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

How EMOTIONS are both the solution and the problem in the Chris Watts Case – and how [wait for it] Captain Marvel is the key to understanding this Emotional Riddle

What do a phoenix, a dragon and the sun have in common. Simple. Each in their own way represent not only absolute power, but rebirth, transformation, victory of life over death, and ability to magically transcend and bind of ashes and dust.

In true crime one of the major gripes I feel with most people involved in the genre is there one-dimensional thinking, in fact their one dimensional approach to virtually every fucking thing. True crime feels like it’s at least a duality of some sort, good versus evil, light versus dark. It’s more than that, it has many interconnected layers, shades of grey, hidden meanings and dead ends. And yet to the average person it’s always dead simple. X is totally and absolutely innocent, and Y is a monster. Of course the average person casting these aspersions sees him or herself invariably as X [and thus perfectly innocent too] and everything that is unfair, wrong or to blame about their world as Y. And they spend a lot of their time making sure what they see and believe conforms to this prescribed, self-reinforcing transference. That’s not true crime, it’s a kind of self-perpetuating voyeurism. It’s what the tabloids run on.


At TCRS we like to be a lot more sophisticated in our approach, and we like to think not a little, but a lot about how crimes and criminals fit into the larger human condition. Some people roll their eyes when, for example, we dig into the extended history of one or other character. What the fuck has history or geography got to do with why Chris Watts strangled his pregnant wife? Excellent question. The answer is both nothing and everything – simultaneously. Try to figure that one out.

One essential aspect to true crime that is highly misunderstood, underestimated and minimized [especially by the criminals themselves] is the emotional dynamic. It’s so ironic to me how people invariably notice how emotionless a murderer appears, and they hold this up as a sort of summit flag to plant on the top of the Mount Everest of the case file.

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No, it’s the opposite. The crime was committed not because of an absence of feelings, but because of a surfeit of emotion. The nonchalance mask is the last resort of the criminal to hide exactly those slippery little sensations that drove the motive to commit the crime in the first place. From the outside looking in we see the lack of emotion and damn the criminal for it, but from the inside, the criminal is doing his best not to show emotion, not to show the reason why he was driven out of his body and mind to do what he did.

Chris Watts’ affair with Nichol Kessinger isn’t evidence that Watts is a heartless man with no feelings, it’s the opposite. The affair drew him outside of himself, pulled him outside his shell and reminded him that he HAD feelings, and had a whole dimension to his heart and his head and his life that he wasn’t given voice to. These emotions played a cardinal role in activating ultimately a murderous response from Watts, but that’s only one side of the emotional coin.

The other side of the emotional coin was the suppression of healthy feelings and emotions. Those feelings that made him like his wife, and love his children had to be dealt with too.

Of course those feelings never existed and never came into play, because Watts isn’t a human being, he’s an alien psychopath remember. And when you deny Watts feelings, you throw away the good with the bad, and all chances of figuring out why what happened happened. That’s why he committed this crime. Not because he’s human, like the rest of us, but because he’s NOT human and not like the rest of us.

Yup, keep on telling yourself that. It ought to make you feel better as the X part of the equation. The reason Watts did what he did is because we don’t understand him. Yeah right.


If Watts had no feelings, then it wouldn’t have been necessary to begin to break away and disassociate himself from Shan’ann and the kids over a premeditated period of time.

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In the TWO FACE series I refer to this distancing process as Psychological Preparation. Just as athletes mentally prepare and physically train for an important race, so do murderers. They gather intel, they run through the maneuvers, but most important, they prepare their hearts for the most extreme event of their [and their victim’s] lives.

If you haven’t seen Captain Marvel, be warned of spoilers below.

The key to Captain Marvel’s power is letting go and losing control of her human side, specifically her emotions. Once she does that, she releases her true power and she literally glows in the dark with Godlike Phoenix-like plasma energy. Dragons function the same way, at least in symbolic literature.


Emotions, like dragons, guard a great treasure. But counter-intuitively, emotions can hold treasures prisoner. They can trap us in ourselves, in our grudges, resentments, our anger, our jealousy. Anger can rob us of our true potential. Your own anger – not the world, not your boss, not your parents or your spouse – can keep you poor. In this spiel your biggest enemy, your biggest obstacle is you, or more specifically, your persistent failure to master your self.


Often a dragon set loose can devastate and destroy lives not as some externality or beast, but as a part of ourselves that if we don’t, won’t or can’t control. A dragon released will burn through our lives, our homes and burn families to the ground.  And the fire that fuels that dragon comes from within. It’s us.

