Five months after the Watts Family Murders a strange silence seems to have settled over the case. This was to be expected in the absence of any legal challenge from Watts. But given the amount of information placed in the public domain it’s been surprising, frankly, the silence not only of the media, but also some of the main players in this case.
At the same time Watts himself was secreted away to a distant prison, his mistress Nichol Kessinger disappeared into witness protection. Watts’ parents have – understandably – withdrawn into a self-imposed exile. Shan’ann’s folks did an exclusive with ABC, but have otherwise been relatively media shy of late. Frankie Rzucek, despite being scornful of the media at turns, has made some overtures to some social media pundits like “Molly Golightly”.
But what about all the other witnesses? The co-workers, promoters, neighbors, ex-husbands, ex-girlfriends? Shan’ann’s friends are clearly – very clearly – still an active presence on social media, actively Thrivin’ but apparently less keen to talk in public about their recently deceased friend.
Slowly but surely, a few important friends and witnesses are coming out of the woodwork. It’s important that they do because no one can address the Monster Myth better than the people who were there. The folks who knew the Watts family firsthand, personally and directly. And the Monster Myth does a great disservice to this case.
Dismissing Watts as a narcissist and/or psychopathic monster deprives his family of their humanity, and incidentally, it exposes us for our facile view of true crime, and this crime in particular.
In this respect Nate Trinastich’s interview is both timely and insightful. Some of the low hanging insights from his interview with Dr. Oz include the following:
1. Trinastich says the Watts family didn’t fight any more than a normal couple. The bodycam records Trinastich speculating that the “flat-out screaming” arguments he heard were the reason Shan’ann had left for North Caroline [for 5-6 weeks] in the first place. The Discovery Documents on the other hand contain no record of arguments witnessed by Trinastich.
Although it’s useful to hear that Trinastich feels he may have embellished the intensity of the arguments, and that Watts’ portrayal as a monster isn’t accurate, the fact that Watts murdered his family means this aspect of the dynamic isn’t irrelevant and shouldn’t be minimized either. It shouldn’t be embellished, it shouldn’t be minimized, and it shouldn’t be dismissed. What we need to know is the true dynamic that existed between this couple, and the family.
2. The location of the motion detecting surveillance camera is indirectly shown for the first time.
We can see that the yellow and white pillar of the Trinastich home seems to block the view of the Watts driveway, as well as the protruding garage wall and boundary tree. From the perspective of Watts on the driveway, he may have underestimated the ability of the camera to be triggered by motion, and perhaps also miscalculated the capacity of the various barriers to block out what he was doing .
Even so, what the camera does show isn’t clear. It doesn’t show any bodies directly, or any bodies being loaded. This visual uncertainty is why conspiracies have developed around fragments of apparently disconnected shadows and plays of light in the critical left corner that recorded only intermittent parts of Watts’ activity that morning.
3. There were four witnesses checking the surveillance footage when Officer Coonrod arrived: Coonrod, Nickole Atkinson and her two children. Notice Watts is the only one with his back to the television when Coonrod arrives, as if trying to visually confront his audience.
4. It’s worth noting that during this interlude, Watts has his sunglasses propped onto the top of his head. This certainly invokes CCTV footage from earlier that same day of the Orange-Shirt guy who has his glasses propped on the top of his head, on a cap.
5. It’s regrettable that Dr. Oz, who has pontificated about weight loss supplements, some affiliated to MLMs [and gotten into trouble over it] didn’t use his medical knowledge to analyze the Thrive aspect of the narrative. In his interview he commends Trinastich for trying to protect the integrity of the victims. Dr. Oz’s failure to interrogate the medical aspect of this case [thus far anyway] is puzzling, because there are very many aspects that remain troublingly unclear.
A further aspect that is worth highlighting, but not an insight per se, is Trinastich’s observation to Coonrod that Watts explaining quickly and in detail while the CCTV was rolling, what he was loading was unnecessary, suspicious and didn’t really make sense. If Watts was loading tools why did he load them into the cabin of his truck?
