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August 1, 2018: Chris Watts’ First Day in North Carolina #1yearagotodayCW

Going by the Phone Data Review, nothing much happens on August 1st. After entire pages filled with mischievous activity preceding his reunion with his family, on the day he’s with his family there’s almost nothing. Watts takes some photos of his kids at The Pavilion Park in Myrtle Beach in the evening and then its on to the next day.

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Okay then, moving right along to #30, August 2nd-

Whoah whoah whoah.  Not so fast.


Think of the context here. Watts has been on an epic high, had the time of his life with his mistress for several weeks, but now he’s back in the thick of things, not only with his wife and children, but his in laws. Is there a seamless transition for him from the bachelor life back to this one? And of course now the roles are reversed. While he was with Kessinger, he was trying to keep his wife in the dark and sort of juggle his obligations to them with what he wanted to do with his mistress.

Now that he’s with his family, does he try to keep his mistress in the dark about anything, or does he persist in keeping his family in the dark. Does he try to be in two places at once – dutifully hanging out with the family in the sense of sort of just showing up, meanwhile staying in regular contact with Kessinger who must be feeling in need of reassurance.

It turns out to be a bit of both. He is keeping his mistress in the dark about something. Him and Shan’ann aren’t separated…well, not until August 1st. And the night of July 31st leading into August 1st is really the first time Shan’ann realizes something is seriously wrong. It’s only on the first night with her man that Shan’ann is alerted for the first time that he might not be [with her, that is].

At the same time Watts is also keeping Shan’ann in the dark. He won’t say why he’s feelings have changed. And he’ll take the whole week to figure out 1) how much they’ve changed 2) what that means and 3) how he intends to fix the situation.

This strategy is exactly what we’d expect from an introvert, and because of this Shan’ann at first isn’t quite sure what it means. She’s used to being in control and controlling the situation, so she sort of figures he’ll come round, and after a few pokes, jabs and barbs, she’ll get him back to jumping when she says jump, and back to dancing to her tune.

This situation starts the moment Watts arrives in Aberdeen the previous night, July 31st. You’ll notice Shan’ann texts him, asking him at 21:49 for a wake-up call at 05:00. Watts responds, “Yup, I got it. Love you.” Shan’ann texts back, “Love you, too.”

Watts probably got very little sleep the night before [at Kessinger], unless he was able to sleep on the plane. At any rate, why are Watts and his wife texting each other about wake up calls and loving each other? Why not simply say it to each other? Isn’t it obvious? Because on his first night in North Carolina they’re sleeping apart. In fact, Shan’ann is sleeping on the couch presumably in the family lounge.

If Watts was very tired, he may have used this as an excuse to go to bed early, either simply because he was tired, or to forestall a deep discussion in the bedroom and in bed, or both. It’s also possible that Shan’ann was upset by Watts’ cool response to her at the airport, and so, to demonstrate her pique, she would sleep on the couch and also make sure her family [the Rzuceks] were aware of what was happening. In other words, the real world version of coercion, but instead of using Facebook as a platform, she was using the family lounge.

If the texts don’t seem adequate proof that something was afoot that first night, then how about Shan’ann’s brother’s statement to CBI agents Matt Sailor and Traci Schwartzbauer on August 21st [Discovery Documents, page 685].

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Frankie Rzucek was also in the home, and noticed Shan’ann sleeping on the couch. Think about it. She’s pregnant, she’s in her own families’ home, and she’s sleeping on the couch. Does this seem like Shan’ann having a fit and electing to sleep there, or Watts demanding to sleep alone?

Now, we might want to dial back the melodrama and say it was a one-off. Because Frankie also says this:

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But the next night the Watts family headed to Myrtle Beach for the week, so Frankie wouldn’t know what the sleeping arrangements were after that. It’s easy to find out what they were, because Shan’ann talks to her friends about crying herself to sleep all week. We’ll get to that in due course. At this point we only want to be clear about the state of mind Watts is in when he arrives in North Carolina, and how quickly the battle lines are drawn.

Although we can’t rely on everything Watts says, on this point he lets slip that the moment he arrived in North Carolina, everything was different.

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Now, another aspect Frankie raises is that the moment Watts arrived in North Carolina, Shan’ann became sick. 

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It may be that the stress and strain of what was happening made her feel sick, or it may be that she was acting up to curry sympathy. In this context it’s even more bizarre that Shan’ann ended up sleeping on the couch.

