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Was the plea deal coerced? The biggest revelation from FAMILY MAN, FAMILY MURDERER

The kindgarten-level of true crime reporting and true crime analysis in Family Man, Family Murder – which aired on Investigation Discovery on Sunday night [June 2nd, 2019]  – was shocking.

This is a channel that specializes in true crime, so they do know how to do better.  It’s not a case of laziness or recklessness. The episode is meant to be exactly as it is.

Jenn H. left an excellent comment on the review post comparing the speed at which the prosecution put everything in a box and tied it with a neat bow to the documentary doing the same thing.

The documentary is narrated entirely from a prosecutorial perspective. We literally see two prosecutors doing all the heavy lifting and not really anyone else. There are zero witnesses, and virtually nothing new in the episode. No parents are interviewed, nor any of the public defenders. Virtually no new faces, besides those of a few reporters, appear. No prison guards, no friends of Watts or Shan’ann, no co-workers. From beginning to end the word ANADARKO is left out, though Thrive and Le-Vel are mentioned once or twice. It’s really an incredible achievement.

But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s have a look at something that may – may – be revelatory. It’s this:

It appears to be an email written to Steve Wrenn regarding the most crucial aspect of this case – the plea deal. That the prosecutors would simply hand this snippet of information over is interesting. Perhaps they don’t want to be caught with their pants down, and perhaps like the episode itself [coming out in early June] it’s another attempt to pop the balloon that is the Watts case, and control – that is, suppress – the narrative.

This case had all the ingredients to become the most high-profile trial in America’s true crime history [and still does]. While that’s unlikely now, if this email is genuine and not simply staged along with the other dramatizations [and it might be] then we can see just how quickly the screws were tightened on the Watts case.

The email is dated August 26th, 2018 at 11:58. The email reads:

To: Steve Wrenn

Subject: Chris Watts

Dear Detective Wrenn

The defendant, Christopher Watts, is willing to agree to waive his right to be indicted and to plead guilty to all charges of first degree murder charges if our office is willing to remove the possibility of the death penalty.


John Walsch

To be honest I thought the “our” in “our office” was a typo. Shouldn’t it have been “your” office. Of course the public defender and the public prosecutor’s office is theoretically the same legal apparatus. It’s just a little strange, isn’t it?. Imagine Jodi Arias’ lawyer or Casey Anthony’s lawyer contacting the prosecutor and making suggestions for what “our office” might be willing to do?

Since the interview with Wrenn [detective Wrenn?] is held within his office, and the email seems to be pointed out on a laptop or iPad, it’s implied that Wrenn is simply pointing it out.

Well, why not be more explicit about it?

Many pundits, TCRS included, felt the Watts case was rushed even when the case was basically over by November 19th, barely three months after the incident. But according to this email, the case was over within two weeks.

Had the news of the plea deal been released then, there would have been overwhelming outrage. Justifiably. Wasn’t that why it’s been staged the way it has, to allow the public to calm down and the outrage over the crime to blow over? A year later, has it blown over?

Even the discovery documents were handed over very quickly after the sentencing, and the folks associated with Watts washed their hands off the case. They weren’t going to talk about it again, it was over and done with.  But then a few niggly bits emerged in that massive tranche of mostly meaningless discovery. Like this:

When the media wanted to verify the date of Kessinger’s search – was it really September 2017 – the district attorney didn’t really want to talk about it. He’d moved on. The case was over as far as he was concerned.

NOVEMBER 28, 2018:

CrimeOnline reached records supervisor Amanda Purcell on Thursday after repeated inquiries made to multiple Colorado law enforcement agencies to confirm the accuracy of an entry in the Phone Data Review included in the discovery documents connected to the Chris Watts murder case, released by the Weld County District Attorney’s office late last month.

Asked if the entry in the Phone Data Review showing that Kessinger, who was involved in an affair with Chris Watts when he murdered his wife Shanann Watts and two young daughters, showing that Kessinger performed an internet search for “Shanann Watts” on her cell phone on September 1, 2017, was typographically correct, Purcell said it was a typo in the report.

Purcell was not able to provide additional clarification about another section of the phone data review that indicates Kessinger searched for Chris and/or Shanann Watts prior to beginning her relationship with Chris Watts in the spring of 2018, and referred our inquiry to the Weld County District Attorney’s office. CrimeOnline will provide further updates when more information is available.

DECEMBER 10, 2018

As the discovery documents and audio of a police interview with Kessinger show, the 30-year-old woman who reportedly met Watts at Anadarko Petroluem, where they both worked at the time, was aware Watts was married but believed he and his wife were headed for certain divorce. She told investigators she was unaware Shanann Watts was pregnant before the missing persons case made the news, and that she didn’t know Shanann’s name until a while after she became involved with Chris Watts.

The discovery documents released by the Weld County District Attorney’s office in late November include reports that indicate Kessinger may have been aware of Chris and/or Shanann Watts prior to when she is believed to have met Chris Watts at work.

CrimeOnline made repeated inquiries with the Weld County District Attorney’s office, the Greeley Police Department, and the Frederick Police Department for clarification about multiple entries in the “Phone Data Review,” included in the discovery documents, which show that Kessinger searched for Shanann Watts and Christopher Watts in 2017.

