Normally we’re less interested in opinions than in facts at TCRS.
The Chris Watts case isn’t a normal case.
There is a place for speculation in true crime, but speculation needs to be informed and anchored in the patterns, personalities and dynamics of a particular case to be meaningful or worthwhile. Typically, speculation needs to be limited.
In a criminal trial, a prosecutor can rap the knuckles of his opposition counsel [or witnesses] by objecting to “speculation”, ditto defense counsel. For the most part we try to run the same sort of tight ship in true crime. What can be proven? What does the evidence say? What do we know for a fact? Where does it take us?
As a true crime narrator, I try to weigh any speculation down with a host of references, facts and underlying data. Once anchored, we can set the ship adrift and see which way the tide draws it.
The Watts case is an enigma because despite having a tsunami of information, we really don’t seem to have anything concrete – about anything.
The five questions below are meant to check your knowledge, insight and understanding in this case. If you’re able to answer any of these questions instantly, chances are you’ve still not developed the capacity to really think critically and constructively about this case. Good true crime makes us better thinkers, and ultimately, better people.
Incidentally, there are no right or wrong answers to these 5 questions, just varying degrees of being better, or closer to reality [whatever that might be]. So, without further ado, put on your thinking caps and lets get started:
1. Do you think the Rzuceks saw the autopsies? Motivate your answer.
At 01:10 in the 20/20 documentary Devil in Disguise, a reporter mentions Watts and Kessinger having sex three or four times a day. But I wonder if he’s not confusing this ratio with how often she said they met each week.
They began to be physically intimate in early July and got together four or five times a week.
Shanann’s flight was unexpectedly delayed by three hours. That’s why she arrived home at 01:48 on Monday, August 13th.
In the days before her death, Shanann shared fears with friends that Chris was cheating on her. She also complained of not feeling well.
On May 7 2018 the Watts family appeared in Strive magazine, the official magazine for Thrive brand promotors.
In the article Shanann articulated how she turned herself inside out to make others happy: “My role was as a caretaker and to make people feel better, yet I was wiped out…I was working 65 hours a week and was also taking care of my kids. I rarely got any sleep, but my passion for wanting more for my kids was stronger than anything else.”
Nicole Atkinson, the friend who last saw Shanann alive, attended the same business trip.
Atkinson described the last time she saw Shanann, after dropping her off from the airport: “She went inside, turned around and waved at me and shut the door.”
The parents faced a hefty court fine with Wyndham Hill Master Association Inc.a homeowners association. They were due in court on August 24 to face a lawsuit for a $1,533.80 debt. An attorney was not listed in court records for the Watts.
Shanann had a doctor’s appointment on the same morning of her murder. She was expected to hear her unborn child’s heartbeat for the first time.
The doctor’s appointment was at 10:00.
They planned to name their unborn son Niko.
A Change.org petition started by friends demands that Colorado adopt a new law, named “Niko’s Law,” to make the killing of an unborn baby like the Watts’ son first-degree murder. If passed it will recognize an unborn 15 week old foetus as having the legal right to life.
Another friend had arranged to meet Shanann on the day of her death. Shanann never showed up.
A drone spotted a bedsheet in a field near the oil tanks.
The sheet matched the pattern of several pillowcases and a top sheet recovered from a kitchen trash can from [Watts’] residence early that day.
Christopher worked for Anadarko Petroleum Co.
Shanann worked for Le-Vela, a company that sells Thrive health and wellness products.
She worked at Le-Vel since January 2016 and had become a successful brand promoter, rising to the 80K level.
Christopher’s income was close to the $60K mark in 2018.
Shanann had been with her children visiting family for six weeks before her work trip. She then returned home on August 7 and left again for Arizona on August 10, leaving her daughters at home with her husband.
Shanann’s father is Frank Rzucek Sr., the most prominent family member to speak out about the events thus far.
On July 31, Shanann wrote enthusiastically on Facebook about her August plans.“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!”
Shanann was 34 years old when she died. She was a year older than her husband.
Christopher Watts was originally from Oklahoma.
In recent times, the Watts family had undertaken overseas trips and appeared to be going through a more prosperous phase. These included vacations to New Orleans, Toronto, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, Las Vegas and San Diego.
Christopher’s colleagues seemed to be aware that he was having an affair.
Their list of assets included their home valued at $400,000, a 2006 Ford Mustang with more than 97,000 miles on it, wedding rings and a dog, which they valued at $5.
The list of creditors included Ford Motor Company and Toys “R” Us.
Their debts included $11,245 in student loans, according to Denver U.S. Bankruptcy Court records.
Choice Recovery in Columbus, Ohio, was seeking to recover $740 for health and chiropractic services.
Byron Falls, who bought Shanann Watts’ house in Belmont, west of Charlotte, said the Watts family had been in a hurry to sell and left behind the furniture as part of the sale.
