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

“Why didn’t he just get a divorce?” The Importance of the Inner Voice in True Crime

Every one of the four Toy Story flicks [to date] has been about the same thing: finding your purpose. The fourth installment seems to convey this message more powerfully, at least I thought so, through the metaphor of the inner voice.

Without giving the film away, that voicebox inside some toys becomes very important in this film. What if yours is broken? What if you don’t have an inner voice ? Does that mean you have no conscience?

As it happens, this tends to be our default response when we’re faced with unfathomable crimes like the Watts Family Murders, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann and Who killed JonBenet Ramsey? We can’t understand the people involved so we immediately imagine THEY don’t have a conscience. How could they?

But what if they do, and what if committing these crimes is precisely because this inner voice, this inner purpose, made it impossible not to.


There’s a wonderful scene in Toy Story 4 where Buzz is trying to reason with Woody, trying to show Woody that his efforts to rescue someone are…well…probably not worth it. Woody answers by saying he’s just listening to his inner voice. This prompts Buzz to look for and listen to his. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t have an inner voice, not in the way Woody does anyway.


And it’s true, Buzz doesn’t. None of us have the same inner voice. Each of us has a unique purpose.  So, when faced with a delicate choice, Buzz presses his own buttons, hoping for a programmed response from his inner voice that sits well with him. But each time his programmed answers tell him not to do what he wishes he did want to do. And finally, he obeys his programming and heads off.

This is a fantastic analogy to similar situations in True Crime. We can’t understand why criminals would do some of the things we would never do. Because of that, we put them in a box, call them MONSTER or NARCISSIST or SOCIOPATH, put the box on a shelf and shrug our shoulders with a huff.

The fact is, we’re only going to figure out the why of these crimes if we take the time to figure out their programming [the dynamics, the psychological wiring, the inner dialogue]. Instead of projecting our inner voices onto them, and into their situations, we have to spend some time figuring out who they are. What’s actually going on inside the toy crime and the criminal? And to do that we must examine their voice box inner voice.

534e400a-a495-4639-9f23-58f5333416e0The TWO FACE series endeavors to do that – to figure out why Chris Watts discovered that getting a divorce really wasn’t an option for him.  Like Woody in Toy Story 4, Watts was also a cowboy who finally figured out he’d gotten himself lost, but this crisis also prompted him to try to find his true purpose. In fact, for Watts, being who he was in the situation he was in, divorce didn’t feel like the best option, it felt like the worst option.

Why? How did that happen? And is that happening to us?

By peeling back the layers and getting into the stuffing, we find the humanity hidden under the veneer of a perfect toy. In the same way, when we peer under the veneer of a picture-perfect family, and a picture-postcard marriage, we see real people, with real flaws, and flawed approaches to dealing with serious problems. And perhaps, just perhaps, by looking at what went wrong in their fairy tales, we can avoid making the same mistakes as we head into the sunset in search of our own Happily Ever Afters.


  1. Erica Robinson

    He must’ve initially thought that divorce was the best option because he raised it with Shannan in those previous weeks. Something changed his mind

    • nickvdl

      Well they were both initially considering it as an option. As time went by it didn’t seem like it was an option.

  2. Kaye

    I think what changed his thinking was the immense financial mess they were in. He had no money to put down for a new apartment and his credit check probably wouldn’t have gone well if he did try to get another place. He also did not have a car or the means to put money down on a new car. Without his own place or transportation, he could not make any move. It makes you wonder whether he didn’t have any more money in his 401k. They took out $10,000 to catch up on the mortgage. I’m wondering if that is all he had in the account for the most part. That could also have started a resentment brewing in Chris’s mind—that his 401k money disappeared just like his paycheck every month.

    • nickvdl

      Do you think it was just the financial mess?

      • Kaye

        I think it was a lot of things (the third child on the way, a disconnection with who he was in the marriage with Shan’ann), but I believe the financial dead end they were in started his mind thinking of how to fix it without having to wait (and potentially then lose Ms Kessinger). I am sure she was losing patience with the fact that he hadn’t lined up his own place to stay in. And that was impossible for him.