We also need to pay urgent attention to Frankie knowing Watts was “acting standoffish” on Day 1, but “they” [presumably Frankie and his parents] did not think much about it. 

Let’s hover over this aspect for a minute. Shan’ann is sick and out of sorts, Watts arrives in town after not seeing his family for 5 weeks. His wife is 13 weeks pregnant. Their son/brother in law is sleeping under the same roof but they didn’t think much about him being standoffish to their daughter/son?

If we take this statement at face value, it suggests that the Rzuceks took Shan’ann with a pinch of salt, not only her tantrums, but her health scares. In this respect, one can say they found themselves in the same boat as Watts, and allegorically at least, let Shan’ann act out on the couch while they slept in their beds.

On this issue, let’s look at an interview with the Ruzuceks where they were asked specifically if they noticed Shan’ann wasn’t happy:

At 1:17 in the clip below, the ABC reporter mentions Shan’ann appearing to have the perfect life, and that she was happy. Both Sandi and Frank are adamant here that Shan’ann was “absolutely” happy, although Sandi seems more certain of herself than Shan’ann’s father.

It beggars belief in true crime when someone ends up dead, that the family and friends stick to a narrative that everything was perfect, it was all a wonderful fairy tale until the moment it was a nightmare. This spiel repeats itself so often in true crime it’s virtually a cliche. But the explanation is simple. The murderer is a monster who just snapped. No further context necessary. No underlying dynamics are relevant. Except they are.

On August 1st, the morning after Shan’ann’s headaches and vomiting and sleeping alone on the couch seems to have passed. She’s excited about August and Thriving again!

I’m so excited about August! Girls and I Fly home August 7th! I fly to Scottsdale Aug 10-12 for an amazing weekend with my Le-Vel family! Gender Reveal for Baby Watts #3! Our team is having lots of success, growth both personally and business, several new friends starting their Thrive Experience and lots of new Promoters who decided to change their life! Lots of excitement, Lots to be Thankful for!

You know what I love about waking up everyday…It’s a brand new day to have a fresh start, to be better than I was yesterday, To help someone feel better and happier, to make someone smile and laugh!

I am just truly blessed and love waking up thankful and happy!

If you are not happy, it’s up to you to change that!

Everyone have an amazing day and absolutely fantastic month!

On August 1st, what’s missing from this anecdote? There’s zero mention of a significant change in her life – her husband is back at her side after 5 weeks apart.

Besides that, Shan’ann seems to be in a position to counsel and provide guidance to others less fortunate than herself.

I am just truly blessed and love waking up thankful and happy! 

Now imagine if you’re Sandi, Frank and Frankie, and you know the Shan’ann on the couch, you’ve seen her, and then you see that. One reason you wouldn’t want to be too truthful about the real situation is because the above is a sales pitch. It’s how Shan’ann makes money, by trying to convince the world how happy and well they are [and subsequent to her murder, the Rzuceks inherited her sales business].

It doesn’t take a genius, an expert, an FBI agent or even a rocket scientist to gauge the level of harmony or happiness from these pictures and video.

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At 0:55 in the clip below Shan’ann is documenting on Facebook how happy she and the family are. It’s the first time the kids are at the beach and Bella is mostly terrified [and unwilling to hold her father’s hand]. Shan’ann never mentions Watts, and Watts never talks to her. Frank seems to tippy-toe in and out of the periphery. It’s a stilted scene, but with Shan’ann in control, her friends assume all is well. They assume Watts’ silence is just the same old introvert they’ve seen in other videos. But it’s not the same Chris.

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While he stands dumbly with Shan’ann’s camera mercilessly trained on him, Watts must be wondering whether Kessinger will see this. And if Shan’ann is suspicious of an affair, she will want her [whoever it is] to see it.

The question is, did she, and if she did, what did she think?



  1. Alisa

    In general, I find it strange that Shan‘ann visited her family for such a long time. Any hints on this? This might be related to her relationship with CW as well…

    • Maura

      I wonder if, due to their poor financial situation, she was considering moving back to NC after they lost the house, and bringing her Thrive business. Both families had members selling it. Perhaps she planned a shorter trip but extended it after getting pregnant. Once there, she was sicker with this pregnancy and could work less on video.

