At the end of September, when HLN was still doing bumper-to-bumper coverage of the Watts case, Ashleigh Banfield interviewed Matt Francis. HLN described Francis as a “life-long” friend of Shan’ann’s. Really? Was he?

What was Shanann Watts like in high school? We speak exclusively with her 9th grade teacher & life-long friend as he gives us insights on how she evolved into an outgoing loving mom. He also shares with us a letter he received from Shanann.

Posted by Ashleigh Banfield on Thursday, September 27, 2018

As proof of their friendship, a letter from 2002 [16 years ago, about the time Shan’ann left school] is read out on HLN.

“I just wanted you to know that I am going to miss you dearly. You are truly something special to me. You have always been there for me and have been very helpful. You helped bring out the true person in me back in the 9th grade…” 

So even when Shan’ann wrote the letter, she was eighteen-years-old, and looking back on four years prior.

“…and I can’t thank you enough for that [bringing out the true person in me]. Not only have you been there for me as a friend, but you have also been like a father figure to me.”

Anyway, that’s HLN’s version of the letter. Here’s the actual letter posted onto Facebook on September 25th.

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We won’t deal with the portent here of why she needed a father figure at fourteen, or what the blanked out text represents, or why the HLN version cuts off where it does.

What we want to examine here is whether Francis was really there for Shan’ann after 2002, or was he more of a johnny-come-lately?

Going back to the start of her interview, Banfield says: “You weren’t just her 9th grade teacher, you became a very close friend of hers…You kept up a friendship with her, right up to as I understand it, two weeks before she died you last communicated.”

As she says these words, Francis nods. His response is weird though.

FRANCIS: Yeah…I find out kinda late too [he found out late that his close friend had died]. But she was just doing a convention over there, and I was just so impressed with her doing Facebook Live, and the way she did it, and the way she’d become such an encourager, ummm…I just gave her a big…how much I’m proud of her on the Facebook Live message. 

Francis can’t seem to say the words, but Shan’ann was doing a Thrive convention, and Francis seemed to serendipitously stumble on her Facebook Live. From the sounds of his message, congratulating her on her performance, it was the first time in years that they’d communicated.

In other words, Shan’ann was selling her Thrive Kool-Aid, and Francis was buying, at least to the extent that he felt her selling patches at premium prices was “encouragement”, a Thrive keyword.

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There’s also an ironic moment where Banfield asks Francis how to pronounce Shan’ann’s name, and he role-plays it, bobbing his head as SHANNA ANN. He describes her name as being “two syllables”, which is right, but the way he says it there are three.

Just looking at her name, that’s not how anyone would pronounce it correctly, and in three years [and to the current day] Francis doesn’t seem to know for sure how to say her name. For the record it’s Shan Ann [Shun-nan].

If Francis and HLN are a tad disingenuous in this interview [perhaps more than a tad], the real value in it is Francis’ observation that his former charge was once painfully shy, inside her shell and at fourteen she was teased a lot. In 20 years Shan’ann had transformed herself – not just physically, but also her personality.

In another segment, it’s weird that Francis describes Shan’ann in the present tense:

FRANCIS: Yeah, so…[laughs]. You’ll be amazed at how far she’s come; she’s a- she’s a wonderful, beautiful human being…who…uh…learned the power of giving her life away…uh…brings true joy.

Awkward.

But this part is meaningful.

FRANCIS: She was a very insecure young lady who didn’t have a lot of friends when I met her at fourteen-years-old. Uh…but she was brave enough to sign-up at beginning acting, and that’s where I think she made a big mistake…

Huh?

We won’t delve any further into this, but personally I think it’s a poor show that Francis holds himself up to the media spotlight as a genuine, lifelong friend when that doesn’t appear to be the case at all.

A single comment on a Facebook Live promotional video doesn’t conver life-long friendship status, and what’s more likely, is that Shan’ann added him as a potential customer and asked him to be part of her Facebook Live audience and see if he was interested. Call it a hunch.