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

Moments before the murder, was there an emotional conversation or wasn’t there?

A major area of disagreement between TCRS and the mainstream media version of events [and Chris Watts’ 1st and 2nd version of events] is this idea that there was an argument, or an emotional conversation, that either played out just before or led directly to the murders.

The idea of an argument makes sense. God knows there was a lot to argue about. She was pregnant, he was having an affair, they were losing the house, his parents had been booted out of the family circle and there was that $68 charge he still had to explain…

It also makes sense that something very real had to trigger a triple murder. It seems less likely on the face of it that Watts would out of a silent scenario simply decide to kill his family.

At 4:49 in the clip below Watts is confronted with the idea of an argument. This happens roughly 24 hours after the incident, on the morning of August 14th, a Tuesday.

It’s worth hovering the cursor over 4:49 and playing it back a few times to catch the subtlety in the answer, and all the micro-expressions.

You’ll notice Watts looks up at the ceiling and also sways and smiles while saying they had didn’t argue, they had an emotional conversation “but”, then he smiles openly when he says, “I’ll leave it at that…and I just want them back.”

You either believe him on this score or you don’t. If you believe him, then you’re part of the crowd who believe the crime was a sort of a rage murder, an impulsive crime of passion. Something crazy happened in his head and he just snapped.

Fullscreen capture 20190603 153155

If you don’t believe him, then you’re figuring Watts as a coward who didn’t have the balls to confront his wife. Not about an affair, nor about a divorce. He just couldn’t do it.

Fullscreen capture 20190603 152440

And if that’s the case, the murder was premeditated. If Shan’ann’s murder was premeditated, so were the children. On this hinge, everything changes.


  1. Sylvester

    It’s all said with a shrug and a sniff – it was more like an emotional argument and he’ll just leave it at that and of course I don’t even think they had an emotional argument that night, maybe a few different nights, but not that night. In the ID investigation piece the photographer says when he recorded Watts on his porch he was “a little weirded out”.

    In the investigation piece when interrogated as we all may remember, Chris told Tammy Lee “I didn’t just throw them in my truck.” With his second confession isn’t he saying he just threw them in the truck and drove them to the burial site? Well, he did just throw them in the truck, but they were wrapped up and not alive.

    The piece ends with the narrator summing up “he’s a family annihilator with pent up rage” but in this documentary there is no attempt to talk about the pent up rage. He’s just put away in a box for now with a bow on top that says “Family Annihilator.” But at least they didn’t add a special tag called sociopath.

    • nickvdl

      The producers of these series seem to know that what the public really want is a label. That’s enough. So to classify Watts as an “Annihilator” is enough. The label is a kind of psychological code that we understand him and know what happened. We also know why. Of course it isn’t, but reading between the lines, these TV companies have millions to spend on their own experts who know how to easily manipulate [aka bullshit] the masses.

      Same thing, although slightly different, is the default label for what happened to Madeleine McCann. “It was a pedophile abduction…” It addresses the issue, it “explains” the disappearance by – as you say – putting it inside a nice, neat box and putting a label on it with a nice bow. The sad and shocking thing is that this kind of patronizing content actually works. It satisfies the audience in a momentary way but ultimately leaves them hungry for more.

      And then a few months later more promises of new insights and breakthroughs which they again never deliver. By never really addressing or answering these questions, these cases become the gift that keeps giving.

      Of course from a TCRS perspective, it’s a cynical way to treat true crime, and one could argue it’s also lazy, if not reckless and dishonest. No wonder society is so fucked up. Even when we’re settling down to get real about what actually happened, it’s a scenario of experts fudging the truth.

      • CBH

        “Even when we’re settling down to get real about what actually happened, it’s a scenario of experts fudging the truth.”———

        Well said.

