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Nichol Kessinger's Tears on August 16th – Fake, or the Most Harrowing Moment in the Watts Case?

It may be that the original audio was edited down in the media to cut out Kessinger’s tears and emotion. Many – understandably – may not be interested in that story.

For those interested, three minutes of raw emotion from the two hour interview on August 16th are worth listening to.
Start at 1:32:06 for context.  It starts to get emotional at 1:33:37 and then ticks up at 1:37 until 1:39:32.


  1. CBH

    Yes, in many versions they cut off right before she begins to sob.
    I find her tears and weeping completely authentic. Not fake in the least.
    As I’ve stated elsewhere she was possibly/probably crying for a number of reasons combined : sadness for the children, horror at what he’d done, stress, exhaustion, the devastating realization that her love affair was over, guilt that she may have inadvertently put pressure on him to end the marriage, etc.

    • Clean Queen

      I have to agree. I found them to be authentic as well, regardless of the source.

  2. Carolyn T

    There’s a vacant shrine bedroom in the Watt’s home that should serve Kessinger well while she adapts and manipulates a new facade. The Kessinger personality meshes seamlessly with the mother and father Watts, i.e., sneaky, deceitful, dishonest, scheming , untrustworthy. The Watts will appreciate the Kessinger groaning, blaming, lying, and whining because it will be like, like, like. like, their genius spawn. The atmosphere should serve Kessinger well. As they say “kharma’s a bitch”.

    • Ralph Oscar

      That was altogether unnecessary, unhelpful, unintelligent, and useless, Carolyn T.
      No thanks for anything.

  3. Liz

    I’ve played that stretch a lot to see what I think, and I mostly feel she is authentic. She talks sometimes in a strange voice which is not appealing to me and others. Do I think she is guilty of the murders? No. However, Chris did finalize his “divorce” for her … is this the driving reason he did it? Maybe.
    One thing I have wondered about: Nichole is always saying “like” in her sentences. Chris, in his interrogation with Tammy Lee and Coder, uses the word in the same way. Chris seems to be the type who borrows from others, and I am thinking the word “like” peppered here and there repeatedly could have been picked up from hanging out with Kessinger. If this were a new thing for him and if he was saying more than one sentence to Shanann, wouldn’t she have noticed this and be thinking, “What the heck?”

    • Ralph Oscar

      Well, before Shan’Ann left with their girls for the 5 weeks in NC, she likely wasn’t paying much attention to Chris, as she pretty obviously took him for granted. It was while she was away that things went really pear-shaped, from her perspective. And when they got back together, he wasn’t saying much of anything at all, by that point. So who knows?
      She was saying *plenty* of “What the heck?”, but not about that detail, specifically.

    • nancyjames3358

      Appreciate you bringing this up Liz.
      The use of “like” is so over the top with both CW and NK, that last week I started researching why people overuse the word like.
      I initially thought it was a sign of a person’s intellect, education, age. It was a very interesting rabbit hole.
      In short what I found, is that it is a sign of deceit and buys the person time to think of a response. I wish I would have saved it or remembered exactly what I read, unfortunately real life threw me a few curve balls since then.
      I am struggling giving NK the benefit of the doubt. Her behavior since she became public just doesn’t sit well- behavior with the detectives, destroying evidence in such a serious case due to embarrassment, mixed messages.
      Not sure what info would assist my NK attitude to move on. Listened to the tapes repeatedly and still not feeling her emotion as sincere. Appreciate all who are opposed to my view.
      I would be happy to see her as an immature millennial making bad choices.

      • nickvdl

        In short what I found, is that it is a sign of deceit and buys the person time to think of a response.>>>Not sure I agree with that.

