

      • Mustang Sally

        Much of their demonization results from their immediate reactions rather than specific incidences relatable to those characteristics. Both of them willfully throw Shan’ann under the bus before either are questioned about their opinions of her. Neither offer any sympathy, tears, heartbreak, or express the type of grief most would expect when told their grandchildren have been murdered. Their concerns, as you mentioned, never seemed to be for anyone affected but themselves or whom they see as an extension of themselves.

    • Lucky

      Julinka, Excellent post! The childhood issues are key.

  2. Sylvester

    It’s been reported that the Watts family dynamic was not an altogether stable one. The older daughter was rebellious, would move out, move back in, move out, move back in. It’s also been stated that Chris had a not so great relationship with is mother but was close to his father. They did everything together – Nascar, worked on cars. When Chris moved out his dad developed a substance abuse problem. We see this in the Anthony dynamic. George, sort of a background figure, with addictions like online gambling, possibly substance abuse too although I don’t have any of that, who tried to kill himself once and possibly twice with his recent car wreck. Both men with possibly very dominant wives who the husbands find it rather unbearable to live with so turn to substance abuses or gambling, etc.

    It’s only natural that a dominant mother like Cindy Watts would want to paint her son has virtuous, being taken advantage of by a bossy “bi-polar” female, her son who always just loved sports and would do anything for you but it’s a fantasy she’s made up in order to cover up the real dynamic in their family and any guilt she may feel over contributing to how Chris related to women, friends, and his own family and obviously what he ultimately did to four other human beings.

    • Cheryl Filar

      Sylvester: Agreed—that it’s only natural for a mother—dominant and/or otherwise—to want to paint her son/child as virtuous, just as Shan’ann’s family defends her. However, despite family dynamics, which exist with any family, Cindy had valid concerns about Shan’ann (from the get-go), whose controlling domination and bullying of Chris, as well as her need to live beyond the family’s means (there’s a precedent for this with HER North Carolina mansion), contributed to this tragedy. Chris did not murder his family in a vacuum. Why isn’t Shan’ann’s family under scrutiny along with the Watts’s? What are the family dynamics per the Rzuceks that may have contributed to Shan’ann’s issues that she brought into the marriage: obsessive need to control, bully, spend, status seeking (luxury cars, luxury nails (that stuff is expensive!!!), $25k per year for pre-school even though Shan’ann claimed to be a stay-at-home mom, etc? We need to consider both sides of this tragedy’s equation if we want to figure out what caused it—other than the currently popular myth (not necessarily embraced by you) that Chris is a psycho enabled by his narcissistic, unstable parents, especially the evil witch, Cindy.

      • mitzi2006

        Cheryl…I agree it was a perfect storm. Looks like shananns parents claimed bankruptcy too, managing money is often learned by example. I don’t begrudge one penny rzuceks get however.They have been to hell and back and would gladly give every cent back to have their daughter and grandchildren, the only grandchildren they had. They’ve had and are still getting death threats that they have turned over to the police. Apparently they’ve charged some of them. The cost of flying one coffin to the other side of the country is very expensive, having three flown that far is costly. I think everyone’s opinion of Chris watts parents were based on those interviews. You could feel the hate they had for her. Shanann was still very good friends with her ex mother in law. That says something because it just isn’t typical. Not many people can say that. The Watts beating of a dead daughter in law turns people off. Shanann was a bully to Chris which once I found out she had been bullied didn’t surprise me at all. But I think Chris was about to go from the frying pan into the fire with the mistress. She tried to control her interrogation even so I do believe she is very controlling. I don’t think Cindy would have liked her either. I think she’s jealous of anyone that would have been in her sons life, I’ve seen women like that. I go out of my way to make my daughter in law welcome. I’m still in contact with my sons first wife. Things didn’t go well in my sons first marriage but I don’t hold that against her, It takes two in a marriage to work on it. My new daughter in law came into the picture and I say nothing to my son against his new wife or Ex wife. It’s so interesting reading this blog and people’s opinions and the things they catch that I missed. I’m not sure why but I think of her and those kids every day. She was the same age as my daughter and my daughter has two kids Bella and Celeste’s age, I picture in my head sometimes what if they were murdered, just thinking about it makes me emotional. People and nick posting things that possibly pushed him to do this is good, perhaps next time someone remembers what was figured out in this case and they will get out in time

      • mitzi2006

        Why isn’t Shan’ann’s family under scrutiny along with the Watts’s?