Following a series of email exchanges and phone calls with the Weld County District Attorney’s office regarding the reports, CrimeOnline spoke by phone to Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke on Monday. Rourke said that the reports reflect what was shown in the forensic analysis of Nichol Kessinger’s phone.

“The dates to which you are referring — in 2017 where it appears she Googled or otherwise searched Shannan — was data that came off her phone,” Rourke said.

“It’s not a typographical error in the report. [The detectives] are reporting what was contained in the data from her phone. I don’t know the answer to the question of why or how those dates ended up in her phone.”

Asked if the District Attorney’s office questioned or planned to question Kessinger about data suggesting she was aware of Chris and Shanann Watts for up to a year before the murders, Rourke said that Chris Watts’ guilty plea precluded any need to further probe the results of the forensic analysis of Kessinger’s phone.

Why is Kessinger’s first Google Search for “Shanann Watts” becoming a Shifting Goalpost? [UPDATED]

But now they’re back. And what they’re talking about is everything we already know, back to front.

The other aspect to note is if the date is right, and the plea deal was offered on August 26th, consider how long the media and public were strung along. The plea deal was only acknowledged in a surprise announcement on November 6th.

And Watts’ parents at the time complained that the deal was coerced, and that they didn’t have access to their son to talk him out of it.

Now, of course, several months later when it’s all done and dusted, Watts has communicated his intention to appeal his conviction. TCRS predicted this outcome way back in November, less than a week after the “shock announcement” of the plea deal.

Chris Watts Plea Deal – things aren’t what they seem!

Chris Watts Will Change his Mind about Pleading Guilty

So what are we really talking about? For starters, an argument could be made that the First Confession was coerced, in the sense that Watts was tricked [and to some extent placed under duress] into making admissions. Personally I have no problem with that, prosecutors have to play certain cards, and use card tricks, with slippery, tricksy criminals.

But a defense lawyer would have a lot to work with here. Others with less to work with – like Amanda Knox – have had a lot of success arguing coercion. Bear in mind at the time this email was apparently written, Watts had only admitted on tape to murdering his wife. So where did the enthusiasm arise to admit guilt on all charges?

What changed in 12 days?

Who was really pushing for a plea deal?

Who was really pulling the strings?


  1. Sylvester

    Didn’t Watts say, in his second confession taped session, that his defense attorneys were willing to go with the scenario that Sha’nann killed the girls? In fact if you go back and read all of the motions, they were putting up a fight in his behalf, requesting DNA testing of the girl’s necks. But then it gets murky. Pundits were saying that the defense attorneys believed Watts story just didn’t add up, or didn’t hold together. It’s hard to imagine his defense attorneys coming out with a statement like that. That would be a breach of attorney-client privilege. Wrenn’s statement in the ID Discovery film suggests his office needed to think about Watt’s plea deal, on their own timeline, using their own process. But it’s odd. Why the abrupt about face from the defense attorneys. I thought that magic memo in the Discovery documentary was odd – like manna from heaven – then Wrenn seems to suggest “his office” wanted to play hard to get. They would need to think about this manna from heaven before agreeing to it. Was pressure brought to bear by a third entity? If so Watts once again has taken it in stride.

    • nickvdl

      If you follow all the motions, that is what was going on in the beginning. So it makes you wonder, what changed his mind?

  2. Holly

    Absolutely coerced and if he hadn’t of opened his big mouth and did the second interview he would’ve stood a good chance at a trial. I believe they went to the Wisc. prison to cynch things up, get him talking so there would be NO question he murdered his family. Once he was able to talk with momma and daddy he realized he been super and stood a strong chance of prosecutorial misconduct. Those conversations between his family while in prison were relayed and hence the reason for the trip to Wisc. He’s a dumb ass a complete dumb ass and you would’ve thought his folks would have told him not to talk to ANYONE! I believe this case is closed\over and done with. I think they dropped the ball on other culpable suspects and without physical evidence and Watts admission of others this case is DONE. The detectives in this case realized early on that others were involved in some capacity but they tied Watts up in a tight little bow and blew the rest off WHY? Theirs a conspiracy here not just surrounding the murders but legally. My honest opinion is that after prosecutors looked at the hundreds of videos Shanann put out, the way she treated him, bankrupted her family, didn’t mother her children during the day, abused them medically, and suffered from Munchausen along with other issues they knew it this case went to court he might get away with killing his family and maybe a 2nd degree charge on her. Prosecutors sacrificed the WHOLE truth of others culpability in order to rush Watts to the gallows. Did he kill them, absolutely, was this premeditated, absolutely, were there others that should be accountable, absolutely. Unfortunately well never know the truth because this is the kind of Justice system this country has been reduced to.

    • Laura Thompson

      Who else do you think was involved, and what evidence is this based on?

      • Gayle Gallien

        NK obviously – but the person isn’t brave enough to just state it. It’s ridiculous and lazy thinking to consider that she was involved in the murders but lazy people still persist in this line of thinking.

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