When I traveled to the East I understood the dragon through a Western, Christian mindset. I also thought the Asian and Chinese notion was evil. But when I lived in Asia I understood the dragon as neither good nor evil, but simply as a source of immense power [which could be used for good or evil].

The idea of the sun rising over a frozen, dead Earth, or of a phoenix filling with golden light and coming alive, or of a person reclaiming their memories, their power, themselves – all of these are affirming, in theory.

But there is another side to all this affirmation, a balancing aspect. The MLM Thrive spiel also operates on emotions. If you want something you can have it. It couldn’t be easier. If you want to be healthy, wealthy, be with your family, go on free holidays, have a fancy car, just put up your hand and get yourself a magic patch and all will be well!

If you want to be happy, just SAY SO! Make the choice, and you can change your life with the snap of a finger.

In the Lord of the Rings the ring of power is precisely the same. You want power? Just take the ring!


Of course as soon as you do, you are consumed and destroyed by it, and your world laid waste.

It’s precisely this kind of thinking Chris Watts used to murder his wife. Do you want a better life? Do you want a better wife? Do you want to be healthy and choose to do exactly what you want? Do you want to be free? Do you want control over your money? You do! Well then just make a decision to be happy! Just make the choice! JUST DECIDE TODAY WHAT YOU WANT! It couldn’t be easier.

And so he did.

Chris Watts didn’t kill his family because he felt nothing. He killed because he felt more than he ever had before.

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The 6-part TWO FACE series is available at this link.



  1. CBH


  2. Sylvester

    What I wanted to add to the Nickole A. video on choosing, if I can put it succinctly, it’s fine to want to choose a life without suffering but you have to be allowed, allow yourself, to feel your feelings fully first. You cannot “move on” until you do. I think NA is struggling – wanting to “choose” a life of happiness with her family and new husband but there’s this awful thing she hasn’t fully experienced yet and that’s the murder of her friend and her friend’s children. It’s horrible. Choose that. Because that’s what she has, right now. But what we see here is a family that didn’t express what they were all about – Chris was unhappy for a very very long time, with Shan’ann, with his family. Shan’ann lived in a fairy tale world, and the Rzucek’s were treading lightly. They could see something was wrong but no one addressed it. If they loved Chris like a son and like a brother, why did no one say hey man, what’s going on with you? Do you want to talk? I’m all for “choosing”, but you can’t choose another way to be until you are that, and NA obviously isn’t, nor should she feel compelled to be. You cannot paste a happy face sticker over unhappiness and then try to operate inside that. Which is what everyone was doing in this case and hoping no one would notice.

    • Ralph Oscar

      “You cannot paste a happy face sticker over unhappiness and then try to operate inside that. Which is what everyone was doing in this case and hoping no one would notice.”

      Well said. That was *exactly* what was going on. Living a façade, an inauthentic life, being a cardboard cutout of your own best life instead of anything real.

  3. Fred

    Amazingly accurate and straight to the truth of the matter post. This has probably been my favorite post of yours Nick, and there’s been many. As I read this one, I had a clear understanding and a eureka moment. This Watts case has been like one of those visual illusion images where your eyes get tricked into looking at the positive image while ignoring the negative space. I finally see the negative space -that Watts was driven to this because he was confronted with perhaps the most pure absolute flood of emotions and feelings he had ever experienced. That combined with whatever stunted emotional development he has made this such a combustible scenario that would only have one outcome unless someone intervened. But with someone as closed off as Watts who seemed to play the part of the doting father and submissive husband, I’m not sure many would’ve seen the red flags.

    • nickvdl

      Thanks Fred. This is the sort of analysis you’ll find in the TWO FACE books. I prefer not to do it in blogs because it requires context and some sober self-evaluation.

    • Laura Thompson

      Good post, Fred!

  4. Clean Queen

    It’s interesting how much more authentic Nichol appears to be compared to Shan’ann. Even though I find her message to personally be a little hokey, she seems genuine. She doesn’t come across as a walking talking sales pitch, even though there are some Thrive bombs. Notice how differently their lives turned out. (At least NA’s thus far.)
    I completely agree with Ralph’s comments. It is not as simple as just a choice. That seems to be going down the road of magical thinking again. Ralph is right, you have to actually get there first. Whether it’s rehabilitation, the grieving process, or anything else difficult, real work has to be done in order to achieve lasting peace and happiness. As far as my own life is concerned, that’s an ongoing battle. Maybe that’s true for everyone, I don’t know. But I definitely don’t feel like it’s something that can just be decided on and bam, life is different. It takes work and self reflection galore. Most importantly, a person must be honest with themselves. None of that is easy, but it’s really the only true way.

    • Todd

      I think you mean Nickole.