The Watts appeared to be going through a rocky period when they moved from North Carolina to Colorado in 2012.
The address of their home in a quiet subdivision 10 minutes drive east of Frederick, Colorado: 2825 Saratoga Trail.
On August 8th, 5 days before the murders, Shanann posted the following message on Facebook:“Two loads of laundry, dusted the whole house, cleaned the refrigerator and pantry, went grocery shopping to two stores with the kids, took Celeste to a doctor’s appointment, emptied seven suitcases and three backpacks, fed kids a ‘million’ times, showered, went through six weeks of mail, washed the kitchen floor, cleaned up a kids’ disaster and repacked my suitcase for Arizona this Friday. All while four months preggo!”
Four-year-old Bella has been described as a talkative child, for her age.
A pair of women’s shoes that had been kicked off lay by the front door.
A suitcase, apparently from her Arizona trip, stood at the bottom of the stairs.
The bodies were dumped at a work site 40 miles east of the family’s home.
The oil site has been identified as CERVI 319 with GPS coordinates 40.21624374, -104.36667
The girls’ bodies were submerged in crude oil for four days.
The bodies of the children were submerged in separate tanks.
Shan’ann was buried near two oil tanks.
Watts worked at the location until he was arrested.
The Watts couple married in North Carolina less than six years ago, in 2012.
They moved to Colorado soon after getting married.
On Tuesday, the day before his arrest on Wednesday August 15, Watts issued a televised plea for the return of his wife and daughters. The plea occurred on the morning after the murder.
According to Chris Watts’s 2015 paycheck he was paying $1.20 per month in Child Lie Insurance, and $3.00 per month in Spouse Life Insurance.
Shanann had a dog called Deeter. In one interview, a dog barks and Chris Watts reacts disproportionately. Dogs also played a role in the Scott Peterson case. Laci had a dog called McKenzie.
According to Amanda Thayer, Shan’ann had only jokingly mentioned suspicions of Chris having an affair.
“Honestly, she wasn’t worried, but when your husband doesn’t answer his text messages, as a woman, your thought process just goes to the wrong things. It was never a serious concern of hers.”- Amanda Thayer
Shan’ann met Chris online during “Dark Period 8 Years Before Murder” – People
“I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and I also believe people are placed in our life for a reason.”- Shanann Watts Facebook post, April 2018.
In the half-hour Facebook-Live clip posted below, we get an inside glimpse into the Watts household. It’s an extended view. In the first few minutes Shanann comments about her younger daughter’s restlessness: “This child does not sit still – ever!”
At ten minutes into the clip Shanann says: “No matter what you do, you just have to love what you do. And I love what I do.” When she tries to illustrate it with examples, Shanann thinks and apologises for rambling. It’s an interesting moment, because one can’t help wondering – are you really happy?
From the same clip: “I will continue not letting the haters get in my way. I will continue not to be discouraged. I will continue not letting people judge…me, or what I do. I will continue to not let people influence my decisions on what I do in life. I will continue fighting…for my children.For my husband. For myself.” [Shanann seems a little tearful here]. “And nobody’s gonna hold me back…from…my future. My kid’s future. No one’s gonna tell me the right way of living life. No one’s gonna tell me what I should and shouldn’t do for a job. Like…if I’m bringing in income and taking care of my family then I’m being a better mom than I’ve [with emphasis] ever been because I’m here….You have to be strong, you have to be confident…You have to be you at the end of the day.” What does she mean by this? Chris is in the room with her – is she saying what she’s saying purposely to communicate with him?
“You’re on top of the world when you surround yourself with people that make you better. Like, they don’t bring the bad outa you, they bring the good outa you. And from that point on I fought like hell. I worked my tail off. I busted my butt. I was never a big…um…dreamer sort of thing, cos…I-my insecurities brought me down. But I was single for a long time [gulps emotionally] and my goal was to buy a house. I was tired of paying someone else’s mortgage, because you know that’s what you do when you rent. And…I wanted to buy a house. Aaannd…I wanted to buy a house that I could resell one day and make a profit off of. And so I worked and worked and worked and worked. I lost a lotta friends because a lotta my friends were still young. And I was 25-years-old when I built my first house. My family doesn’t come from money, we always worked hard for what we had. And…I did. I bought my first house at 25-years-old. And that was the biggest accomplishment I felt I’ve ever done because it felt like I did it by myself. I did it by working my tail off [laughs]. And…um…I had that to show for it. Ummm…and then I met Chris. Uhh…my health challenges happened. Um…I was diagnosed with uh…um…health challenges…[gulps emotionally] and…then I met Chris. I met Chris because of those health challenges. Um…my friend actually sent me a friend suggestion for him. It was actually from his cousin’s wife. And…um…I deleted it. Like…I’mm not interested…I don’t wanna meet a guy. Um, so I deleted her friend suggestion for him…” This has echoes of Laci writing a message on a note, or was it a napkin, and Scott throwing it away. That lives can turn, can be made or broken, on such fickle behavior, such small moments is frightening.