One of the key reasons the Watts case was prosecuted as effectively as it has been had nothing to do with the quality of law enforcement. It had everything to do with the vigilance and intervention of the community and neighborhood, the fabric of society, the friendships, and to some extent the social media surrounding Shan’ann and her children.
Although Nickole Atkinson raised the alarm, her son Nicolas played an integral part in investigating the scene before anyone else did. His connection to the Watts’ was tenuous, based on dog sitting and his mother’s connection to the victim. But he got involved. Trinastich too, went to the trouble right then and there to check what he had, and it wrong-footed the suspect. It exposed him, and caused the momentum to shift significantly against him.
This was a crime solved by ordinary citizens first, before the cops, FBI and District Attorney swooped in.
Very good observations. It’s true that friends and neighbors were what actually tripped Watts up and put the suspicion on him, not law enforcement. One wonders if the same crime committed on a rural road without neighbors and without the victim having a strong social media presence might have gone unsolved and become a cold case.
I wholly agree that dismissing Watts as a sociopath/malignant narcissistic monster completely destroys the psychology and the humanity of this case. It’s just the old Bad Seed theory resurrected for the 21st century.
Give me back them shoes Leroy. Give em back to me!
Give…me…those….shoes! (Your Bad Seed quote will be lost on some, but it made me laugh, Sylvestor.)
ha ha JC! Thanks for getting it!
Off topic but kind of cool: We did The Bad Seed as our school play in my junior year. Being that it was one of my favorite childhood movies, I tried out for the part of Rhoda Penmark. The part was given to a senior who was way more involved in the Drama Club than was I, and I have to say, she did a fantastic job! Still, that’s the only play we did that I really cared about being in.
Rhodaaa… unctuous Rhodaaa—love that movie!
You are spot on. Her friends, their neighbors, their community, and the digital info available from all sources were incredibly damning to Chris. I live in a more rural area, don’t have much interaction with my immediate neighbors, don’t have a security system (no doorbell cameras either), and I don’t text friends every day.. I would be TOAST if something happened to me. I still don’t plan to get all of the security things that the Watts family and neighbors have, but man.. I am glad they did because they immediately suspected Chris and got him to confess within days. Compare this to Kelsey Berreth’s case.. she didn’t have the community or friends backing her like Shannann did. So she wasn’t reported missing for a lot longer, giving Patrick Frazee plenty of time to clean up and prepare.
The Frederick police got involved immediately and sent out an alert, passed out fliers and started an investigation. The FBI were called in and the CBI were involved. Watts was interrogated Tuesday and was cornered into a confession. The full weight of the law came down on this case, unlike the Ramsey case with a flaky scared of his own shadow D.A., the preferential treatment given to the wealthy, the representation money could buy, the delaying tactics of John Ramsey, the ineptitude of Linda Arndt in not removing everyone from the crime scene and sealing off the house, the timing of a sleepy little affluent town over Christmas, lack of staffing, in-fighting, etc. I could go on. So I applaud the town of Frederick, and the lessons they obviously learned from their neighboring city of Boulder how NOT to investigate a crime.
To some extent I agree with you, Sylvester, regarding the efficiency of the Frederick versus Boulder police departments. However, on the other end of the equation are the suspects: In the case of the Ramseys, they were wealthy and cunning and lawyered up accordingly. In addition to obtaining
top-notch legal representation, they contracted with a public relations firm–from the outset. In the case of Chris Watts, he was struggling financially, underestimated his ability to engage with the public and law enforcement, and, in doing so, did not, within his meager means, secure legal representation much less a public relations firm, which was completely out of his realm. Where money and power do come into play in the Watts case, I believe there has been a successful behind-the-scenes influence exerted by Chris’s and Shan’ann’s former employers to keep potentially volatile and/or unflattering aspects tied to their operations out of the public eye, as evidenced by the scant financial information in the discovery documents, the convenient disappareance of Nichol Kessinger, and, I would venture to say, the case not going to trial. As a result we and others are still here and elsewhere trying to figure out this case’s whens, hows, whats, and whys.