      Her autopsy said she had a gallstone that she didn’t know about which could have made her throw up more. I’ve been sick throughout a pregnancy and she probably attributed it to that. The “morning sickness” never hit me in the am but later in the day and lasted 6 months.

      She could have slept on the couch to be closer to the bathroom if she was ill that first night. Chris may have said he was exhausted and needed a good night’s sleep after his flights so he could sleep alone.

  2. Jenn H.

    Shan’ann by every sense of the the word, was a very upbeat, positive,
    person, and a loving mother. Her friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even a woman who had met her in Mertle beach attested to this.
    I really think good old Chris pulled the wool
    over everyone’s eyes. ( Coward) I’ll say it again, “ he’s a coward!”
    Shan’anns parents probably thought that she slept on the couch
    because she didn’t feel well, and yes, she may have had to be near
    the bathroom. Maura’s thoughts on this are similar to mine.
    Sometimes people know somethings off but don’t know at the moment
    quite what it is.
    Shan’anns mom knew they were having marital problems, so I’m
    sure her father did too. But nothing could have prepared this family’s
    minds for what led up to this!

    • nickvdl

      Jenn you’re entitled to your opinion, but those same friends you mention are invariably fellow Thrive promoters, and even they described her as controlling, anxious and OCD. I don’t think filming your kids on social media at every conceivable special moment qualifies as good mothering, nor does kicking your in laws out of your [and your children’s] life. I also don’t think being upbeat on social media as a spiel to sell expensive powder every day means that’s who you are as a person. A lot of people who are permanently online, especially on social media, are miserable, especially those trying to make money from it.

      nothing could have prepared this family’s minds for what led up to this! >>>That’s one of the reasons why we’re analyzing the day-to-day aspect. The premeditation aspect shows Chris Watts was prepared, and the fact that his behavior changed and he was standoffish – and nobody noticed – ought to be a warning to others in a similarly stressful situation. Shan’ann does say in some of her texts that she was scared of him, or scared of having a baby. This may also be why she had her father tag along to Myrtle Beach, who knows. Laci Peterson also intuited something different in Scott Peterson, but brushed it off. Reeva Steenkamp also had a gut feeling that something was wrong, and ignored it. In all three cases, the message is the same – pay attention to a man who is cheating on you, not in the sense of trying to control him, but for your own safety.

      Incidentally, this “no one could have predicted this” is another cliche in true crime. I’m assuming you’ve not read any of the books on this case, or my books on any of the other high-profile cases. It turns out maladaptative behavior leads to an inevitable result. Chronic lying culminates in an incident somewhere along the line.

      You’re also playing into the cliched psychology by sketching Shan’ann as an upbeat and a loving mother. Maybe she was, but if she was such a good person why did Watts fall out of love with her and cheat on her? Because he was an idiot? Sure. But if Shan’ann was so nice to be around why wouldn’t her husband want to be around her? Chris Watts told Nichol Kessinger Shan’ann was talking shit about him so much that the children were starting to repeat this, and that this really hurt him. The word “shit” is actually used in the Discovery Documents, page 576. How does that jibe with an upbeat and loving person?

      The flip side of the upbeat argument is this:
      Why was she upbeat with Nut Gate going on, her husband having an affair, her finances in ruins, about to lose her home and her poor health? Almost everything you can imagine that was going seriously wrong, was going wrong, and yet Shan’ann was THRIVING regardless. What was the last thing she did in her life? Attended a THRIVE conference. What’s there to be upbeat about when you’re pregnant with no money and the floor falling out from under you? If you’re upbeat under those circumstances then it’s the opposite – no wonder this ended in a disaster.
      Spending 5 weeks in North Carolina with both children – who did that benefit? And when they returned Bella was convinced her sister might die at any time and couldn’t sleep.

      You can make the argument that Shan’ann was a great mother and a great person, and clearly she didn’t deserve what happened to her [no one does], but then what is your argument for why the crime happened? Or is your argument a sort of shrug of the shoulders, shake of the head, and then a resigned sense that what happened was inexplicable and Chris Watts is a monster. The “he’s a monster” argument is a knee-jerk that belongs in the first few minutes after one learns of a crime like this, not a year later. It’s kindergarten level true crime and it’s not what this site is about at all. People are complex and imperfect, and believe it or not, all of us are capable of deceit and if pushed far enough, to murder. So it behooves us to look at these cases and learn from them, learn how to be better people ourselves and learn from their mistakes by being able to recognize ourselves in them. When we look into it and see a perfect fairy tale haunted by a monster, it proves not only do we know nothing about this case, but that we are completely naive about how the world works. And then we can expect to be unprepared for the disasters that come our way.