      • CBH

        This article from Psychology Today does in fact view overuse of the word ‘like’ as being indicative of deception:

        • nickvdl

          That’s interesting CBH, and worth bearing in mind.
          I’ve studied the audio of both Watts and Kessinger in detail, and I can’t say I’ve experienced that [“like”
          as a tell].
          I haven’t seen that in other interrogations either. What I can say is Watts seems to stutter and speak faster when he lies. He doesn’t stutter, as far as I’ve come across, and as far as I can recall, on the word like. Maybe you can find a few instances in the Sermon on the Porch. But lie detection is very subjective. I may see things that are true and relevant, but not see other things, and vice versa for someone else doing analysis. Not every lie is necessarily an outright lie either. A lie may be a kind of psychological masking pointing to something else. This is why when Watts says, “Fuck you and fuck you and fuck you” [for what Shan’ann said to him during their emotional conversation], it’s a lie implying she either meant fuck you to him X 3, or fuck you, fuck Bella, fuck Ceecee. But we shouldn’t stop there. If he’s using colorful language, what does it reveal about his authentic inner dialogue. Fuck you and fuck you and fuck you is amazing code for how Watts ultimately responded to “Fuck him!” Somewhere in his consciousness, and some *when*, he made a conscious decision to kill each member of his family before he killed them. And so with this -fuck you- reality in his mind, when he saw each of them and spoke to them, there had to be a part of him silently goading him towards execution.
          One more thing. In DRILLING THROUGH DISCOVERY I noted that whenever Watts made strenuous denials, he used the word promise. One can imagine him using the same word to his wife and Kessinger. “I promise I’m not seeing anyone.” “I promise I’m getting divorced.” “I promise I’m telling the truth.” So this seems to me a word to flag far more so than like. Promise comes up 10 times in the discovery, including this instance on page 599:
          “I didn’t didn’t lie to you on that polygraph I promise.”
          Like occurs 783 times in the discovery. Good luck analyzing each one. 😉

          • CBH

            Yes, I would agree that statement analysis/lie detection is subjective to a great degree. My sole purpose in pointing out the link was to show where she may have gotten the idea (as she said she now couldn’t recall).
            I’m in full agreement that CW uses “I promise” when he’s being deceptive, whether with wife, mistress, or investigators. I also agree with 3 fuck yous as being aimed at 3 family members he was now finished with.
            I did notice the rapid speaking on the porch; I also noticed the sound of dry mouth, which definitely indicates fear. I don’t think he was enjoying in the least being deceptive with media or law enforcement (as people have indicated elsewhere, the pleasure being supposedly from his ‘. ‘malignant narcissism’.).
            I think rather that he was flying blind and truly frightened, as any of us would be in his shoes.

          • nickvdl

            People who say he was enjoying being deceptive to the media or the cops are forgetting the true nature of this guy. He’s an introvert. He doesn’t like talking to strangers, or talking much at all. He doesn’t want to be in a situation where he’s on camera or the focus of attention. He just wants to be allowed to quietly do his own thing. But when foisted into that position, he tried to be the Clark Kent people expected. But there’s a Clark Kent behind the Clark Kent we see. For him, the Clark Kent act is his Superman game. Make sense?

          • CBH

            Indeed it does.

    • Cheryl Filar

      Liz, good post. I agree.

  4. nancyjames3358

    Appreciate your opinion Nick. Wish I would have kept my notes.
    What do you think about overuse of ‘like”.
    Open to other perspectives.

    • nickvdl

      It’s a modern colloquialism. Some people say “really” a lot.

  5. Fred

    Something about her cadence and her inflections along with how she seemed to drive the interrogation that makes it hard for me to listen to. To my ears it doesn’t sound how I perceive a sincere, heartfelt flood of emotions after such a sudden tragedy. Especially when one is at the center or near center of it. She let out a good cry but it was very Start and Stop in how she quickly gathered herself. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not authentic I suppose. Everyone just grieves differently.

    • nickvdl

      So true.

    • Cheryl Filar

      Fred, I agree, especially with the start and then seemingly abrupt stop quality of her emotional display. That being said, I don’t know Nichol Kessinger, so I have no context for the way she generally expresses her emotions—or not. Some people are not comfortable displaying their grief in a protracted an openly emotive manner. I know I’m not, and perhaps this was the case with Kessinger. I’ve also thought that if Kessinger were a man, people might be less suspicious and therefore more forgiving of her not displaying a lot of emotion, as well as of her trying to influence, to some extent, the direction of the interrogation.

