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

Updated Photo of Shan’ann Watts’ Grave

There is something heartbreaking and mournful about a grave and a graveyard. It has an inevitable, unbreakable, unreachable, suffocating, claustrophobic permanence about it, doesn’t it?

The the area that was green and bursting with summer when they were buried is brown, grey and forlorn today.


The area in front of the gravestone has a Merry Christmas appeal to it, given the red and silver bows interspersed with the green.

It should be noted on the tombstone that Shan’ann’s name is spelled Shan’ann [the same convention followed by this blog and the narratives surrounding it]. Almost six months after her tragic death, even her staunchest defenders, as well as numerous media pundits still can’t get the spelling of her name right.

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With that being said, while Shan’ann’s name on the grave is correct, the spelling of her unborn son’s name is incorrect. Incorrect because in Shan’ann’s own text messages she repeatedly used “Niko”.

Shan’ann used this spelling as recently as the last completed day of her life [August 12, 2018] in a message meant for her husband [sent to Addy Molony at 21:13]:

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Shan’ann confirmed the same spelling on August 9th at 21:12 in a message to Nickole Atkinson and Cassie Rosenberg.

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When it takes this long to get the kindergarten stuff right in a high-profile true crime case, it’s no wonder it’s so difficult for a society to ever get to grips with far deeper darker and more complicated questions – like why.

More: Shan’ann Watts: Photos of the Funeral


  1. Georgia

    No surname for the children, it’s understandable. The Watts family was obliterated. Heartbreaking is what it is.

    • Sylvester

      Good observation Georgia – no surname – at least no surname that says Watts. They will be Rzucek’s for all of eternity now. Chris Watts has been excised.

    • thetinytech2018

      Is it weird foreshadowing or just terribly macabre that she planned to name the new child “Niko Lee” which they often misspell as “Nico Lee” which looks alot like “Nicole” (close, sans one e)? Shan’ann had this weird preoccupation it seems with Italian names for the kid (Bella, Celeste and Niko) but she didn’t seem to be Italian, if she was her maiden name and looks could’ve fooled me.

      Has the question of where she was killed on the home ever been answered?

      • Kaye

        Her mother is Italian. Shan’ann comments a few times in videos about making recipes from her upbringing with her mom (Italian food). In one of her texts she also refers to her “Italian temper,” which made it hard to deal with Cindy Watts. I find it sweet that she named the children in a way to honor her background, but you have to wonder did Chris have any input on the kids’ names? Yet another thing he might have resented?

      • Janny Free

        In CeCe’s room according to Chris.

      • Cate

        Celeste is a French name derived from the Latin (celestial or heavenly).

        • Ralph Oscar

          In my neighborhood when I was young, there was a Latinx family that had two girls around my age: Celeste and Rocio (Ro-SEE-oh) Smith. DEFINITELY not French (we’d recently moved there from Geneva, Switzerland, which is pretty much surrounded by France – I’d have been able to tell). They had a younger brother whose name I can’t remember, but the names were distinctively different for a US MidWest smallish town.

      • Sara Smile

        Shanann is part Italian her mom clearly indicated. Watch their 20/20 interview.

      • Ralph Oscar

        “Celeste is a French name derived from the Latin (celestial or heavenly).”

        Cate, when I was a child in the early 1970s, there was a family who lived across the street from my best friend, and they had two daughters named Rocio and Celeste. I can’t remember their last name now, but it was something Spanish-sounding (definitely not French). So you’ll see a lot of borrowing back and forth with names.

        • Anna Navetta Navez

          Italian, French and Spanish derive from Latin therefore some names are the same or very similar in all 3 languages 🙂

    • Giselle Santich

      Yes . That monster should be death not them

    • Greg Tassell

      I’m Greg from aust who would even put a killers surname on a shans and kids grave ,how could people even think that ,very nice grave and thought out buy her parents

  2. CBH

    Really drives home just how horrible and final this crime was.

  3. LaraLeon

    It is interesting to think that by the time she texted the flight was going to be late, if he had already killed the girls, that reply “Holly crap…..That’s going to be late” meant “Holy crap. I was killing the girls (instead of passed out on the couch)..I don’t have much time to fully execute my plan”

    • CBH

      That’s a chilling thought.

    • thetinytech2018

      I know at one point when she had called it was said he was on the phone with NK.

    • ncam619

      I agree. I took the “holy crap” comment to mean the same thing. It was just too over the top.