  3. nickvdl

    Alternative viewpoints are fine, especially if they’re motivated by great insight and based on verified information.

    When we’re talking about personalities, I guess it becomes subjective. One person’s cup of tea is not someone else’s. One of the areas I like to feel I make a valid contribution in is the psychological dynamics. If you’re right, and Watts had absolutely no problem with Shan’ann, then we have to look somewhere else to see what was eating at him, perhaps the finances. If the finances weren’t an issue, then perhaps Kessinger’s influence was greater than we thought. Although Shan’ann says they were both in love when she left Colorado, Watts says the unhappiness started at least a year earlier, and the third pregnancy seemed to be a way [for both of them] to solve the speedbump in their marriage.

    It seems odd that this could be the case if Shan’ann was speaking to a divorce lawyer in March/April.

    To be honest, I think your opinion – which you’re perfectly entitled to – is a bigger insult to me, and pretty disappointing to me. If you’ve read 5 books [out of 9] and followed this blog, and you’ve not shifted your opinion at all from the overly simplistic mainstream version [Shan’ann perfect/Watts monster] after a full year, then in terms of you my work has been an absolute failure. That is tremendously disappointing, a real punch in the gut, and it makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. Was there something I didn’t address, or communicate clearly enough? In the context of writing hundreds of blogs and nine books that quite an invalidating question:

    Didn’t I address something properly for this view to still be out there? Maybe I need to write another 30 blogs on Shan’ann’s personality?

    I recently had someone on Facebook express an opinion on Amanda Knox [based on watching a single documentary]. This person wasn’t aware that I’d written 6 books on Knox, but when this was pointed out, was happy to exit the forum. It’s a very strange scenario. I’m trying to promote my work, someone is very interested in true crime, but when you raise your hand to say you’ve been working probably harder than anyone else on the planet to figure some of these cases out – oh, see ya! Oh, have you written a book on this case that I’m really interested in? Yes. Okay, bye – I’d like you to know how much of a nothing you and your research is compared to my opinion.

    It made me wonder what the person was doing there in first place. And it makes me wonder whether dealing directly with readers has any point, because it seems to be about insisting often on uninformed beliefs and holding these up as equal books written on the topic. One book is a lot of work. But it seems readers are quick to dismiss this. Really? Are everyone’s opinions equal no matter what they are? And if one dares to counter an opinion, it’s a case of a talented but rude/arrogant author etc.

    Probably the problem has to do with respect. Some of the pundits out there are on television, and in this respect people see them as experts or celebrities. I think my books are regarded as throwaway speculation by many people, no matter how many books I write. Is there anyone out there who’s looked at when these TWO FACE books were written based on very little information, and what they predicted from the get go? It doesn’t seem to matter.

    I feel that true crime is a serious business. It’s about people lying to each other, bullshitting, and murdering each other. It’s scenarios where people end up dead. True crime is about real lives on the line, and if enough people figure out what’s happening in some of these cases, our society can improve. Our relationships can become better. True crime is about covering up the murder by cleaning away evidence and covering it up with words and stories. We try to uncover what is covered up, reveal what is hidden, explain the inexplicable, and perhaps learn something along the way. There are populists in true crime who say what people want to hear, and what sounds right. But decent true crime deserves discipline, and a strict no nonsense approach to the truth. Not only to the truth, but also to bullshit. We should have compassion for the victim, but as soon the conversation becomes a sideshow about how people are talking to each other about the case, then that’s not helpful at all. Then it’s perhaps better not to engage at all.

    Maybe the best thing is to simply put the research out there and not engage with the reader in any other way. It does seem that by being more interactive, the communication isn’t given much worth. This is clearly counter to the point of this site, which is to promote my work.

  4. nickvdl

    I think the other aspect that’s really disappointing was that I pertinently quoted a CNN source claiming precisely what you are claiming about how Shan’ann was perceived. I put it there to illustrate what not to think, which took you on a tangent saying, “Let’s talk about Shan’ann…” She was a wonderful loving mother wasn’t she?

    So yes it is frustrating to try to build a case and then have someone completely break that line, but I guess it’s a free world, and people are free to think and talk about whatever they want.

  5. Frances


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