      • Clean Queen

        Atkinson, yes. Too many Nichol/Nickole/Nikki’s! My SIL’s name too. And of course they’re all spelled differently.

        • Ralph Oscar

          And all these *deviant* spellings without a single example of the standard spelling! It’s enough to make a person need a nap.

          • thetinytech2018

            They think it makes them unique. All it does it alienate them and if for some reason they actually end up getting good enough grades for a decent school, they’ll be passed over. A gentleman did studies on it as he was always in the top of his class yet couldn’t even get medical residency due to his name being so odd. He ended up changing it. I’ll see if I can find the link but basically if you name your children obscure, idiotic names, you set them up for failure. The Nicole thing isn’t so bad, but then you have names like Jayden, payden, Abcde (teen mother with a tenth grade education claims it’s pronounced absidy and so on. Nevaeh is one of the worst, I have two friends that do social work and they each have atleast 3 kids minimum in the system with that name. Some may say it’s not a predictor, but it appears there’s little truth to that.

          • SRC

            I’ve taught at university and thought I’d seen/heard some very unusual names, but I’m thinking Abcde just about takes the cake. And I’m quite surprised at how popularized the name Neveah is becoming; there seems to be something almost devilish about spelling heaven backwards…

            Good thing the first mom didn’t have twins. Absidy and Absidef?! 😂

    • Ralph Oscar

      Ralph here – you meant Sylvester, right?

      I haven’t been particularly *insightful* here…

      • Clean Queen

        LOL! Yes to this too!

  5. Ralph Oscar

    I was watching some Netflix, as I’ve come down with my first cold of the season (curses!), which turned out to be Ali Wong’s standup comedy, “Baby Cobra”. Something she said about 3/4 of the way through really struck me – she was talking about how, during her pregnancy (she’s 7.5 months along at the time of this show), she’s been a real bitch to her husband, tearing him down, totally bagging on him. Because she *knows* that, if he leaves her, she’s screwed. So she wants to keep his self-esteem *low* so he’ll stay with her!

    As Homer Simpson says, “It’s funny ‘cuz it’s TRUE!” Could this have been part of Shan’Ann’s motivation in treating Chris so shabbily? Because she and the girls needed him so desperately? The more I try to wrap my mind around this case, the more *sad* it appears. Just so sad…

    • CBH

      I think that may have been a big part of it. Which is why she became so desperate and needy when he changed and became aloof and wanting out after Nichol.

  6. Shannon

    Really enjoyed reading this Post.

  7. Sheis

    Excellent post!

  8. Sylvester

    Decided to drop in on a few Armchair Detective videos – I find him pretty humorous. He doesn’t rile me up because I can see that he’s got his shadow beliefs and is going to stick to them and if I don’t agree then that’s fine, I don’t need to comment. He thinks Chris had an accomplice however, and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that he did – or that it was NK. They are also tossing around Chris’s second confession, that Chris doesn’t seem to be clear on how his girls died and I can go along with that. But they are saying that either the autopsy was wrong or the oil obliterated blanket fibers in the girl’s noses and throat, etc. If Chris did not smother his girls with Celeste’s blanket then there would be no fibers in the nose and throat regardless of whether oil was involved or not. So why they are even toying with the notion that Chris’s second confession was accurate is beyond me other than they want to be right about the shadow theory.

    I do see what looks like a shadow coming toward Chris in the driveway, then he bends to pick something up (unless it’s an altered video) – I do see it. But it also could be Chris’s own shadow approaching from the cab of the truck. Another reason I don’t believe the girls wandered out to the driveway is could they have reached the door handle and pushed the door open? Also it’s too coincidental that right after that Chris drives away. Inside job accomplished. If CeCe hadn’t of walked out at that moment – if the shadow was she – would he have gone inside and spent the time retrieving her? Given how afraid they were of Santa Claus I would think they would have been hiding after this tragic event seeing their mother murdered or wrapped in a sheet and drug down the stairs. But no, in the Armchair Detective’s theory Bella is buckled in already and all he needs now is for CeCe to come out to him, then he can buckle her in and drive away.

    • Shannon

      I’ve gone on his Videos. There’s so much wanted time, him yapping. It’s gets on my nerves. I see his followers believe him….yuk.
      Anyways, I don’t believe his whole theory.

    • CBH

      The worst of it is that he’s now emailing video clips and nagging District Attorney Rourke about Nichol Kessinger being the accomplice!😖

  9. Sylvester

    If so, then where’s her shadow on the driveway!

    • SRC

      He’s working on it, Sylvester! Between signing so many autographs and such he just hasn’t had time in his editing studio…

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