        They didn’t have a child that murdered people. Only makes sense for people to scrutinize the killer and not the victim. Plus rzuceks have been getting death threats since it happened, i think that’s enough scrutinizing for them. Cindy always saying they both lost children and grandchildren, no they didn’t, they can still see Chris and hear his voice, rzuceks didn’t get that

      • Sassigirl

        I really don’t think Shanann’s spending or behaviour is of any consequence! Chris had free will and could leave at any time. He wasn’t abused, or drugged, or forced to stay. He chose to stay and participated seemingly content right up until he became involved with another partner. Even if Shanann was hell on wheels: controlling, lazy, bitchy, it’s ALL irrelevant . . . that’s what divorce is for.
        The Watt’s family is being scrutinized because they raised a murderer.
        Shanann’s family dynamic should NOT be scruitinized. They have suffered enough. Shanann nor her family are to blame for Shanann, Niko, Celeste or Bella’s murders. There is absolutely nothing that any one of them could have done to deserve this.
        The “myth” that you refer to is the truth. A couple of examples: Cindy Watts and her daughter attempted to give a child with supposed nut allergies a nut (potentially risking a 3 year old child going into ANAPHALACTIC SHOCK, which can kill someone) to test their theory that the mother was making it up.
        Another example: Chris Watts strangled his pregnant wife and smothered his daughters.
        The common denominator of both of these examples is INTENTIONAL BODILY HARM and DISREGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE. The Watt’s family dynamic is of consequence here; not the Rzucek’s is not.

        • nickvdl


          You’re right, there is absolutely nothing that any one of the victims did to deserve this.

          Please take it easy on the ALL CAPS and exclamation marks. Make your point without getting indignant.

          This site is intended to figure out all aspects, so everything is relevant.

          Your statements —

          Shanann’s family dynamic should NOT be scruitinized.
          I really don’t think Shanann’s spending or behaviour is of any consequence!
          Even if Shanann was hell on wheels… it’s ALL irrelevant

          — show a complete lack of comprehension about the process of investigating and interrogating in true crime. We don’t look at a case and pre-select what shouldn’t be looked at. We don’t try to spare anyone’s feelings, although we do try to preserve the dignity of all involved. The best we can offer society and the victims is the most complete and authentic version of what happened, and why. We let the evidence and the folks involved – what they say, what they do, and what they about one another – we let that guide us.

          There are many forums and social media platforms that focus on reinforcement. These forums, one way or the other, tend to take sides. That’s not what we do here, this site is about scientific study, and we try to stay neutral and simply gather and distill as much accurate information as we possibly can and then try to understand what the information points towards and who these people really were/are.

  3. Mustang Sally

    Cheryl, is it about validating anyone’s concerns or addressing how each person handled their concerns that really matters? You seem to want to provide validation before allowing yourself to reason through their responses. Please understand that isn’t a criticism, I’m wondering, myself, if that’s a necessary process to reach the conclusion.

    • Cheryl Filar

      Mustang Sally, I suppose I see the Watts’s coming to Chris’s defense as normal, which doesn’t mean the manner in which they did it was justified relative to the magnitude of the tragedy. Putting their reactions in context, I believe at the time they were concerned about Chris’s taking the plea deal and admitting to all of the muders, versus only Shan’ann’s. The state had shared little or no information with the Watts, so they were rightly suspicious regarding the sudden turn of events. In doing so they defended their son by “throwing Shan’ann under the bus,” which tied in to Chris’s original assertion that he killed Shan’ann because she murdered the children. At the final hearing, the Watts seemed to have accepted Chris’s pleading to all of the murders, and I don’t believe they have made public statements since. Given the enormity of their son’s crime and trying to accept that he did it, I believe the Watts’s progression is understandable.

      • Mustang Sally

        Cheryl, I would agree for the most part about context. I was referring mostly to the reports that indicated both CW’s parents dogged SW before any facts were known, without being asked their opinion of her, and continued in that same dogged fashion as the facts became known. When finally asked their opinions of her and what her actions might be, they only had negative things to say. However you may want to defend that, in such a high profile case, it’s going to reflect poorly to most on their character to this mass audience.