        • nickvdl

          Millions of Americans are in similar financial positions and in bad marriages. Millions cheat and have affairs. In my opinion that on its own isn’t an explanation. It’s a factor, but it’s secondary.

          • Erica Robinson

            I think Shannan, the kids, the house, the dog, was a package deal. They, collectively, represented one lifestyle. I think Chris was happy with that lifestyle till he met Nichol. He’d had that 5 weeks to spend with Nichol relatively easily as far as affairs go. But his family was coming home and he had to make a choice between a life with Shannan and kids or a life with Nichol. His behaviour and attitude towards his wife & kids during that last week where he joined them on holidays showed he’d already made his choice. He didn’t want them anymore. He didn’t want that entire package. He’d chosen Nichol. All he had to do now was find a non confrontational, clean, quiet way to dispose of his old life so he could start his new one ASAP

          • nickvdl

            I think Chris was happy with that lifestyle till he met Nichol. >>>I think that’s quite a big assumption. Think he committed triple murder just because he preferred someone else?

            All he had to do now was find a non confrontational, clean, quiet way to dispose of his old life so he could start his new one ASAP>>>Yes, but why? What makes the circumstances of this case different compared to the millions in exactly the same circumstances?

          • Erica Robinson

            HE makes the circumstances different. Yes, there’s millions in the same predicament, but the majority of them have a conscience, a heart, a soul. Chris is what’s different. There’s something missing in him

          • nickvdl

            Shan’ann also made things different. She’s a very controlling personality. Nut Gate revealed that if someone upset her apple cart [over nuts in ice cream], things went nuclear. Imagine what an affair while she was pregnant would do.


            That and his introversion created an untenable situation. But it’s interesting how one can look at one side of the equation and it all makes sense, when there is always the other side.

          • Erica Robinson

            None of it makes sense to me. I still don’t even see a motive to kill Shan’ann, let alone his own children. I’ve devoured google and YouTube the past few weeks after becoming interested in the case (I live in Australia and hadn’t followed it when it happened) and I’m thinking about it constantly, frustrated by it really, nothing adds up.
            Have just purchased your last book and I’m so keen to find out what your thoughts are!

          • nickvdl

            OBLIVION will definitely provide you with some deep insight into the Chris Watts case.

          • Ralph Oscar

            “Millions of Americans” – that’s undoubtedly true.

            But we’re talking about a specific one and how *his* situation looked *to him*.

            To him, that might have been enough of an explanation, especially given Shan’Ann’s domineering personality, the power imbalance within their relationship, and the fact that she would not have been cooperative about an equitable distribution of assets.

            Oh, wait – that’s more than one factor…

  3. Lisa Simmons

    I think everything he did when killing his wife and children was confrontational.

    • nickvdl

      Not necessarily.

  4. Jenn H.

    Nick thank you for posting this.. I think we forget sometimes, to
    look at the psychological wiring and inner dynamics of why a
    the person would commit the crime they have. We’re busy
    looking at the victims, ( rightfully so), but to better understand a
    case, and putting the pieces together, we must understand all sides.

  5. Sylvester

    In the old days when a woman was unhappy in her marriage she would “go visit mom for a while” and take the kids. She would think this would give her man time to think about their marriage and what “he” needed to do to fix it. Maybe in the old days it worked. But I tend to doubt it worked any more then than it does now. There might be a temporary moment of angst on the part of the man – what will I do without my family – what if they don’t come back? But that momentary angst disappears pretty quickly. Out comes the barbeque, out comes the phone, and here come the good times. Watts pretended to his friends that he was just working out, eating and sleeping in that big ole empty house all by his lonesome but he was having the time of his life. Shan’ann made a fatal mistake leaving and staying away as long as she did. She also likely imposed a 5 week limit on it – he would join her on week 6 for a romantic getaway in Myrtle Beach and they would be all better. Says her. The only annoyances while she was gone for him were the constant phone calls and text messages when he was trying to enjoy himself with someone else.

    • nickvdl

      I think the thing that shocked him was when the Nut Gate drama unfolded he realized he really didn’t care – about anyone [other than his parents].