  2. Sylvester

    To make an analogy to the way murders are treated in these television documentary series of today and what Andy Warhol observed about Hollywood in the early sixties (“Popism in the Sixties”) he said he kept thinking about the “silly unreal way the movies treated sex.” Every ten years they would show another part of the body or say another dirty word on screen that would stretch out the box office for years, instead of just giving it away all at once. But then when foreign films and underground films started getting big it threw Hollywood’s timetable off. Hollywood would say they were “protecting the public morality” when in fact they were going to be rushed into complete nudity when all along they’d been counting on lots of money from a long-drawn-out striptease. (from Andy Warhol Popism in the Sixties).

    Essentially it is as you said, the documentaries, the real crime productions, the investigation discoveries, and their ilk offer a long drawn out striptease so that we’ll be left wanting and keep coming back for more (“it works!”). And, has very little to nothing to do with true crime or crime solving. And worse – it is reckless and dishonest. However, one can watch with detached interest just to see what they are up to now.

    • nickvdl

      That striptease analogy is brilliant. If you think about how the shapes of car gradually evolve, and also fashion, entire seasons devoted to a color or bell bottoms, it’s all carefully timed and rolled out. People are treated like mindless sheep.

      • Sylvester

        Yes, marketing. Ripe fodder for manipulative minds. Just look at how the MLM’s grab their prey. Work from home (which means you don’t have to work much, you can just sit around and rake in the money); Be your own boss (you can do it YOUR way, no one telling you how to do it, no 9-5 job clocking in and out with half hour lunch breaks and mandatory overtime and a boss who is bossing you around with less education than you have); Free cars, trips, house of your dreams (work smart, not hard) Live the good life (big house, nice clothes, your attitude determines your altitude). Only look at the suppressed rage and horror that lurked beneath the proud dad of two awesome daughters who love the….(black t shirt) Steelers.

  3. sunnie23

    I believe there’s the possibility that he might have premeditated Shannan’s murder (by definition), but not the girls’. If what he says is true about Bella walking in & asking, “What is wrong with Mommy?” this may have sealed their fates. While driving to dispose of Shannan’s body, he made the decision to try to save himself and the girls had to go because they knew too much & would tell.

    • nickvdl

      Fair enough. So when do you think the premeditation of his wife started?

      • sunnie23

        I think he may have had “the seed planted” after Shannan lost her mind at his parents’ house in NC following NutGate.
        His parents were shocked and concerned about her behavior, and he confided in them that he wanted to ask for a divorce. He may have even admitted he’d met someone else (or not). He told them he had a plan to rent an apartment with bunk beds after selling the house.
        They were afraid for him, knowing Shannan’s recent volatility and vindictive behavior, and encouraged him to write a note saying that if anything happened to him or the girls, to question Shannan.
        I think the Watts intentions were pure, but they may have inadvertently set the wheels in motion for Chris to consider how he might break free from Shannan without encountering the parental alienation, character assassination, and financial disaster that confronting her with the truth and asking for divorce would entail.

        • Bett2be

          Putting out nuts for a child thats allergic is anything but pure.

          • nickvdl

            It does seem like there could have been some vindictiveness or insensitivity, but on the other side, there were other children there also who wanted to eat ice cream. It wasn’t like a plate of nuts was put in front of her and she was told – “eat it”. Parents will know their attitudes to this, but only a mom can really police the safety of their own young child. It’s asking a lot for someone else to do it, but it shouldn’t be asking too much to ask grandma to make an effort.

    • Karen

      I just cannot see him driving with a dead body for 45 minutes with two little girls and no car seats, one of them nicknamed rampage. I don’t think rampage would have sat quietly, sleeping off and on all the way to the oil site

  4. Laura Thompson

    No “emotional conversation” took place that night/morning. The girls were already dead when Shan’ann arrived home, and he surprise attacked her and killed her, just as he laid out in one of the “what are some ways you could make a person disappear?” scenarios to Agent Lee in the pre-polygraph interview.

    Had there been any conversation, she would have had the opportunity to fight back. Her wounds would have looked very different, and he would have had marks bruises, and scratches all over his body. The inferences we can draw from the *actual known facts* of the case seem to preclude any conversation leading to Watts “snapping”. It amuses me that people are actually buying what he’s trying to sell.