      • sarahe6447

        Yep we all know he had been “falling asleep” at 7 pm for 5 weeks. I don’t get why the dogs didn’t hit though which is what it basically says in long-form in the discovery

    • Suria Roy

      If the plane was not late, he would have committed the crimes earlier including disposing of bodies and he would have had more times to carry on his final plans. So he must have killed her as soon as she fall asleep. He might not have killed the girls yet. Because I am sure she would have went straight to their bed to see them and they must have seemed normal sleeping so she went to bed peacefully.

    • Ralph Oscar

      “It is interesting to think that by the time she texted the flight was going to be late, if he had already killed the girls, that reply “Holly crap…..That’s going to be late” meant “Holy crap. I was killing the girls (instead of passed out on the couch)..I don’t have much time to fully execute my plan””

      That’s exactly what happened, I believe. Since he’d already killed the girls, he had no choice but to finish off Shan’Ann that same night, no matter how late it ended up being and how pressed for time he’d be to clean the scene.

      He was trapped in his schedule.

      • Greg tassell

        Come on i know this poor family of 4 the lives where taken from them , stop talking now how they went and think where they are now in a nice park together , might be harsh saying but think who they where ,horrible what happened ,he’s in prison ,and Shan is in nice park with her babies,greg

        • nickvdl

          If you were murdered, would you want that for you? For people to imagine you’re in a nice park somewhere, living happily ever after [except you’re dead] and who cares what happened or why?

          • Ralph Oscar

            Just think *happy thoughts*! Once they’re dead, they aren’t interested in *justice* any more, are they? No, they don’t CARE! Just imagine them better off – then everybody can be happy!

  4. CBH

    Her texting in retrospect was very sad. She says they had their “best talk yet”, he agreed to counseling, agreed to read book, agreed to weekend away, told her ‘I love you back’, etc.
    First, it’s touching to see her neediness exposed.
    Second, it’s heartbreaking to realize Chris was only being so agreeable because he knew she’d be gone soon.

    • Liz

      About Chris being agreeable because she’d be gone soon: This is when I think Chris decided to get rid of everyone. One of his answers to Tammy Lee’s question, “What are some ways someone could kill someone else?,” and one of Chris’ answers was to lure them into a trap. The trap was set.

      A mother with 2 small children and a third on the way would be needy. All of them.

      • nickvdl

        Well said. Agree about the luring into a trap thing.

  5. laralovesandrew

    Heartbreaking. It is easy to forget the victims are actually deceased since we watch all of the videos of them living their lives. God bless the Rzucek family. Bella, CeCe & Shan’ann and Niko did not deserve this fate.

  6. Pam Foldesi

    I’m thankful she sent that message August 9th, announcing “their son will be named Niko Lee Watts”.”

  7. Mustang Sally

    Two other names I see with inconsistent/alternative spellings are:

    CeeCee or CeCe
    Dieter or Deeter

    Which is correct?

    • Maura

      Only Deeter knows.

      • nickvdl

        Shan’ann spelled the dog’s name Dieter and I think they also spelled Celeste Cece. The Rzuceks and Watts weren’t known for being very good spellers, and seemed to like unusual name choices [Shan’ann, Niko…]

        I’ve elected not to follow both conventions used by Shan’ann #1 because Dieter isn’t English, it’s German. The English “dieter” [someone on a diet] is both confusing and #2 is pronounced differently.

        In many English words where there is a c and e, the e is silent, such as price, dice, lace, pace, mice etc. The second “e” is necessary to bring back the “e” sound. Cece is not incorrect, so this is a matter or personal preference.

  8. Shannon

    Most woman are buried under there surname, if divorced, or killed.
    Widowed take husband’s name.
    I’m divorced and going under my maiden name.
    You definitely don’t want to be buried under the ex’s name.

    • mitzi2006

      Saw an interview but can’t remember who it was but they said shan’anns surname was actually Onorati, not rzucek. Just Frankie’s last name was rzucek. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of biological parents giving their one child their mothers name and one their fathers name

      • nickvdl

        What nationality is Onorati?

        • Anna

          It’s an Italian surname

      • Shannon

        Shanann used, Onorato, Rzucek, King, Watts.
        Not sure if any more.

      • JC

        Onorati is Italian. Rzucek – I’d like to buy a vowel, please – is Polish.

        • nickvdl

          I wonder what Cindy’s maiden name is. And if there’s any validity to Watts’ claim that he was “half Cherokee”.

      • JC

        I have doubts in believing Chris is “half” Cherokee as he told Nichol. He has a full beard and chest hair. I know anything is possible genetically and he could take completely after his mom, but males I’ve known descending from other Native American tribes have little to no face and body hair. Very fine body hair seems to be a dominant genetic trait even several generations removed. I think he was lying or exaggerating to impress her and she was a bit naive.

