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Was Custody a Factor in the Watts Case?

On February 15 “new court documents” were revealed to the media about a possible motive in the Patrick Frazee-Kelsey Berreth case. The cops reckon custody was the main motive. It’s taken them awhile to figure that out, hasn’t it?
On December 23rd, almost two months ago at the time of writing, TCRS made a call on the motive in the murder of Kelsey Berreth. In fact the motive was mentioned in the very first paragraph of that assessment and infidelity was mentioned in a post on December 22nd.

I noted the strange circumstances surrounding Thanksgiving. Why would a couple who were engaged not be spending Thanksgiving together? Why was Patrick Frazee coming to pick up his daughter, and not his wife as well? 

I will do more analysis on the Frazee case at some point, perhaps even a book, but first things first. Was custody a factor in the Watts case?
On the face of it, no. There are 44 instances of the word “custody” in the Discovery Documents, the overwhelming majority have to do with chain of custody issues affecting law enforcement, as well as evidence and cadaver collection.
In Nichol Kessinger’s lengthy interview on August 16th, she brings up custody a couple of times.
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On page 1494 of the Discovery Documents, Shan’ann brings up custody [during her discussion with Olayinka Hamza, a lawyer from Glendale in March or April 2018]. She wants to know whether the custodial parents can be told where to live by a court, or whether a man can get custody. This discussion illustrates that even prior to the third pregnancy or the trip to North Carolina [or, arguably, the affair] Shan’ann knew her marriage was in terminal decline. This is difficult to reconcile with the glowing posts of her husband and marriage on social media at the time.
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It’s interesting, in this respect, that Hamza recommended to Shan’ann to do everything in her power to save the marriage, rather than file for a costly divorce, and insodoing become embroiled in a long battle. It appears Shan’ann took this advice to heart. We know in the last days of her life, what with the self-help book, the getaway to Aspen, the counselling she had in mind, the letter she wanted him to write, Shan’ann wanted to avoid divorce.
But she was also ready to do battle.
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On August 8th she told her pals Cassie and Nickole that if it came to a divorce, she would fight for full custody.
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Significantly, this is the first and only time the word is directly linked to Shan’ann. The timing is important, given what happens next. Watts, who at the time had been away from wok for a week spent just one day two days at work, and then took the next day [August 9th and 10th] off work leading to the weekend.

[Note: the August 9th “day off” [see below] is an error in the Phone Data Review.] The Augusy 10th “day off” however, is accurate.

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It may be that during these days this day off he and Shan’ann discussed the custody issue, and discussed divorcing. And as the battle lines were drawn, he realized he was standing inside a tank with excrement swilling around his heels, warming them, and rising inch by inch.
So he told Shan’ann “he wasn’t in a hurry” to get divorced, which made her think she could still convince him to stay.
She was wrong.
This taking off of work may have had a dual purpose. Firstly, to prepare for the battle he had in mind [triple murder]. And secondly, to muddle those at work about his whereabouts. If he appeared at CERVI 319 on Monday morning, the few operators he encountered there might not think that much of it, and those who didn’t see him may have assumed he was still in North Carolina.
It may also have been intended to muddle Shan’ann. To pretend that things were okay after all and raise the white flag, at least until she was out of town again.
In any event, on the evening of August 9th Watts [Shan’ann was due to fly out first thing the next morning] he appears to be car shopping online. If he was going to do away with Shan’ann, the Lexus would probably have to go, and then he was going to need a chariot to ferry his beloved around in. He couldn’t do that with the work truck. He was going to need some wheels. And fast.
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Because Watts was a mechanic and a car nut, it stands to reason that wheels played significantly in his calculus at this stage of the game. But he had a problem. Could he afford an Audi? Because that’s specifically what he was checking. Not just an Audi Q7, but the prices of an Audi Q7.
A second-hand Q7 sells for anywhere from $22 000 — $80 000 depending on the year of the model. Watts said he could only afford $1100 – $1400 to rent an apartment. Does that include money for a car payment?
It appears to be a family car Watts is after, here, doesn’t it? At this point Watts was probably doing the math and realizing he couldn’t afford any of it. He couldn’t afford a divorce. He couldn’t afford to move out. He couldn’t afford alimony. And if he wanted to keep Kessinger and do things the right way, he was going to lose everything – his home, their vehicle, the kids, his reputation and with no money, probably Kessinger too.
Without going into too much detail, we know that the week of the disappearance, Watts and Kessinger had agreed to go and look for a new apartment for him [and the kids]. But then by Saturday night [August 11], Watts’ mood had changed and he was no longer interested in getting an apartment.
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What changed?
Watts did the custody calculations and realized he couldn’t afford to lose the house. He wanted the kids but if he fought for them he’d lose. And then he’d lose everything. It was either her and the kids [three kids], or Kessinger. Shan’ann made her choice. Then he made his choice.
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  1. Ralph Oscar