    Has anyone else noticed the weird way he answers questions? It’s not even just that he lies; I’ve listened to other murderers being interrogated and lying about their involvement, but Watts just responds so oddly. It’s not just that he prevaricates or obfuscates or just outright lies; they all do that. It’s the *way* in which he does so. It’s hard to describe exactly what I mean, but, an example is that at times, the answers he gives are not even responses to the questions posed to him. I just looked again at his FBI and CBI interviews yesterday, and the weirdness really stuck out to me this time.

    • nickvdl

      Yes, the idea of being around a corner and “luring”, right?

      It would be good if you could provide some examples of the weirdness. What I’ve noticed is him and his father mumble incoherently a lot. It might be easier to fathom in person, but on an audio tape one has to play his responses a few times just to hear what the hell he’s saying. It’s maddening.

      • Laura Thompson

        I will go back and listen again to some portions of his interviews so I can provide some actual examples. (I generally do that when making a point, but typed that response in a rush last night; plus, there are just so many!)

        And yes, the mumbling certainly makes it difficult at times to hear his (and especially his dad’s) responses.

    • Bett2be

      Your analysis makes sense and I noticed his weird manner as well. He’s talking about things
      in strangely indirect way. Not the way you’d normally talk about events. I wonder if it’s because
      he’s so distracted trying to read others for cues to know what to say next.

    • Karen

      Laura, I’m assuming you listened to the audio of the prison interview? I have listened to it no less than eight times and every time I hear it I hear something different. Not only with him but with Coder and Lee as well

  5. Sylvester

    Hi Laura. I was thinking about what you said – the weird way Watts answers questions. He does say the right things but his emotions don’t seem to be caught up in what he is saying. He’s talking about someone who cares for his family, but he himself, doesn’t. What comes out is someone who is disconnected from reality, which should be the gravity of the situation, but what you get is someone who is mimicking how he thinks someone should act who should be reacting. That’s what’s weird. That is what makes him a Two Face. He didn’t just become a Two Face when the murders happened, he likely has always been that way. Some would call that sociopathic, others would call it weak, still others call it weird and frankly I don’t know what to call it. It’s different from Scott Peterson. Peterson felt entitled, special, and was arrogant. But when you look at the picture here to the right of Scott’s eyes on the cover of “Night Eternal” and Watt’s deadpan expression when he was arrested and photographed, they look very similar.

  6. Sylvester

    He picked up some traits from each parent.

  7. Sideaffected

    It annoys me to no end that so many people refer to his various statements as factual. Even in the new “documentary” with the prosecutor-a newsperson details the crime by giving his version-if I didn’t already know the case, I’d assume they had info from more than the horse’s mouth.

    Also, no one ever brings up that moment of the porch sermon. It is pretty shocking-he is quite smug here cause he still knows something we don’t know, and I think he thinks still we never will. He’s always said the emotional convo occurred to give a reason, and then that “just happening” created another thing that happened only because of that. It’s more palatable than he planned to kill everyone for at least a few days as an etch-a-sketch of his life

  8. Bett2be

    I think he’s both psychopathic and also has borderline features, as he clearly has attachment
    issues as well as emotional dysregulation (just because he always looks calm and somewhat
    detached doesn’t mean he’s not boiling away underneath)

    I’m guessing after the honeymoon period was over, if not before, Chris began resenting
    Shan’ann out of jealousy for her more outgoing personality, popularity and competence
    in handling the day to day of life. If you look at their wedding photos, there are some odd
    moments where he is just staring at her stony faced, while she appears to be genuinely full
    of joy. Not sure about all the hate this woman gets after the fact, she appears to genuinely
    care for and admire him, and yes, takes some pot shots occasionally, but I’ve seen and heard
    far, far worse. The MLM is a bigger issue to be sure, but he appeared to have been, at least
    at first, quite enthusiastic as well. Im guessing initially he thought he’d hit the jackpot, a beautiful vivacious and seemingly competent woman who could save him from being a mama’s boy forever.
    I think if was entirely his idea to lash out at his family because he thought he didn’t need them
    anymore, but just as easily reunited with them when he became resentful of Shan’ann. He probably
    played them off against the other, always the passive put upon victim. Back and forth, back and
    forth, until his resentment stayed focused solely on Shan’ann.

