Way back on August 18th, when I wrote the first blog on Watts case at the sister blog to this site, I listed 20 obvious “tells” suggesting Watts was lying during his Sermon on the Porch. Stuttering was #4.
On the face of it, Watts’ stuttering doesn’t match who he appears to be. He’s fit, muscular, confident, good looking [to some], suave, smart, and cool, calm and collected. But when on the spot, such as when he made his speech about relationships, or when he was confronted by the cops in his home, he revealed himself as a poor speaker. He’s not a convincing talker.
This put Watts extremely at odds with the whole Thrive MLM deal which required him to be in front of the camera, talking a big game and selling himself. Watts hated doing that, he said.
I dealt with another stutterer in the Van Breda axe murder case. Henri is a lot like Watts in some ways. Mild-mannered, gentle, soft-spoken and apparently an introvert. When Henri decided to testify, he asked the court not to televise his testimony because of his stutter. The court eventually overruled the request, and Henri testified to a packed court, with cameras trained on him, and he hardly ever stuttered. Not never. But so seldom it was hardly the speech impediment he’d made it out to be.
And yet when Henri was nervous, the stutter did come out. Not a Fish Called Wanda level stutter, but one that raised its slippery head nevertheless.
The stutter isn’t just a nervous artifact floating around, it’s connected to something deeper. Trauma is one reason, and it’s possible Watts felt either excessively dominated and controlled by an overbearing mother, or outshone by his outspoken extroverted older sister. According to brainblogger:
Stuttering is increasingly becoming recognized…as a deep psychological response to an increasingly alienated world….It is during this time as the child is adjusting to modern human life that it will often encounter an environment in which it is overwhelmed or variously adjusting to inconsistencies or abnormalities to what it expects. It is this avalanche of learning and stimulus and adjusting that is occurring that can lead to a certain level of internally generated subconscious insecurity and anxiety. This self-doubt that develops can manifest in many physical forms, with the main verbal expression being to stutter when attempting to begin speaking.
Stuttering is essentially a verbal expression of a child’s insecure and uncertain reaction to an overwhelming world.
And so in the context of true crime, the thing that elicits the stutter is often [not always, but often] heightened anxiety brought on by a particular line of questioning. Right alongside Watts’ stutter is another nervous tick, the inward lip curl. Ironically, Henri van Breda had the same involuntary movement of his lip, but instead of it curling inward, it snarled upward, something he often tried to hide during his testimony.
What this reveals is that far from these criminals being cool, their anxiety is greater than it is for the average person.