      • Ralph Oscar

        I agree – I think Shan’Ann went too far. The classic narcissist will push for more drama, more attention, more conflict to keep the lively atmosphere going. It’s not just entertainment (though that’s definitely a factor); it’s *affirmation* that the narcissist is the center of everyone’s attention. The narcissist must always be the star, after all, whether within the family dynamic or in Youtube videos or whatever.

        So Shan’Ann saw an opportunity to create a scene, and she *definitely* did. Did she ever! I suspect that her anxiety over Chris’s unresponsiveness while she and the girls were away played some significant part in this. Shan’Ann saw this as her chance to get Chris to prove his loyalty, come rushing to her side with demonstrations of undying devotion – and he would. Of *course* he would. He always had thus far.

        And then he tossed a spanner into the works. He did not immediately jump as expected. (“How high, ma’am?”) Instead, he started pushing back – challenging Shan’Ann about trying to make him choose between her and her histrionics and his own *parents* (an impossible choice no one should ever be pressured to make).

        The other “collateral damage” aspect here, which Shan’Ann likely did not anticipate, is that she made their daughters into an obstacle. Something that was interfering with him having his relationship with his parents. What a situation! Since he’d been away from them for several weeks by this time – several weeks of *not* being treated like a servant, *not* having chicken nuggets thrown at him, *not* having the constant (probably created) drama of sickly kids, *not* being treated as disrespectfully by his own children as by his wife, *not* having to turn on their rain machines/administer meds/etc., and *not* seeing how the girls were a constant drain of resources (money, energy, concern, etc.) – his response to this New! Improved! drama was likely *very* different from what she was expecting. And now she’d overplayed her hand; there was no taking it back. She’d gone too far, and there was no way to fix this. I suspect Shan’Ann felt great depths of despair at realizing that, in pushing for yet more devotion, more affirmation that SHE was the only important thing in Chris’s life, she’d scuttled her own ship.

  6. Sylvester

    Oh yes, absolutely. That could be why he photographed the portrait on the wall of his family in North Carolina with his cell phone. He was a quiet man, who clicked the “off” button in his head before he stood in the Myrtle Beach surf.

  7. Janie

    Nick refresh my memory. Did Chris’s parents know that Chris and Shanann’s marriage was in trouble? If so, I wonder if the Nut Gate incident was Cindy’s way of pushing Shanann over the edge towards making sure the divorce would happen. I wonder what might have happened if Nut Gate hadn’t occurred, and maybe Shanann actually had a decent time with Chris’s parents. We know they had problems long before, but how do you think it might have gone, let’s say, if Shanann truly tried to change (if possible) and as he spent more time with her and the kids. Let’s even say Kessinger dumped him after finding out he lied and by some miracle, Shanann never found out about her. Do you think he would have tried to fight for Kessinger or let it go? And if not, do you think he would have found another mistress to get serious with and leave Shanann for?
    Of course no one truly knows, but it’s interesting to ponder.

    • nickvdl

      That’s another gray area in this case, but if the Rzuceks knew, it’s even more plausible his folks knew. Ronnie Watts also seemed to know about the affair before Watts told the cops. You could be right about Cindy purposefully fomenting an incident.

    • Ralph Oscar

      It wasn’t anyone else’s fault. Shan’Ann was overbearing and unbearable to live with. Don’t forget the fact that she’d invited her fellow MLM culties to *move into their house* for an indeterminate period of time “while they were getting settled in Colorado”, and these were HUGE people who physically took up *lots* of space, and they were talking about banishing Chris to the basement with the newborn so everyone else could live the life of Riley on his – Chris’s – dime! There was a hostile takeover of Chris’s house brewing, and Chris had likely gotten wind of it. THIS was his way out.

  8. Claudia Sims

    He was just sick of the $!@# show with her and could see what a nightmare divorcing her was going to be. I don’t think she really loved him. She was dependent on him. She had no job, no skills (except scamming) and knew she would end up in section 8 housing, public assistance and she would have get a real job, low wage, dead end. He had skills. He would be paying child support but he’d be ok.

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