    “This taking off of work may have had a dual purpose. Firstly, to prepare for the battle he had in mind [triple murder]. And secondly, to muddle those at work about his whereabouts. If he appeared at CERVI 319 on Monday morning, the few operators he encountered there might not think that much of it, and those who didn’t see him may have assumed he was still in North Carolina.”
    This detail/angle is really standing out for me, but I can’t tell why specifically. Are you suggesting that, since CW wanted to break his routine by going straight to CERVI 319 Monday AM, his taking time off beforehand would make that look less strange to any coworkers who noticed? A deliberate reset of his routine so that the Monday change in routine wouldn’t be the first change?
    To me, taking Aug. 9 & 10 off work seems all about having to play Mr. Mom to Bella and CeCe while SW was off on her little rah-rah Thrive boondoggle.

    • ncam619

      I agree. I doubt that he was the one to suggest the 9th &10th off. It seems like work was sort of a getaway for him. He got to see NK in the mornings and it would have made it easier to see her after work hours if he didnt take time off. Staying at home with the kids meant there was no chance of seeing NK for 2 whole days.That is why he made a point of seeing her on the 8th after work. Let’s not forget that Shan’ann was back in town and dictating his every move. She definitely told him to take the days off.

    • Molly

      Has anyone confirmed the story about a case from CPS Pg(47? Around there someone named Rennee Social Worker from Child Protective Services?) – The ( fairly sensical) theory is that Shannon’s prior nanny jobs Nurse pal was aware Shannon was not to be aline w/ girls 4 15 mo- explaining a whole lot about the constant visitors and expensive full time daycare- I would love nick to comment on the theory

  2. Sylvester

    Agent Coder tell Watts “I think she was going to leave you – she started on that path first.”
    Also 8/7/18 Watts told Luke Epple he and his wife were having problems and he would be staying with a friend in case his truck GPS showed he was somewhere other than parked at home. Likely though he decided to stay in the basement.
    They were both locked together – she knew she couldn’t keep up the house and put the girls in an elite school the tuition for which she couldn’t afford on her own – and he wouldn’t pay for it – she couldn’t continue pitching Thrive and stay at home with a newborn and make $2800 house payments plus $500 insurance and HOA dues – and he couldn’t afford to give her the house and come out of it with nothing and pay alimony and child support for three. They were locked together. She had no choice but to try and keep him around and he had no choice but to break out of the lock Shan’ann, put them in – eating up his pay checks, saving nothing, adding to expenses.

    • CBH

      You’re correct. As Nick says,
      “What changed?”
      “Watts did the custody calculations and realized he couldn’t afford to lose the house. He wanted the kids but if he fought for them he’d lose. And then he’d lose everything. It was either her and the kids [three kids], or Kessinger. Shan’ann made her choice. Then he made his choice.”
      Sad, to say the least.

  3. Clean Queen

    I think it is pretty clear from SW’s texts with her friends that she was willing and ready to put up a nasty fight. I think she is the kind of woman that would want to punish her husband for not wanting to be with her anymore. As has been previously discussed on the prior post, the theme most definitely was “fuck him”. Unfortunately, it sounds like she was also willing to punish her children. Taking full custody for no real good reason other than to be in control and punish your spouse is despicable. In cases where a spouse is abusive or there is criminal behavior, it’s a different story. However, at this point in time, there was absolutely no reason to believe that Chris could not have partial custody of his own children. He was by all accounts, a great dad and was clearly very involved with his kids.
    I am sure that Chris believed Shan’ann would make the divorce as difficult as she possibly could. She would want to take as much as possible from him. She would want him to be as miserable as possible. He likely believed she had the power to do all of that. He may have been right, at least until she moved on with her life. Of course, that is a big unknown.
    The matter of custody definitely could have played a big part in the motive for murder. Chris would know that any woman, including (and especially) NK would be turned off by such a dramatic divorce scenario. Playing the situation out in his own mind, he may have kept coming back to the conclusion that Shan’ann simply had to go away. Forever.

    • CBH

      Yes, that really makes sense. Extremely tragic, because he had indeed been a good father, not a callous type who would murder. And yet he did, for the reasons you state.

    • Ralph Oscar

      “Unfortunately, it sounds like she was also willing to punish her children. Taking full custody for no real good reason other than to be in control and punish your spouse is despicable. ”
      Shan’Ann had obsession in her soul. We can easily discern that from her MLM addiction (seven at last count) including this last one even though they’d been forced into a bankruptcy (probably because of the MLM addiction).
      Someone with obsession in their soul can become a champion bridge-burner. A scorched-earth expert. You do not want to piss this kind of person off, because they’ll accept pretty much anything as their hill to die on if you push them too far.
      Trust me, I know.

