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

Is Saturday’s Documentary KILLER DAD on HLN Sympathetic to Chris Watts?

I tend to agree with MommyRamblings [see clip at bottom] that if you’re going to go to the trouble to shoot a reenactment, at least get the details right. Thin slicing the preview, Shan’ann appears to be buried in a sheet [she wasn’t].

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And in bright daylight [not true either].

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Even the “uniform”, the most basic aspect, is wrong. Watts wore dark blue jeans, a dark navy blue t-shirt and rubber work boots with no laces. He had one pant leg tucked in and the other out, which was unusual for the usually neat and snappy dresser.


In HLN’s coverage the boots don’t seem right either. Watts had two pairs, and likely wore the black pair while disposing of the bodies and working on the hatches.

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The other pair of Red Wing boots were new, and brown.

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While these details are important, and while documentary producers are supposed to get the basics right especially when it comes to executing high-profile true crime cases, it’s even more concerning when they simply regurgitate the killer’s own version as if it were gospel – with no analysis and no critical thinking.

Like this:

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In the HLN trailer we hear one of Watts’ new girlfriends saying “he just snapped”. This is typical apologia in a case like this where the killer is trying to minimize a premeditated murder into a random moment where he inexplicably lost his head. The snapping also breaks all contextual connections. His snapping supposedly has nothing to do with the serious debt he was in, or his plans for the future. If it’s true and he did snap, it would make an unforgivable crime slightly more tolerable, but it’s not true.

We know it’s not true based on Watts’ cool as cucumber behavior on bodycam footage throughout August 13th and during the Sermon on the Porch on the morning of August 14th. If he snapped he would still be emotionally overwhelmed, even remorseful or regretful when he calmed down hours later. But there’s no trace of that. There’s no real grief.

We also know immediately after getting rid of the bodies Watts went into debt damage control mode – calling the school, calling Groupon about the hotel reservation and getting the ball rolling with his realtor.

He didn’t just snap, and so any documentary still spouting this nonsense a year after the fact is still at the kindergarten level of analysis. Are we simply going to accept what Chris Watts says, when he’s a liar and a fiend?

Even the District Attorney at the sentencing hearing on November 19th was absolutely clear that Watts “coldly and deliberately ended four lives, not in a fit of rage, but in a calculating manner.”

When are we going to start talking about that face – the second face – of Chris Watts?

More: “Chris Watts Just Snapped” 

“It’s like a long fuse that finally just went to its end…” VS “I just snapped”

Chris Watts describes the reason he killed Shan’ann Watts: “I just snapped” [AUDIO Part 1+2]

Chris Watts: The Plea Deal Document and the Second Confession Don’t Jibe

Why the Second Confession Scenario as Dramatized in FAMILY MAN, FAMILY MURDERER is full of crap

Chris Watts claims “Rage” was the operative emotion that made him wipe out his family. But this is what a genuine “Rage” Annihilation looks like…


  1. Kathleen

    Appears sloppy work. What new girl friend.

  2. Laura Thompson

    I won’t even watch any shows devoted to covering this case, because I know that all I’ll hear is basic regurgitated bullshit. In fact, there are very few YouTubers I still subscribe to or pay attention to, because I don’t believe Watts’ February “confession”, and thus, do not need to hear any analysis of what I believe to be untrue.

    When the producers can’t even get the small details rigjht, that doesn’t bode well for the content of the program in general. That other ID program on Watts from a couple or few months ago has been sitting in my “watch later” list on YouTube since it came available, but I should probably go ahead and just delete it, because it isn’t going to provide any new insights, or tell me anything I didn’t already know, or give me any new perspectives.

    I fervently wish I could find more analysis of an aspect that intrigues me: the photos Watts took that Sunday evening, of the 4 pieces of chicken on the grill, the fridge temperature, etc. I think those items are important, but not sure exactly how the fit into the big picture of the case. Insofar as I know, Nick has been the only regular crime writer to touch upon it. Did any of the detectives or Tammy or Grahm ever ask him about any of that in any interview or interrogation? I can’t recall if so. Anyway, if I were a detective on this case, I would want to do a deeper dive into what that all means, or doesn’t mean, in the context of what happened.

    • Sally D.

      Agreed — it’s really frustrating that the media (and most people in general, except those at this site) have bought into the second confession with hardly a question. The ride to the tanks, the girls being silent and cradling each other, Shan’nan lying on the floor under their feet, Bella’s last words, etc., please. I understand that the detectives wanted to keep Chris talking and possibly open to another interview at a later time, but maybe it would have been helpful if they had mixed in a few more probing questions here and there. They almost seemed to be spoon feeding him answers, and when he ran with those they probably didn’t believe him but never really challenged him either. Most mainstream media has just basically regurgitated the already known parts of the case, while the Watts family financial problems, a major catalyst in the whole thing, have been, for the most part, conspicuously absent.

      • Ralph Oscar

        Why none of the sources has apparently thought to address the looming problem of the Watts family’s financial collapse, I can’t understand. That’s the elephant in the room. What’s the number one cause of divorce? Financial problems! So surely, in a case where a husband *murders* his wife instead of divorcing her, shouldn’t the number one angle to investigate be the financial situation? Yet sound of crickets.

        • nickvdl

          Maybe their finances were also demon possessed?