“I was diagnosed two months later…and I went through…I would say…one of the darkest times of my life because things just got scarier. Um…worse. I thought my life was crumbling underneath me and I didn’t know which way to turn. I didn’t have a lotta friends at the time because [dog barks]…friends I did have I lost because they didn’t understand that I looked perfectly fine, and I felt horribly inside. Uhm…horribly. I felt a lot of discomforts. A lot of aches. A lot of bad moods. Ummm…I met a lotta friends online…aannnnndd in the part where I gave up on everything, I quit my job [it was kinda temporarily] of nine years. I just said I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. You don’t understand me. You don’t understand what’s going on in my life and I quit. And…I…gotta friend suggestion-friend request from Chris.” Smiles.
“I was in a really really really bad place, and I gotta friend suh-friend request from Chris on Facebook. And I was like – uhhhh, what the heck. I’m never gonna meet him. Accept.”
“Well one thing led to another and eight years later we have two kids, [gushes breathlessly] we live in Colorado and he…he’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. And because of my health challenges. Because I got so sick, I let him in. And he only knew me at that time. He knew me at my worst. And he accepted me.”
“And [brushes the hair off her face]you know, through your vows, like through sickness and everything…he’s been there. He was the one who let me lay on him and fall asleep for 3-and-a-half hours, on his lap, while he had to pee. Um…he is the best thing that has ever-ever happened to me.”
“Know that no matter how hard life gets. No matter how low you feel, know that deep down, like in your heart, that’s there’s a purpose, there’s a reason – for everything. We may not understand it at the time. It’s hard to understand it at the time [laughs]. I’m telling you, when I met Chris I pushed him away. I gave every excuse for him to run [looks at the sky] …I gave him an out every single day. I gave him an out. And if you guys know my story with Chris, you know I gave him an out. I mean, he went to my colonoscopy. I…tortured him. I rejected him. I pushed him away time and time and time again. But when I cancelled dates – last minute – cos that’s how life is with my health challenges, you cancel things last minute and it’s hard for people to get, it’s hard for me to understand, but – he stuck around. And he stuck around because…he was the one for me. And he…is amazing. And I can’t tell you how wonderful he is.”
“But on top of all of that, when I got sick I reached out to support groups online. And I built relationships with so many – so many people that have similar health challenges or the same, and we’ve built a relationships stronger than some relationships I’ve known for over 20 years. Some that I’ve known over – my whole life. And these people are in my life for a reason.”
“Life happens [Dog barks, Shanann snaps her finger]. So write down all the things you think are bad in your life. All the negative in your life. Write it down. [Sniffs]. But then I want you to…on the other side of the paper, write down what has happened in your life that you’re grateful for. The third step is – take a pen and mark over, like the connect the two things that happened.”
-5:30 – -5:00: “Do you see what I want to do here. I want you to connect the negatives with the positives in your life. And when you look at that, life becomes so much brighter. Like [glances up], so much brighter when you can do that. So, you know, sometimes we have to reassess. Like…reassess our life, like…[glances sideways]…sometimes we feel like life’s attacking us. And when we do, we have to sit back and look at the big picture. And it may not be something right away, and if it’s happening to you right now, you may not see the big picture. You may not see it until six months down the road, or what the connection is. But when you do, it’s gonna all make sense. It’s all gonna click. And you’re gonna be like, why was I beating myself up for no reason at all! Like no reason at all! At all. “
On August 2nd, two weeks before the murders, Chris seemed indifferent to his wife and children.
“I’m living proof that something good comes out of everything negative. Something good comes out of everything you don’t want.”
Unconfirmed on August 28 [and probably not true]: Chris Watts may have been having an affair with an ex-stripper, a man. More here.
Shanann was suffering from the auto-immune disease lupus, which causes fertility problems and high-risk pregnancies. Longevity is also curtailed. More here.
On August 29 People provide teasing “corroboration” that Chris Watts was a serial adulterer with both men and women, claiming: A source close the investigation tells PEOPLE that Chris has had relationships with both men and women outside of his marriage. That may or may not be. If the man claims to have been in a 10 month relationship with Watts, doesn’t he have a single selfie, or a photo taken at Watts’ place? If he had, that story would be gold to the tabloids. So where is it?