“Where money and power do come into play in the Watts case, I believe there has been a successful behind-the-scenes influence exerted by Chris’s and Shan’ann’s former employers to keep potentially volatile and/or unflattering aspects tied to their operations out of the public eye, as evidenced by the scant financial information in the discovery documents, the convenient disappareance of Nichol Kessinger, and, I would venture to say, the case not going to trial. As a result we and others are still here and elsewhere trying to figure out this case’s whens, hows, whats, and whys.”
Fully agree, and it’s quite angering.
It really is comparing apples and oranges – completely different D.A.’s – Alex Hunter versus Michael Rourke – the town of Boulder versus Frederick. I also think one of the reasons the community of Frederick came together to find, help and prosecute a murderer had a lot to do with the difference in political climate between the two towns. Ramsey was wealthy too, and maybe the officials of Boulder thought he had helped their community by employing several hundred people. No one cared that much about Chris Watts, but Sha’nann’s friends cared a great deal about her. Ramsey dumped all of his Boulder friends with the exception of the Stines, and I think there was a reason for that.
had a lot to do with the difference in political climate between the two towns. >>>I have a different opinion. I think the political climate in Boulder and Frederick, and in much of Colorado, is similar. I think the way criminal cases, especially high-profile cases, is approached in a similar way, with an appetite for control and avoidance.
One might say the Ramsey and Watts cases are different and had a different result. I see a lot of similarities. Both squashed the judicial process while claiming to pursue it. Both cases had unresolved endings with very primary and elemental questions [how, why, when] left unanswered and unacknowledged. A weird craven silence hangs over the goings on, with even the community not wishing to weigh in.
And in both cases the DA’s pulled the strings and called the shots, basically declaring victories when justice – if anything – was concealed and/or denied. I also see both cases being primarily driven not just by politics and money, but by PR, and the attempts to control damaging bad PR.
I should have said “overestimated” versus “underestimated” his ability to deal with the public and…Oy vey!!
I doubt Dr. Oz would have anything to say about Thrive because its active ingredient (supposedly) garcinia cambogia is one of his many snake oil endorsements.
Something that annoys me to distraction is when people come on (not necessarily this comment section thus far, but elsewhere) and insist that, by discussing what Shan’Ann was doing with her MLM addiction and how that might have contributed to the family dysfunction and instability, we’re “victim-blaming” and it’s no different from asking what a rape victim was wearing. Even when it is pointed out that we’re analyzing the relationship dynamics the same way as we would if they’d simply gotten divorced (there would be “why” questions there as well).
And those who insist that, because CW murdered his family, that means he was, from the very beginning, abusive, violent, controlling, narcissistic – and that oh, if *only* someone had listened to Shan’Ann’s cries for help! There were none! All anyone saw were bragfests about how perfect her life and husband were, and no one near her had any suspicions that CW was abusive in any way! Quite the opposite, in fact – it’s unanimous that CW was passive, quiet, introverted, and quite the homebody. But since there was a murder, none of this matters – in fact, it’s the equivalent of making *excuses* for CW and making him not at fault! We can’t even acknowledge the dynamics of their relationship without being accused of “blaming the victim”.
No amount of disclaimers that it is *never* okay to murder one’s family seem to help. We all know that much by now. That part is never in question. No one has ever said “So this is why CW was totally justified in annihilating his family.” Why they are so determined to shut down our discussion and analysis is beyond my understanding.
Well stated, fully agreed.
Thanks, Nick. Similarities, and differences in both cases. And I agree – a craven silence now. It could be that Rourke revealed more to the Rzucek family than we are privy to. In his press conference he mentioned that out of respect for the family who was sitting there he wasn’t going to elaborate on a few things, which I don’t recall specifically what they were now.
Nick VdL’s remarks about Boulder/Ramsey and Frederick/Watts being eerily similar in attitude and outcome are first-rate. 👍🏼