        • Kathleen

          I too wonder about the finances and the family fight Shan’ann helped fuel in the Carolinas. We know they had a hearing on the Monday after the murders about money owed to the association. Was either of them planning on attending? Apparently not? We know they were months behind on mortgage payments and foreclosure loomed. Part of Chris’s twisted motivation for the slayings could have been to preempt outrageously expensive preschool tuition. The family was in the eye of a hurricane of financial disaster. Then, when Shan’ann flies out to see her family, always seeming completely heedless of money, she allows a relatively minor ice cream mix up ( it was careless on the mother in law’s part but I would have simply done a store run to get my kid a treat that worked ), to turn into a major catastrophe. When you feel your husband slipping away and you desperately want to reel him back in, you fight with his parents, disallow him from taking his kids to see them, and constantly beat the drum about how they tried to poison their grand daughter? Probably not going to work. I wonder if Watts just couldn’t see a way out of any of it? And the circumstances would have certainly enhance Kessinger’s attractiveness, allowing Chris a happy fantasy about a simple, childless, debt free life that was ever, ever going to happen. He and his wife were in a deep hole of denial. A true thing Kessinger said was that he would have committed these crimes with or without her in the picture, that she may have accelerated the crisis.

          • nickvdl

            Well another way of looking at it is by antagonizing his parents, Shan’ann was not only finally and fully severing what little bond she had with his parents, she was also giving him a license – indirectly – to do what he did. Meaning, in his mind, he may have felt if something not good happened to Shan’ann his parents “wouldn’t mind”.

          • Ralph Oscar

            And that’s how it turned out with his parents, wasn’t it? Really?

    • Sideaffected

      Those things really annoy me. Because there were 4 pieces (and he was photographing it) I always felt that was some sort of alibi even though that makes little sense for many reasons (she wasn’t out of town, kids had pizza, do kids eat grilled chicken..) The fridge thermometer, the odometer, the oxycodone are far more interesting than Bella’s fake last words

  3. Shannon

    Third confession……why.
    Anyone making money here?
    Guess Chris decided he needs someone …a few to visit for a few reasons.
    Company for him, females.
    Someone to talk to public for him.
    Helping him with money for inside the jail.

  4. Boomtown Cat

    The above comment is not as I wrote, especially the last paragraph. It’s severely altered. It doesn’t make sense. I you don’t feel comfortable publishing my comment, can you please just delete it? Thanks!

    • nickvdl

      Sure. I won’t be publishing any comments here accusing Nichol Kessinger of being an accessory to murder. You’re welcome to put your own comments on your social media and I’m sure her lawyer will be in contact with you directly, and you can then take it up with them. In any event I think it’s cowardly to make brazen and defamatory comments under an avatar where your real name is withheld. If you’re so confident in your opinions, sign them with your real name, and then go and defend your accusations in court.

      • Boomtown Cat

        Yes, I’m rather new to true crime communities. So, let me try again!

        Earlier this year, you wrote an excellent post about “plausible deniability”: Chris tried to incorporate the murder and subsequent disposal at a remote ranch into his daily routine. Indeed, he repeatedly made a point during the TV interview about how he left early for work that day and how he left at 5:15am and Shanann was still there. When he mentioned it for the third time, he slipped and blurted out “I left early and she barely let me…” Lying is hard and one is bound to make a mistake (point #1)

        On a similar note – he talked about the tool thieves who tried to break into the garage with a flat-head screwdriver. That was the reason Chris said he asked Nate to let his work truck park in front of his neighbor’s house. He told this story to Officer Coonrod in Nate’s livingroom then to the other officers who visited him later on Monday. Detective Baumhover reported in the Discovery that there was actually a series of tool thefts in the area. I don’t think his garage was actually broken into. However, I believe he hoped to make his claimed experience sound like a part of the crime trend in the neighborhood and thus lend some credibility to his b.s. story.

        So, what if Chris tried doing something similar with Shanann’s disappearance itself? He might’ve either looked for or been inspired by, a precedence which could work as the background fabric (however scant) for him to weave her disappearance into. The case of Rita Gutierrez from Longmont in March 2018 might be just that (point #2). As he planned and researched, he must’ve paid particular attention to how long the LE searched for the person, when they declared her dead & called off the search and who made the announcement. He must’ve learned the most crucial thing is never to let them find the body. That’s all I’m saying.

    • JC

      Boom Cat, I’d like to challenge any and all of us to consider the flip side of Kessinger’s experience. Although short of unwittingly taking a married lover capable of murdering his family, this John Oliver interview with Monica Lewinski provides a look into the reality of having one’s life destroyed by public scrutiny. In some ways, it’s similar to a lifelong prison sentence. The interview begins at 15:40, and it’s insightful. Hopefully, it will stir critical thinking skills into some people falling for the mob mentality abyss.

  5. Kathleen

    I seriously doubt that Kessinger’s lawyers would allow her to get into a situation where she might have to testify. Way to many omissions and contradictions. But, Nick is wise to protect the factual nature of commentary on his site.

    • nickvdl

      It’s not just that – YouTube channels have been shut down due to reckless, and defamatory speculation. I guess some folks are new to true crime.

  6. duttdip

    The ONLY additional and interesting information I got from the so-called special episode was the DA stating there were bare-footprints on the garbage bags used to dispose off Shanann. If those are the footprints of one of the daughters, it would corroborate Watt’s version of the story that Bella and Cece were traveling bare-footed in the backseat with Shanann’s body on the floor.

    If this was already in the discovery documents, I might have missed it.

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