  4. Sylvester

    Yes, definitely not embraced by me – I don’t think Chris is a psycho in the least. Desperate? Love sick? yes. To be fair Sandi Rzucek had concerns about Cindy Watts the moment she stepped into Sha’nann’s mansion in NC – snide comments about being married before, she just doesn’t get it about her son and Sha’nann – all spelling trouble – the trouble one might have with the in-laws. But I wouldn’t give any of these people a label – other than the cookie cutter labels like controlling, bossy, domineering, pushy, passive, or aggressive. My own mother gave me mixed messages so much so that by the age of 7 I was plotting how one day no one was ever going to tell me what to do again when I became an adult and could “control” my own world but until then I had to do what I was told – and figure out ways around it when she wasn’t looking. On the otherhand she was never home. Gone – every single day, every single night, devoting herself to her career and all that came with it. You can do this, but now you can’t. I could wait no longer so by age 12 I asserted myself, I “took a stand” for what I wanted and how I wanted it to go while at the same time knowing I was being supported – I couldn’t really go anywhere, but I would not be pushed around while under that roof. I respected authority, but I wanted to have it for myself. It was only in the last 3 weeks of her life that I got it so totally and completely that everything she did she did because she thought it was the best thing to do for me. She had a controlling mother. She saw it as protection. I was then able to thank her for everything, and see that it was me, the little clod who chafed at being told what to do constantly, and who was terribly lonely because she was never there. I had to develop a strong sense of “self-sufficiency” and self worth, on my own.

    Watts likely submitted his whole life. He bonded with pretty much no one – only one friend has come forward and he doesn’t seem to know anything about him since he got married. Some rebel, some submit.

  5. Cheryl Filar

    Mustang Sally, good comments. However, perhaps the Watts threw Shan’ann under the bus because their concerns hadn’t and weren’t being heard (by Chris and later the media) because, from the beginning, based on their son’s passivity and Shan’ann’s taking advantage of it, they could see the marriage ending badly—although likely not in the murders perpetrated by their own son. I guess I view Shan’ann’s role in this tragedy differently from most, as I see her partially complicit in her own and her children’s murders due to her controlling, excessive (finances, hyper-cleanliness), and frankly unkind, bullying behavior. Yes—Chris murdered his family, but I believe Shan’ann’s extreme behavior coupled with Chris’s largely mute passivity and fearful, likely resentful, covert nature created a volatile dynamic that resulted in an entire family’s destruction.

    • Mustang Sally

      We are all responsible for ourselves and we all are representative of our creation (through environment, upbringing, and relationships), culture, and chromosomes. How enlightened we choose to be or are able to become may be one of the biggest factors to play into our individual destiny.

      I’m more inclined to be sympathetic to Shan’ann, beyond the obvious fact she is the murder victim, because of her willingness to work on herself. She seemed to be evolving much more than Chris. For all the character flaws so many would like to point out about her, she seemed much more willing to remove her any mask while Chris was frantically searching for whatever mask he could find.

      The other thing I found compelling about Shan’ann in spite of her words, were her loving gestures. She seemed very gentle and caring. I have not watched a ton of her videos and I have read that she could be seemingly cruel in some of them, but I’m remarking upon the ones I did view and noticed she was always comforting her children with her hands.

      I try not to label anyone because I think we are all more than the sum of any labels attached to us and those labels can often blind people to who we really are. You won’t find me calling Chris a narcissist, psycho, or whatever else because I don’t think a label is going to answer why he did what he did. I don’t know that anything will. I think the answer is already here in the body of works Nick has written, in the responses readers have given, in those insights and perspectives carefully constructed. It’s all here. It’s just not neat and tidy like we want it to be. It’s not clear and concise so that we can sum it up into a nice sentence or even a paragraph. As powerful as words can be, are they always enough?

      • Cheryl Filar

        Mustang Sally,

        As Nick often counsels all of us, you have to look at the characters and how they interacted/viewed each other from their perspectives, not ours. That’s a difficult thing to do (I know I have regular lapses), but, I agree with Nick, not impossible. I imagine Chris saw the softer, kinder side of Shan’ann; otherwise he wouldn’t have married her. However, as their marriage evolved and issues arose—sick children, finances, in-laws, etc.—he likely saw her differently and began to chafe under her dominance. I’ve often wondered if Shan’ann didn’t become more dominant and perhaps intolerable as things, like the finances, fell apart.

      • Terry

        I don’t think Shanann worked on herself at all, I think she critiqued other people a lot and wanted them to change to bow down to her will. I think she was bothered by other people, especially her husband, kids and mother in law. Yes, she did reprimand the children at times without being cruel but when Chris was telling her he wanted out, she sent HIM a self help book, asking him what was it he wanted her to do cause she had no insight into her own destructive behavior, or that she too could be at fault in the dissolution of her marriage. As to Cindy Watts all I can say is she told the truth about Shanann, and that based on her behavior she, Shanann, could have killed the children. She was not an absent grandparent, her and Ronnie both watched the Watts kids on many occasions, and truly lobed those babies. Also, if anyone thinks the “nut” incident was done on purpose by Cindy, then you should also equally think Frankie R. had those pistachios in his room on purpose too.