      • nickvdl

        I’m not sure that’s fair about the “if Kessinger was a man thing…” At the same time Kessinger was being interviewed, Watts was being interrogated. Agent Lee told him “you have not shed one tear” and he hadn’t. Only after that moment did he begin to show some contrition – hard to say if he felt it as much as he was acting it.
        There are two sides to it though. Part of Watts’ emotionlessness *is* an act. He’s trying not to show emotion. He’s acting nonchalant not only to pretend he doesn’t know what happened, and so minimize what did happen and his involvement, but also because he doesn’t want to aggravate the situation. He doesn’t realize the nonchalance mask exposes his guilt not his innocence, to the outsider. To him nonchalance makes him look innocent, but that’s because he’s guilty.
        Many will disagree with this, but you can’t apply the same interpretation to Kessinger because she didn’t commit a crime. I’m not saying she didn’t have anything to hide, or that she wasn’t trying to hide anything, just that there’s a world of difference between covering up a murder on the one hand and not being forthcoming about risque texts messages she sent.
        That being said, one would have expected more signs of heartbreak from her, not only over the deaths but by being betrayed and losing as much as she was at the time, and was about to. As you say, we don’t know the context. It’s possible she cried a great deal in private and arrived at these interviews all cried out, if that makes sense. In one of her interviews she said, “I can’t believe this is happening.” I had someone very close to me die and it can take time for it to sink in. One grieves…then drifts into a reality where one forgets or doesn’t realize the real situation…one grieves again…and so on.

  6. Liz

    Interestingly enough, a brief article just posted discusses Chris’ tears.

    • nancyjames3358

      “And then there’s the chill Watts put on the room after his confession. Following his confession, Watts was offered lunch.
      “When people have trauma, when they lose somebody, they lose their appetite,” Nicoletti explained. “Yeah, I’ll have a pizza. I don’t care what kind.”
      Missed this part about the pizza in the tapes. Thanks Liz.

    • Cheryl Filar

      Nick, great comments. When I made the remarks about Kessinger’s (K’s) not displaying her grief as less tolerable coming from a female, I was thinking about how this part of the interview has become a lightening rod for the vitriol displayed toward her on social media. Interestingly, most of the vituperative comments are made by women, whose criticism has focused on K’s lack of emotion, especially regarding the fate of the children or “precious babies,” as they are fond of referring to them. From my perspective, these comments infer that K has no inherent maternal, protective feelings and therefore could not summon authentic grief during the interviews. It is also, I believe, K’s perceived lack of maternal sentiment that disconnected her sexuality from the softer, more relatable ideal of motherhood. This perceived disconnect resulted in K’s being branded a slut and, much worse, a murderer of motherhood itself: Shan’ann and her children, including, most vividly, the still-gestating Nico.
      In reference to your insightful post regarding historical and cultural threads, I believe American culture still carries the burden of its Puritanical forebears—roots that bind virtue and good deeds to production. As applied to women, this religious belief prescribes that females’ sexuality should be largely dedicated to producing children and not to seeking pleasure for its own reward, as evidenced by K’s fear of her “raunchy” sexual transgressions becoming mass media fodder. And, of course, they did indeed become grist for the mass media mill, as well as the caustic suspicions, accusations, and conspiracy theories that still stalk her into every corner and shadow of the now-abandoned Watts home.

  7. nancyjames3358

    Thanks CBH, that is one of the articles I read.

    • CBH

      Most welcome!

  8. Ralph Oscar

    We don’t have a lot of information on NK – one of the little things that stood out to me was, in the first link, the news report summary, it shows NK run her hand across the top/side of her head and then down her long ponytail. That was a graceful, feminine gesture that appeared very natural to her (she certainly wasn’t coming on to the investigator!). Little things – I imagine she was quite charming in real life.
    And I felt that her emotion was real. Of course she’d seen the pics of the girls when she visited CW’s house, but the reality of what her lover had done to them surely must have come as a severe shock – it’s so cruel. At the end when the guy asks her if she wants to step outside to compose herself, she speaks in a flat monotone, as if she’s just letting out her breath after holding it for a moment. That doesn’t strike me as suspicious – she knew she had to keep herself together for the purposes of this interview, in order to provide whatever she could to help the case. That’s why she volunteered for that, after all.