  4. Sylvester

    Perhaps originally he had had reasonable and logical thoughts – sell the house, sue for joint custody, get an apartment, and his own wheels. But I think between Aug. 7 and 10 he came to understand that she would not be reasonable or go quietly. Ironic that that’s exactly how she ended up going.

  5. Diana

    When I read the conversation with NK in the Discovery Docs that Chris suddenly lost interest in apartment hunting, I thought that was really odd. What I’m most curious about though, is whether Shan’ann talked to that attorney at the restaurant in March or April. I’m curious because if the marriage was going down the tubes, why would Shan’ann allow herself to get pregnant? Was it for added leverage on Chris? An attempt to keep Chris in the marriage? I’d have to say this was Shan’ann’s manipulative side showing through. She likely agreed to the pregnancy to keep control of Chris the puppet with the paycheck. As for Chris’s thinking – it’s clear from that college video he made that he believed a baby could save a marriage. This very subject comes up during questioning of Chris after the murders when he says a baby doesn’t save a marriage after all. It’s too bad he didn’t figure that out sooner, perhaps divorce would’nt have looked so bad to him.

    • ncam619

      He should have deleted that you tube video of his “relationship advice” while he was deleting his social media. What an embarrassment (for countless reasons). I watched it again today and noticed that shan’ann even left a comment. Weird to see after the fact.

  6. Kathleen Caraway

    Did Chris hit the wall when he realized there was no way to make any of it work? What if he’d opted to stay in the marriage? They were in legal action with the home owners association the day he killed his family. His 401K was depleted for delinquent mortgage payments just a few months before and they were already 3 months delinquent again. The little girls were supposed to start the expensive private school also on the day of their deaths. Shan’ann had a car the the MLM MAY have been making payments on but she called it hers, not a family car, and objected when Chris used it. All he has was a company truck he wasn’t allowed to drive. And these were his circumstances without a divorce and lawyers. How do you split up half of less than nothing, which is what they had? I wonder if the resignation NK heard in his voice about apartment hunting was a recognition of the hopelessness of the family’s circumstances? He couldn’t afford a divorce but neither could he afford to stay married. They were falling into a burning ring of fire, one way or another. It is all so sad.

  7. Sylvester

    Diana, Olayinka Hamza wasn’t sure if it was March or April. Also he’s a contract disputes and securities law specialist so didn’t want to give her much advice regarding child custody, etc. He did say that she had a friend with her and he thought Shan’ann wanted to talk more but not in front of the friend. I too wonder what they were arguing about back in March that would have her reach some conclusion in April to have another child.
    I too listened again to the “Relationship Deterioration and Repair” video (thanks to the person who posted it a few days ago) and he sounded like he was talking about how to fix a car engine. However it would have been fun to have sat in the little audience he had of four or five people and ask questions. Or heckle. Hey Chris, if a relationship is deteriorating would you ever consider selling your wife’s wedding ring? Look at Scott Peterson, trying to sell Laci’s jewelry. Right out from under her.

    • ganana

      Attorney Hamza was put in a bad spot by Shan’ann when she waylaid him at the restaurant and fired all those questions at him. This seems inappropriate on her part, but in character — going after what she wanted without concern for the boundaries of others.
      *Yes, this is nitpicking*
      If she hadn’t had this conversation where the well-meaning attorney said to stay and work on her relationship with Chris, might Shan’ann and the girls be alive today? This is not to blame Hamza; what it is, is a reminder that giving advice can have unintended consequences.
      In the length of time they were together, Hamza couldn’t have learned enough about her overall situation to give that advice.

      • Ralph Oscar

        “This seems inappropriate on her part, but in character — going after what she wanted without concern for the boundaries of others.”
        Yes, absolutely. 100%.
        As for the rest, I don’t think it would have made a lick of difference – Hamza gave sound advice. There was no reason *at that point* (April?) to think that Chris would be anything other than a stable, devoted family man – he’d shown himself to be that without the slightest deviation from that model. That was who he was. From Shan’Ann’s perspective, staying and working on fixing the marriage was her best option. Problem was, she had no skills or ability or even self-awareness to *begin* this process. As we saw, her only approach was to tell Chris what HE needed to change! Shan’Ann was going to continue to chase the dragon of her MLM addiction until she was homeless. She was addicted and, like most addicts, refused to see all the damage she was causing. She was certainly not going to take responsibility for it! Once again, she demanded that Chris do all the work. And by the end, he simply wasn’t into that any more.