      • Ralph Oscar

        In college the first time, I had a statistics tutor who was married to a woman who had kept her maiden name. I asked about how they intended to name their children, and he said that, when they had children (in the future), perhaps they’d just alternate surnames. In childhood, I had a friend whose parents were married but had different surnames (very unusual in the 1960s), and her name was their last names hyphenated: Daddy Smith + Mommy Jones = Child Smith-Jones. Granted, that was in Geneva, Switzerland, a very cosmopolitan area.

        So all sorts of weird things happen. But for the Rzuceks, living in conservative hillbilly NC, I’d be very surprised to see different last names without different daddies.

  9. Victoria Jones

    Shan’ann’s family spelled the baby’s name Nico. In my opinion, his is the way it should continue to be spelled. It’s the spelling people all over the world that love these four precious, loving mother,Bella, CeCe and Nico are calling them. We love you all. R.I.P. 💕🙏🏻💕🙏🏻💕🙏🏻💕🙏🏻💕

    • nickvdl

      Just not the spelling the child’s own mother used.

      • Kaye

        Hi Nick, in answer to your question above about Cindy’s maiden name, it seems to be McLeod or Mcleod.

        • nickvdl

          Thanks Kaye. What do you think about the half-Cherokee thing? I’ve done some preliminary research and I see the Watts name is generically connected to Native American names. Whether there is a specific connection here I’m still not sure.

  10. Maura

    On the screenshot Above after, “Shan’ann confirmed the same spelling on August 9th at 21:12 in a message to Nickole Atkinson and Cassie Rosenberg.”

    8/9/18: 2107 hours: Watts searched Google for prices on an Audi Q7.

    At the time Chris searches prices on an Audi Q7 (2019 models start at $68,000-$76,000) Shan’ann is telling her friends about their best talk yet, hopeful they can repair their marriage. Shows his premeditation on August 9 and plans for how he might spend the house money. Unless he won the lottery how was he going to pay for that car? Very sad that he just didn’t leave his family.

    • sarahe6447

      Why do you think he took off work December 9th?

      • sarahe6447

        Or sorry apparently 9th and 10th unless typo

      • Ralph Oscar

        “Why do you think he took off work December 9th?”

        Because Shan’Ann was leaving alone for Arizona and he needed to be Mr. Mom for his two little girls.

  11. Sylvester

    Maura, I would love to know what was said, talked about, done in those few days before she took off for Arizona. Isn’t that when she said he kissed her before going down to the basement to sleep? That’s so very sad – that he had every opportunity to reverse course, to talk it out, to try at least. We don’t know that they didn’t, but what kind of tension was in that house that the girls saw and felt? I’m sure the incident with the nuts and Cindy was brought up again and again – maybe she was hoping to get enough of a rise out of Chris that he would tell her what was going on and instead, he was dreaming about another woman. This is a tragic story of epic proportions – the love letters, the broken marital bond, the collateral damage.

  12. Jude Johnson

    Hi don’t think it matters really the spelling of the names at all , if it were wrong Shann ‘ ann’s parents would have had it corrected i think her mother was in charge of that i think the NICO is the Italian way his name would have been spelt … but really i doesn’t matter .. All that matters is that they were buried with Love and in Gods loving arms RIP

    • Nick

      It’s great that you don’t think it matters. And in the scheme of a crime, spelling ought not to be at the top of the list of priorities. For an author of several books it’s important to get the details right the first time.

  13. Cate

    Thank you Nick for the fascinating forum. Some reflections on how Chris could have justified murdering the children that he (likely) loved or had loved:
    A pregnant Shan’ann was Chris’s main problem, surely. He had come to loathe her. His intent was to kill HER, the children were collateral damage. Because logically it makes no sense to complicate it further with a family annihilation – her sole death, if he’d pulled it off – would have freed him sufficiently to start a new life with a clean slate. Keep the girlfriend, the kids and the house. But how to rid himself of her without killing the children? How would he possibly pull that off? He must have realized It was all or nothing. So he justified it in his own mind that although he’d done the actual killing it was Shan’ann who bore the responsibility for it He reasoned that she ‘forced’ him to do so by being her ‘loathsome’ self, and not leaving like he wanted her to. She ‘killed’ the children.