  9. mitzi2006

    I read an article a psychologist wrote about traits of family annihilators. Two of the traits were that they are fragile and not able to cope with humiliation. That chicken nugget story he told so many times that was meant to portray a happy memory might be that it humiliated him. I’m not sure anyone can cope well with humiliation, but seeing fragility in those that commit a crime like this was a trait that surprised me

  10. Sylvester

    The Clark Kent behind the Clark Kent. Even the glasses. I’m pondering that. He was never going to be an extroverted Superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (then Jerry Seinfeld would say then why was he flying – if he could leap) but yeah I can get it, the understated quiet guy, the one who cleaned up after himself and everyone else, who did the laundry, who went back repeatedly for whipped cream in the face, who made the lunches and packed the backpacks, Superman as Clark Kent, Superman. But God how he must have come to resent it, always doing the right thing and treated like he wasn’t even there.

  11. K

    Nichol worked in a field that is traditionally male. She must have had to learn to adjust her behavior in order to cope with that environment. Crying can be seen as a weakness and it is possible that Nichol was making an effort to maintain control of the situation and herself by detaching from the horror. I believe people detach and deny to protect themselves from facing trauma. Her tears do include involuntary breathing that interferes with speaking and in that respect, she passes the fake test for me. She allowed herself to imagine how tiny the children were and it broke her detachment momentarily perhaps?
    Sometimes, I like to take things out and see how it looks. Was the affair with NK a necessary ingredient to the murder of an entire family. If we took her out and leave in the financial problems what then? Or if we have no MLM or thrive and thus no endless stream of FB videos. What are the basic ingredients? I don’t think NK expected CW to react by killing because he seemed so calm and introverted. I think she mistook his intimacy with her as a complement and perhaps was blind to any red flags he might have exhibited.

    • Ralph Oscar

      The test that makes things clear for me is “What if CW and SW had won a multimillion dollar lottery the week before – would there have been any murders then?” I say no. In the end, it was the financial difficulties that created the breaking point, and neither CW nor SW had the skills to navigate their way clear.

  12. TT

    Whilst were on the topic of the interrogations, did anyone else think it was almost laughable when agent Tammy Lee mentioned to Watts that he hadn’t shown any emotion, then pretty much straight away he was suddenly emotional? It was almost childlike.

    • Sylvester

      There are of course many other interesting tells. When Watts is standing outside, near his porch, he has taken a call from the Thayers, who are waiting for him nearby in the park. Watts says he can’t or doesn’t want to leave as the dogs are there and a few minutes later the Thayers arrive. An officer, who’s name I do not know, I think he’s the one who says he’s a rookie, is throwing a few questions at Watts. Watts remains riveted to his phone, sending and receiving texts. When the officer begins describing the kind of dog that is being used Watts suddenly comes to attention. This he finds interesting, and possibly disturbing. Either later, or earlier, the officer is quizzing Watts as to what his girls might have been wearing to bed that night, or wearing period. Watts fumbles with this, he doesn’t know, they have so many nightgowns and night clothing, there are clothes in the dirty clothes now, he’s just now sure. He’s deflecting – but why. It’s a question that he feels must be lied about.

  13. Rachel

    I can understand why there are people who feel NK’s tears are inauthentic. They do sound forced and easy to bring forth and cut off. However, another factor may be her emotional immaturity. This is also evident with her overuse of the word “like”. She’s suddenly been thrown in the spotlight. Whilst it may be under cringe worthy circumstances, she’s still been given overnight public recognition. I believe this would affect how she speaks. Imagine a teenager in the same position. There’s a hint of ego at being the one who caused a man to kill his family to be with her. It almost falls into the category of hybristophilia. I don’t think she’s a monster. She’s just not emotionally mature.

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