    I think that when Shan’ann’s difficulty with his toxic, narcissistic family became coupled with
    the patina wearing off both the MLM and day to day chore/work mill that became his life,
    his infatuation with his fairy tale grown up life wore off abruptly and he started to resent
    Shan’ann yet remained a passive work horse. It’s a fatalistic stance, allowing him to fully
    become the passive victim in his head and at the same time to nurture his anger at why his
    grandiose visions were not playing out the way he’d fantasized. After awhile, with the
    encouragement of his toxic family, and perhaps a few colleagues, Shan’ann became the
    representation of why his perfect life didn’t happen. So he works, and resists true involvement
    with the family, which kicks Shan’ann into overdrive, and she becomes more entrenched in
    her role of trying to make MLM work, keep the house and kids taken care of OCD style
    and look her part for the fairy tale they both had initially wanted to have. The increasing
    debt and pressure to keep up appearances for a lifestyle he no longer was invested in
    became intolerable.

    I don’t think Chris ever had a chance to understand himself or get real about how life works.
    He didn’t really have a personality. His affair with NK seemed like that kind of stuff you do
    in college, hanging out, going camping, sports bars, lots of sex, immature obsession, no
    responsibilities. He seemed so resentful he just couldn’t have NK guilt free and with all the
    family assets. I think he did a slow boil due to a number of factors: Shan’ann’s failure to help
    him secure the perfect fairy tale life, his poisonous parents having killed off his true personality
    as a child, his jealousy of Shan’ann’s greater ease with people and genuine love and joy of life,
    as well as NK’s pressure to divorce Shan’ann. The perfect brew for a slow premeditation and
    planning of murder.

    I think he planned it, poorly, flitting in and out of his various psychological states, and that is why
    is appears to be so sloppy, despite his higher than average intelligence. His poor planning also
    shows his arrogance that others will not question his poorly concocted story and accept at face
    value his pretense of grieving father. Given all the comments and insights offered on this site,
    I think it most likely he killed the girls, probably drugging them first before smothering them to
    make it easier, and then waited for Shan’ann. I think it’s possible that his account of how he
    killed her is accurate, it would account best for her lack of defensive wounds. She had
    accepted whatever bullshit glib apology he proffered and thought he was going to make love to
    her and didn’t realize what he was really doing until it was too late.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he had even measured the girls bodies before the night of their murders
    to make sure they would fit into pipe opening. As well, I think he may have also dug the grave for Shan’ann before the day of her murder. He may have been considering burning her body, but then decided against it as too messy. Too hard to go undetected. I’m guessing he wanted to be done
    with the disposal of their bodies as quickly as possible, so that he could go through pretense of a
    normal work day. He would have needed to have run through the maintenance, checking of the
    site before he returned home, as he had gone on record with his coworker that that was what he
    would be doing that day. Thus his delay in returning home when Nicole called him numerous
    times. I don’t think he decided to return until he received the call from the police,
    he likely would have stayed for the entire day otherwise.

    It’s difficult to realize how utterly devoid of emotion and trance like the psychopathic person can
    become. They are robotic when they drop into a certain pathological state of mind. Doing routine
    tasks at the work site would have been a calming balm for him coming out of the murders and body
    disposal. Due to compartmentalization he would have been able to blot out the awful reality of going through the work day surrounded by the bodies of his family. That he didn’t consider how
    extraordinary that he’d call in his daughter’s leaving the school, the call to the realtor about selling
    the house, the exact same day as his family’s disappearance is amazing indeed.

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