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

Chris Watts: Are Expert Psychologists Qualified to Prognosticate on Criminal Psychology?

At 2.11 in the clip, two expert psychologists from Colorado are shown a clip of Chris Watts sobbing into his hands with his father’s arm over his shoulder, and the two agents [both with their hands against their chins] looking on silently off his opposite shoulder.

The assessment of the psychologist is triumphant:

“It’s up! [Smiles]. He’s caught. Now he’s upset. Because he’s caught.This is the first time you see emotion…Because now he’s caught. You didn’t see emotion when his family was killed, you see emotion now that he’s caught…”

At the time Watts was “confessing” to Shan’ann murdering the kids [in the house] and himself reacting to this in a mindless rage. Are the agents in the room also thinking:

It’s up! He’s caught. Now he’s upset. Because he’s caught. 

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If the agents were thinking that, why go back and interview him a second time for almost five hours?

And clip goes on to say “why?” will likely never be answered. With that attitude, why even bring in psychologists? The “we’ll never know why” cop out is kindergarten true crime analysis. The assessment that a criminal is “evil” is schoolyard level criminal analysis.

It’s hardly a case of never. It’s more a case of applying one’s mind on a particular for weeks, months or longer on end. Put some effort in. Study the case. Think about the case. When one does that the why becomes clearer, if not entirely obvious.

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There’s also a postscript calling Watts a “master manipulator”. Yes, the guy you saw swaying next to the television and not fooling anyone there, apparently did fool someone.

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I discuss and analyze the psychology of Chris and Shan’ann Watts in detail in the TWO FACE series, as this latest review of Book #7 illustrates:

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  1. Lynn

    I think they will have to write a new chapter in psychology textbooks about Chris Watts. He is in a league of his own.

    • Shannon

      Are you familiar with crimes, murders?
      I guess then all killers are in a league of their own.

  2. Shannon

    I think he realized with the emotions it was over……and it all came out.

  3. Jade

    Most family annihilators kill their entire families and themselves and clearly CW did not do that but I think his guilt and Bella’s last words will kill him. Clearly CW is not a family annihilator. Clearly CW did not kill them to end suffering, debt or the likes. CW, much like Susan Smith, killed them so he could move on with his life by himself and possibly with a love interest. If you truly study CW and this case there is a missing link in the puzzle.

    • nickvdl

      Clearly CW did not kill them to end suffering, debt or the likes. CW>>>Are you sure?

    • Ralph Oscar

      If CW could effectively “disappear” them, he could immediately withdraw the girls from the too-expensive-and-unnecessary daycare/”preschool” and stop spending $5,000/month on that nothing. That’s one of the first things CW did after disposing of his victims.

      If CW could effectively “disappear” them, he could put that albatross of a house on the market and sell it for a fat profit. That’s another of the first things CW did after disposing of his victims.

      See a pattern developing? Just maybe?

  4. Jenn H.

    Chris Watts is a family ahhnilator and he was emotional in that video
    only because he was caught (more likely than not.) I didn’t need to see the psychologists to confirm this notion to figure that out.
    I’ve watched, studied, everything on this case from day one.
    This case isn’t over. There is more investigation going on.
    Yes, I think criminal psychologists are qualified to prognosticate on criminal psychology.

    • nickvdl

      I don’t see it that way. He was acting emotional so as not get caught, at least not implicated further in the crime than he already was, and it worked. I guess it depends on how you define caught. We’ve also seen Scott Peterson act emotional on TV [at 11 minutes in the clip below]. It’s not because he’s caught, it’s so that he doesn’t get caught.

      • Ralph Oscar

        Nick, one of the fatal missteps Chris made was not being aware of how *vigilant* women tend to be, given the risks to them posed by men. Take a look at this paragraph, from the excellent article, “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced”:

        >>Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?<<

        This is about the risks to women posed by men, who may or may not be rapists and/or murderers – it's impossible to tell by looking at someone. But women frequently have these "have each other's back" networks where they watch out for each other – it's likely something that Chris was unaware of, so he couldn't really have planned for it appropriately. Because this "watching out for each other" is so much a part of female socialization, he could have predicted that NUA would have expected to have contact with Shan'Ann, and then become alarmed if she couldn't reach her.

        Then again, if he *had* been aware and part of his plan had been to use Shan'Ann's phone to send texts so no one got immediately suspicious, that part of the plan would have been thwarted by the changed password, and by the time he realized that, he was too far from the home computer to use that to send the necessary messages…

        • nickvdl

          It makes me wonder what impact him being high on Thrive – and possibly sleep deprived – had on addling his mind. Shan’ann publishing the picture of the doll in the sheet on Instagram ought to have given any premeditated murderer pause. The flight delay as well, although if he’d already murdered the children, then he heard about the flight delay after that, too late…

      • Jane

        I totally agree with you Nick. Those tears did not represent getting caught. He took the bait from the detective who suggested that maybe Shanann had done something to cause him to kill her. He knew he didn’t pass the polygraph, so he had to go the route of perhaps getting a lesser charge. His tears were being used as a prop in achieving this.