    • tbp

      Yes, I think initially he planned on something during a trip to Aspen, but the leak at Cervi 319 was brought to his attention. It offered, in his mind, a perfect dumping ground. He wouldn’t have the hassle of raising two kids while pursing his new girlfriend. After all, he had to race home to relieve his babysitter after spending the evening whining and dining his girlfriend. He saw how they were going to interfere with his newly anticipated lifestyle.

    • sarahe6447

      Yes and up until tonight I’ve been understanding of several problems he may have had with her, and still am,but that last week she really called him on his bullshit with his family, and says about the baby:

      “Your only response last night was ‘I don’t want to lose the kids!’ You used me to have a boy! Only reason you wanted another kid?! I can’t handle this and you are ok with it. Why not just tell me you were done?! Why get me pregnant?!”

      He responds with his usual talk where he just says the opposite of the thing that’s happening, or accidentally tells the truth: “I’m not just staying cause of kids. (Kids aren’t staying at all). They are my light and that will not change. (Probably true but now how he thinks.) I didn’t fall out of love in 5 weeks, that’s impossible (no it happened over a long time.) I don’t want to erase 8 years just like that (I want to erase 8 years, just like that.) I’m not sure what’s in my head (I am planning your murder.) I don’t know if it’s my parents, third pregnancy, if I’m just scared or what. I didn’t use you.” That last part might be true.

      But soooo many people say she “tricked” him into pregnancy.

  14. BigA

    I thought Shan’ann’s birthday was in December? The grave says January.

    • Janny Free

      Dec 18 wasn’t it? Wonder why they put the wrong date down, that seems odd…

      • mitzi2006

        Bella’s birthday was December 17, shananns was in January, and the baby was due January 31st

  15. Shannon

    I have a feeling that Shanann’s mom and dad are not legally married .
    Wierd Shanann used her mom’s name and Frankie the father’s.
    Maybe Frank didn’t legally adopt her, which he would have to do with a different last name. He still could be her father, maybe the two parents were dating and the mom used her own last name. Which is common.
    It seems like Shannan used a few names.

    40 woman were killed in domestic violence in 2018.
    Only white young woman get some news coverage. Not all.
    Some garnered disproportionate media focus and public interest.
    Denver Post, 10 hours ago.

    • Ralph Oscar

      You know that Shan’Ann was married before, right? When she divorced Mr. #1, she kept his last name. Then when she married Chris, she took his last name. Her original name was Rzu…Ruzch…how the heck do you spell that name that sounds like “Roozik”??

      • Ralph Oscar

        Note: I just saw Shan’Ann’s facebook post where she calls her mom by name – “Onorati”. I hadn’t seen that before.

        While for some couples that age the woman will keep her maiden name after marriage, it’s nowhere near a norm, and typically, it is because the woman is already known in a career field by her maiden name.

      • Shannon

        Of course I know she was married before.
        Shanann used her mother’s maiden name, her dads name, ex husband, then Watts.
        Oronati, Rzucek, king, Watts.
        Sandi is a low key hairdresser.
        I don’t think anyone would care about her last name.

  16. Kaye

    hi Nick, in answer to your thoughts on the Cherokee connection, it could possibly be through Ronnie Watts’s side? It seems like Cindy’s mother had German ancestry (at least going by her name in this obituary):

    • marielangford3311

      In reference to Chris Watts Cherokee connection. I live in the same region of the country as the Watts. Many people from this area claim the Cherokee heritage. I don’t know how many are Cherokee, but in our family, my great grandmother was Cherokee , I have photos of her. When my great grandfather married her it was considered taboo, I suppose because at that time, mixing of the races was not widely accepted. There may be truth in Watts claim, I don’t know. We are located near Cherokee , NC, near the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

  17. Nick

    Would any Cherokees know?

    • marielangford3311

      I don’t know if they would know Nick. The Reservation has modernized a lot from the way I remember it as a child. So many people from the area make this claim to be Cherokee, I usually take it with a grain of salt unless the family has proof of ancestry.

  18. strawheart

    This is a terrible tragedy, until laws change and there is zero tolerance to domestic violence it will continue.
    At one time in the UK if a husband beat a wife he’d just get a telling off.
    Today even if the woman refuses to have her husband arrested he’d be arrested anyway.
    But there is no realistic deterrent, why not life imprisonment for ALL cases of violence per se’ whether people die or not! Why not? Because for one thing government don’t want to spend more money on more prisons, also; in order to keep us in fear and reliance on government generally, to keep us under control a government needs crime.
    For crime and the fear of it just as war and the fear of it, and all the other fears that we fear keeps us controlled.
    We’re easier to deal with and control.

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