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Demystifying Kessinger’s “Amber Frey Moment”

The final entry in the 50 page Phone Data Review is Nichol Kessinger’s online search for details about Amber Frey, the mistress of Scott Peterson [convicted on November 12, 2004 for the first degree murder of his pregnant wife].

To many this snippet from the last page of the review is proof positive that Watts’ mistress is pure evil.  I don’t agree that’s it’s as black and white as that. Before dealing with this aspect, though, I want to highlight a crucial difference between the Watts Family Murders and the murder of Laci Peterson.

Until the murders, Watts was a family man – through and through. He wife commended him numerous times online for being a good husband and a caring father. Probably when compared to the average father, Watts did way more than his fair share of chores and appeared to get down and dirty taking care of his children. On the day of their deaths he took the kids to a birthday party.  Watts also did the laundry of the entire family. How many fathers do you know who do that, or would ever do that?

Scott Peterson wasn’t a family man in the same way. He had no children, and unlike Watts who already had two, Peterson committed murder prior to the birth of his first child. But that’s not the crucial difference. This is it:

Watts intended to take his wife and two children [plus the one on the way] completely out of the equation. The idea was then to begin a new life with a younger woman who had no children

I’ve written a trilogy of books on Scott Peterson, and it’s excellent reference material for the Watts case [in terms of similarities, parallels, psychological patterns and idiosyncracies].  The irony of the Peterson case was that his mistress had a 20-month-old daughter called Ayianna [born in 2001].

Peterson took an active interest in Amber’s little girl, including picking her up from school, putting a car seat in his vehicle and taking her along for a romantic hike with her mom [Peterson carried the little girl for much of the way].

He even went with the mother and child to pick out a Christmas tree, and when someone mistook them for a family, Peterson didn’t correct the error.

Here’s more from

Frey later described the couple’s second date, a hiking trip on Dec. 2, 2002. Peterson, she said, showed up at her Fresno home with an amaryllis plant and a bag of groceries — with which he planned to make her and her daughter seafood lasagna for dinner.

Frey testified that they picked up Frey’s daughter, Ayianna, from school and then hiked at a nearby lake. Afterward, they sat in the back of Peterson’s pickup and watched for the first star, before returning to Frey’s home to cook dinner.

“He had mentioned that he was going to check into a hotel somewhere,” Frey said. “I said, ‘Don’t be silly, you can stay with me.’ ” The next day, Frey asked Peterson if he would pick up her daughter from school and gave him a key to her home.

“He said he would be honored,” recalled Frey. When she got home that night, Peterson was waiting for her. He had poured two glasses of wine and was warming up the previous night’s dinner. The threesome then went out and picked out a Christmas tree. As they were decorating it, Frey said, Peterson told her he was not married and had no children.

By their third meeting, Frey said, she had given him a key to her home and trusted him enough to allow him to be alone with her young daughter. 

Many have summarized the Peterson motive as involving a man who simply didn’t want children. He committed murder because he dreaded fatherhood. It’s not true. If it was, he would have sought out a mistress who was single and without children. He didn’t do that. He didn’t want children with his wife. He also needed his wife to be out of the picture so he could get his hands on Laci’s jewelry and inheritance.

Although there are similarities between Peterson and Watts, as we can see, a major difference is that Peterson’s hangup wasn’t children, per se, but the pregnancy clearly had an impact of his already precarious financial situation. Ironically, his wife’s financial situation was less bad. In the Watts case the financial seesaw was the reverse.

But Watts’ hangup wasn’t children either. When he was married and a dad he seemed to relish the role, and he seemed pretty good at it – until that critical six week break. And then something changed. Watts’ resistance started with the pregnancy. Like Scott Peterson, Chris Watts seemed to get cold feet and change his mind. While the pregnancy went on Watts became more and more opposed to the idea just as he became more and more ensconced in an affair.

Like Scott Peterson, I think it’s a mistake to assume Watts didn’t want his own children. He didn’t want the baby, and part of this came from his impression his mistress would have of him if she knew he was about to be a father while having an affair with her.

KESSINGER: Like, ‘How would that go?’ Like, ‘Hey my family just disappeared.’ And you think I’m just not going to be concerned about thaaaat?

In the same way, Watts’ approach to his children and why he needed to murder them was borne out of his impression of Kessinger, and what he thought she may have felt about it. Irrespective of what Kessinger’s feelings were, it’s clear what Watts’ thought those feelings were.

This brings us at last to a moment of truth. Demystifying Kessinger’s “Amber Frey Moment” involves contextualizing her search within the timeline, and we see Kessinger searched for Frey on August 19th, a Sunday. That was on the first weekend after the murders and two days following Watts’ first court appearance.

During this period Kessinger was “helping” the cops investigate this case, the case was all over television, it was being hailed [if that’s the right word] as another Scott Peterson-type case,  Watts’ unnamed mistress was being compared to Amber Frey, and Watts had just appeared in court. All of this was going on that weekend.

So it’s likely Kessinger came across chatter about it and heard about someone she knew nothing about [on television], or knew about vaguely, and Googled her.

Here’s one tweet from August 21 which I published on #Shakedown on August 23rd.

It’s abundantly clear this chatter was going on very soon after the cops announced that the missing pregnant woman from Frederick had been found, and her husband was the prime suspect in her murder.

With all the chatter, Kessinger did what anyone else would do. She searched online for the person people were comparing her to. Remember, Kessinger’s 30-years-old. She was 14-years-old when Laci Peterson was murdered, and so unlikely to have known too much about it.

It remains to be seen whether Kessinger will write a book on her involvement in the Watts case. Unlike Amber Frey, Kessinger’s been far less in the limelight and never appeared in court, so I wouldn’t bet on it.



  1. nickvdl

    Were you high when you wrote this?

  2. nickvdl

    You think “I Kessinger” is a good title?

  3. Shannon

    I enjoyed reading that.
    Understand the Peterson case better now.

  4. Ralph Oscar

    Aw, the “high” thought is gone 🙁

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