        Another problem I had with these psychologists, (whom I too thought were bringing nothing to the table), were the comments that were made concerning true crime “obsessed” people. How it’s dangerous to study the case too much because it will cause paranoia. Seriously?

        • nickvdl

          The psychologists I know – who do it for a living – seem like not the most balanced people in the world.

          • Sylvester

            That was certainly the case in grad school. But those kids were trying for an MFCC license – marriage and family counseling therapists. Some had demons they were dealing with. One student I remember really had a gift. He was bright and very intuitive and I hope he went all the way through. If you can make it through the course curriculum, do the 3000 hours of practicum, and pass the licensing test you should be ready. But by and large I found phD’s in Clinical to be far more qualified than MFCC therapists. Because more is required, the program is longer, and Psychiatry is an option with a medical license. Therapists are a dime a dozen. Not to say that there aren’t very good therapists out there.

    • JC

      The problem I see with the “expert” opinions from psychology professionals is they tend to go for the low hanging fruit and grab at oversimplified descriptions of the psychology surrounding criminal behaviors or their reactions after the fact. I think they often fail to look at the larger picture. One good example is what Ralph refers to from “Schrodinger’s Rapist” that are inherent of women’s relationships with one another.

      We know Chris Watts was easily influenced by the individuals/groups he was spending the most time with – the psychology of the group think at Anadarko (as with Thrive) should enter into consideration as well. This article describes a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and objectification in Chris Watts’ workplace. Something worth considering, I believe – the oil industry and Thrive make this particular family annihilation quite unique to examine.

      • Sylvester

        I’m glad you brought that up JC. It was what I was thinking earlier – the psychology of group think at Anadarko. Good thinking again JC. Watts was told by Luke Epple that he needed to stay away from work until he had his head on straight (not those words), but at least until it got resolved where his wife and children had gone to. Epple then goes on to explain the family work philosophy at Anadarko, that they deal with hazardous materials and if anyone’s head isn’t in the game other workers could be affected. He also stressed to Watts that family comes first. Watts had already told Epple that he may be parking his work truck somewhere else as he and his wife were having problems. He put Epple on alert, but what else could he do – walk to Nichole’s? So Watts was walking a fine line. He sure as hell didn’t want to lose his job, if he lost his job he would lose Nichole wouldn’t he?

        • JC

          Yes, it could be that Watts’ job within the company played into Nichole’s career aspirations and the corporate environment in which she found herself.

          The day to day culture in a workplace can affect the way a woman might conduct herself, present herself, and create a strategy to succeed in a company despite the disadvantages of her gender. In my professional experience, I’ve observed inauthentic personas portrayed and relationships form between women and coworkers, if the distribution of power is unbalanced and they feel they have to “play the game” in order to advance in the industry. She wanted/needed him to keep his job at Anadarko, at least in the short run. I believe it’s possible that the Anadarko culture had as much impact on the image Nichole presented to the world as the Thrive culture had on Shanann’s projected premium lifestyle for Thrive. “As within, so without.”

  5. Sylvester

    Agent Lee mentioned the first time around that Chris didn’t seem to exhibit the usual emotions one would associate with having your children and wife go missing. It was soon after that that he uttered a “sniffing” sound. So when the agents go back for round 2 Watts is making sure he chokes up and sniffles. We can’t see his face, so we don’t know if he spilled any tears but I do not think he is emotional even now. And he hasn’t come to grips with what he did yet. And he may never. Scott Peterson was a much better actor. But the trained eye can see through Peterson too. He let those tears stream down his face and stay there so as to be seen worldwide and interpreted as grief. A poor salesman, an amateur actor, but better than Watts.

  6. thetinytech2018

    Nick – did you see the motions filled in Weld County regarding Chris’s Case? There are numerous motions to stop or limit press coverage. He seemed really hell bent on trying to “shoo away” any media coverage regarding the case and trial (that didn’t end up happening). Just a few of them are – (22) OBJECTION TO REQUEST FOR EXPANDED MEDIA COVERAGE FILED BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


    He also filed the same motions for KMGH, The Denver Post, The Coloradoan etc….

    He also requested a “Protection order” where he requests an order requiring the Office of the District Attorney, and other law enforcement personnel, to obtain consent from defense counsel before attempting to interview the Defendant. I believe it was denied. I’m aware it’s the defense attorney(s) that are filing the motions but I’m sure Chris had input.

    If you’re interested I can send you the link, but if you’ve seen it (likely) you can disregard this, but I’m going through alot of the motions and some of them are fascinating.

    He also made a motion to invoke statutory, case law and constitutional privileges, including any records that detail his or his families MEDICAL, psychiatric, drug counseling, anger management drug treatment etc. Remain private. He really didn’t want anybody knowing those medical records, eh?

    • nickvdl

      Yup am aware of it. It was clearly a case he – or someone – wanted to suppress and make go away, which it largely has.

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