  6. Cheryl Filar


    I appreciate your comments, especially about the role of the mistress in the tragedy. There are a lot of curious, missing pieces in this part of the story, not the least of which are the deleted texts between Chris and the mistress. Given Chris’s apparent longstanding passivity and willingness to submit to a dominant woman, I often wonder about the mistress, who appears to be an outspoken, assertive, decisive personality like Shan’ann. As you say, “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” While there is no direct evidence that the mistress knew Chris was going to murder his family, at the very least, I wonder if she either consciously or unwittingly provided some inspiration or influence. I question this because, given Chris’s passivity and history of being dominated by women, I have a hard time imagining his committing the murders on his own— and by “on his own” I don’t mean in the physical sense but in the psychological sense.

    • Pasha

      NK interrogated him as to where he slept in the home, when was the last time he had sex with Shan’ann, did he use protection with Shan’ann, questioned him about the box of opened condoms he brought over to her apt, nagged him about getting an apt. and moving out of the home, nagged him over getting his home on the market, hounded him about getting separate accounts from Shan’ann so she wouldn’t spend the money, and also admitted to being irritated when she had to wait to call him due to him spending time with his children.

      To me it feels like she was the main driving force behind the murders.

      But then she has the nerve to state that she told him to go back to his wife and try to fix things with his wife. I doubt that. I think it was more like this, “Fine, you won’t leave your wife…..then get the hell out of my life and go be with her!”

      • Maura

        Exactly. NK sounded just as demanding as his wife. I don’t believe their relationship would have lasted after the early bloom of romance faded into real life. And all this nagging NK did was after a one month relationship? I think they were involved emotionally more than 2 months and her deleted texts could shed light on that time frame.

        I think NK was the biggest factor; their dire financial situation coupled with the pregnancy were also key. The baby would place a greater time demand and financial burden on CW including 18 years of support in a divorce. The baby was also proof that Chris still had an intimate relationship with his wife later than he told NK.

  7. Diana

    Great post Nick! It makes the readers mind go places it wouldn’t normally go in true crime, just like your books.

  8. Mustang Sally


    …from the perspective of a convicted murderer? Nope, don’t think I need to try looking at things from his perspective. I’ll stay in my own mind, tyvm. 😉

    • nickvdl

      Then I don’t think you belong on this platform, because that’s exactly what we are here to do – try to figure out the murderer’s mind and perspective.

      • Mustang Sally

        And I have to immerse myself into his to do that? I’m not welcome here unless I am willing to do that? I have nothing else to offer, have offered nothing else in my time already here?

        I wasn’t being argumentative over the spelling of SW’s name either. It was pointing out with my poor attempt at humor that hardly anyone spells it correctly yet Joe was being specifically chastised. I probably did have technical and literal backwards! Whoops. I have a wayward sense of humor.

        You’re almost as interesting to try and figure out as the subject of your books! It’s hard to tell what will pass muster based upon what others have written, your responses (or lack thereof), and who merits considered responses from you whether their message was a critique, a perspective, or whatever.

        I’m just a gal laid up for awhile who found your site based upon my interest in something and you have tons of great information, great contributors, and great insights. Do I have to follow some rigid set of guidelines, or be some sort of rigid follower to be accepted here?

  9. Sylvester

    I was watching Nichole Kessinger’s body language in her interview with an Agent, who’s name I don’t know, and she’s slouched down in the chair, thrusting her (it seemed like to me) sexuality slightly in front of herself, her voice is masculine, trying to portray herself as smart and thoughtful, knowing what she knows now, Watts makes her sick, she can’t even stand to look at a picture of him when only days before she was using her sexuality in every way she could to try and tear him away from his family.

    I think all of her “unnecessary roughness” is a big coverup for the fact that she hoped beyond belief that this man was going to be the one for her. She’s age 30. Men have come and gone – she says herself she hasn’t picked well, there has always been something wrong with them. But she can’t portray herself as a victim and also as an in-control intelligent woman who was quite frankly, ready for marriage and hoped Watts was her prince. She knew he was married, she knew he had children, she knew that her mojo was working on him and she knew he was a passive individual. She can’t pretend otherwise and expect to be believed. Good for her, she cooperated. But what about all of the messages she deleted? What might they have said.

    Know who I do have compassion for, other than the victims? Trent Bolte. He has a mother who doesn’t seem the least bit interested in his welfare, how he lives, who he lives with and if he’s safe.

    • nickvdl

      I think his name is Kevin Koback.

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