  8. K

    What i wonder about is if CW saw the text messages on SW phone saying “fuck him”? It is interesting to me that she had changed her password and he didn’t know it but her friend Nicole could so easily guess it. SW was monitoring his phone because she knew that he had deleted texts between him and his father. I do believe that the Watts family new that CW had a mistress and that may have been a reason why CW deleted the messages. I am pretty sure that his sister( under name trinket) said that she knew that CW had a gf, on Websleuth.I am sure the SW would fight for full custody because in her mind, the Watts family were an evil danger to her children. How much of her story would be believed in a court would be interesting as I firmly believe that there were no nuts in the ice cream incident and SW threw around the words razor blades as a metaphor.

    • Ralph Oscar

      “What i wonder about is if CW saw the text messages on SW phone saying “fuck him”? ”
      If so, then at that point, CW would realize that SW was his *enemy* and that she was assembling her “army” to take him down.

    • nickvdl

      I also thought that.

  9. Ralph Oscar

    Here’s something kinda random that I ran into in the comments section on a favorite webcomic (link below), but I thought of all of us here:
    “People think English is a useless degree. What they don’t realise is that English majors are trained to take narratives apart and figure out how they work. To analyse what’s going on behind the words and the actions. Spy agencies love English PhDs as analysts.”
    “We’re also good at knowing how to use symbolism at the proper moment. For instance, when a character flicks on the lights to indicate that they’re going to shine light onto a situation, even if the other person would prefer to keep things in the dark.”
    “In other words, Ruth is currently presenting us with a masterclass in what English degrees can be good for, and we her fellows salute her for it.”
    Because isn’t that our mission here? To uncover and decipher the real narrative behind the events? Don’t we endeavor to analyze what’s going on behind the words (or lack of words) and the (ultimate) actions?
    Here’s your link:

  10. Ilovedogsandcats

    SW wouldn’t have taken CW to court for custody, as she didn’t have the money to do so. Plus, even if she did have the money, she would not been awarded full custody. That would only happen if she could produce police records that CW was abusive or an alcoholic or drug abuser.
    Instead they would have to go to mediation (if they could afford to do so) and hammer out a custody agreement themselves (which would have been 50/ 50).
    The cheapest way to decide custody is to keep it out of the court entirely and work it out yourselves.
    As far as alimony goes, SW was working. CW would only have to supplement her income, not pay for everything.
    He could also refuse to keep the girls in the expensive private school. He would pay their insurance thru’ his job as he had always done.
    If she insisted on keeping the house, then she would have to buy him out, which she could not afford.
    She could threaten him all she wanted, but if she didn’t have the money to back it up, nothing was going to happen.

    • Duttdip

      >>If she insisted on keeping the house, then she would have to buy him out, which she could not afford.
      All she needed was a white knight, which given her social outreach, personality and looks was highly possible.

      • Sylvester

        she was already on her second white knight.

      • Ralph Oscar

        Not with two young sick kids, a newborn, and a history of financial irresponsibility. No way.

    • Ralph Oscar

      “As far as alimony goes, SW was working. ”
      It would have come out in family court that SW was *playing* at working. She was not bringing in income; their financials were in the toilet. This wouldn’t have been the case if she’d been *earning*.
      SW was *working* but not *earning*.

  11. Kathleen Caraway

    I agree, Shan’ann was out of options for saviors. I wonder how much differently that nightmare might have played out if Shan’ann had held her thoughts, words, temper against Chris’s family? It is so contradictory to me that she was demanding that Chris love her while simultaneously demanding that he blast his family. Seems like she would have been a lot easier to love if she weren’t requiring that he join her in punishing and shunning his family. She had to know he didn’t have it in him. How many times do most married folks just let the in-laws’ faux pas go in the interest of harmony? Shan’ann was aggrandizing her role as ferocious maternal protector at the expense of Chris’s basic manhood, in the roles of son, husband, and father. Also , some bloody ice cream? You’d think she’d give them anti-freeze.Teaching the girls they can’t have everything, as per mum-in-laws comment, seems reasonable to me. Shan’ann could have zipped out to the store and bought another flavor. No big deal.

    • Ralph Oscar

      Also, with regard to the idea that Shan’Ann had realized she, too, needed to make some serious changes to save their marriage (and not just Chris), in that last video at the beach, didn’t she comment to someone that “Next year we’re going to Cabo”? That throw-away comment, just 6 words, would have underscored for Chris that nothing had changed and nothing would ever change with her.

  12. HB

    Hey Nick,
    Chris was at work on August 9th according to his work truck GPS records. Just thought you might want to clarify that in your post. He took August 10th off and that is the day Shanann left for Arizona.

    • nickvdl

      Thanks for the correction HB. The Discovery Documents got that part mixed up ito the timeline. He only took Friday the 10th off. That makes the doll-plastic sheet image on August 9 even more mysterious. I still don’t have clear data on the work truck GPS records. My copy is fuzzy ito of that section.

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