On August 30, some popular support becomes evident for Chris Watts. https://twitter.com/JWinston31/status/1035074582884114432
Chris Watts and Shanann were seeing arguing earlier in the summer of 2018. One could say “all couples argue” but this argument becomes relevant and important given what ultimately happened to the other half of that couple. It would be useful to know what they argued about and if Shanann ever told anyone. According to People:“I think they were always putting on a show,” says Melinda Phillips, who recalls seeing Chris and Shan’ann “clearly having an argument” in their driveway one day earlier this summer.“Their body language was really angry, and they were just fighting back and forth,” Phillips, 34, says. “He was gesturing his hands and they were shaking their heads, and it was definitely an argument.”“I didn’t really think much of it, because Lord knows that I’ve had the same arguments with my husband,” she continues. “They caught my eye and suddenly, everything changed. They stopped being so angry, and they started talking a lot more calmly. He even gave her a hug. Mind you, this was in the space of 30 seconds to a minute.”“From a full-blown fight to hugs in less than a minute, it was incredible,” she says.
Shanann Watts’ friend, Ashley Bell, told KDVR the “gender reveal” party was going to be held at the Watts’ home on Saturday 18 August in the town of Frederick, north of Denver. Shanann and her children were murdered early on Monday morning, August 13.
Shanann’s funeral, along with her children, was held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Boles Funeral Homes oversaw the service.
A tribute from her younger brother Frankie Rzucek read: “She was born to be a mother, boy was she ready. She couldn’t wait, she was my mum x10. Growing up she was a perfect role model. he was ready to take on the world, and we know she did.”
Frank Rzucek described his daughter at the funeral with two words: “Pure love.”
From the funeral nomenclature it’s clear that her name is spelled Shan’ann. Apologies for previous posts and mentions that spell her name otherwise.
There may be further “evidence” on Trent Bolte, the alleged gay lover of Chris Watts. The problem is it’s also from Trent Bolte. And since it’s from Bolte’s own Facebook account, and no other media are covering it, it seems less and less likely that Bolte has anything to do with the Watts family. Personally I still don’t buy the Trent Bolte gay lover theory, but here goes. On September 1, “pasdar” posted this on reddit: I’m not convinced he is telling the truth, but he apparently posted on his Facebook page that he met with detectives on Friday night and provided DNA samples, buccal swabs and texts that he exchanged with Chris. He also said that they took towels that apparently had Chris’ DNA on them. Also took a gold chain that Chris had given him for Valentine’s Day. The detectives also told him he could have been next, that Chris was plotting against him because he blames him for breaking up his marriage after Shan’ann found texts from him to Chris on July 4. Could it be true? I guess time will tell. Shan’ann was is NC on July 4th, so how did she see the texts? (Unless that’s when Chris was visiting or she somehow had access to his texts). Also, he’s been broken up with Chris since April and he still has used towels laying around? But if it is true, it shows how messed up this guy was that he could portray this devoted family man to the world…
“You are always Daddy’s little girl.” – Frank Rzucek
“From a young age I always knew my sister was going to be successful and nothing would stand in her way. She was born to be a mother. Boy, was she ready! Closets were full even before she knew she was pregnant. She couldn’t wait. She was my mom, times ten — whether either one of them wanted to admit it. She had ambition in her eyes and wanted a great life for her children and herself. She was ready to take on the world and we know she did.” – Frankie Rzucek. Notice the mismatch between Frank’s message and her brother’s. Funerals are all about sentiment, and it may be unkind to read to deeply into emotional messages, but it’s also at funerals where a crucial aspect is revealed – the identity of the victims. What we get here is this contrasting idea of someone who is prepared and ready, and someone who is, in a sense, still a little girl. It’s not necessarily the case that murder victims are naive. Sometimes killers are cold, cruel and callous no matter how paranoid their prey. But in a family murder, we really do have to look at the idea of naivete and vulnerability. Were either of these adults really ready to take on the world? Were they really ready to be married? Were they really ready to be parents? Was the one more ready than the other in one area, and the other less ready than the other in another area? If we consider this idea from the perspective of the two meeting on Facebook, it casts further aspersions on their experience of real life and real love. Couldn’t they meet the right people in the real world the “right way”? Or is meeting people on Facebook with a view to romance the new normal? If so, how do we tell what’s not normal on social media?
A colleague of Shan’ann’s mother told WRAL that the couple “was having problems” and that Shan’ann’s mother, Sandi Onorati, told her that Shan’ann and Chris were planning to separate. It may be that Shan’ann was continuing to peddle a fairy tale on social media simply to make money.
According to TheDaily Beast 2 friends said Shan’ann had confided in them that Chris was cheating on her:Two of Shanann’s friends said she suspected Chris was cheating on her. Amanda Thayer told Denver7 that Shanann thought infidelity was “a possibility” but had said Chris wasn’t a player. “At the same time, she was like, ‘He has no game.’ He didn’t have it with her when they first met… She did everything,” Thayer said.Nickole Atkinson—the last person besides Chris to see Shanann alive—told ABC Newsthat Shanann “entertained the idea” that he was unfaithful. “He wasn’t being the loving Chris that he normally was. He wasn’t touching or hugging or doing stuff like that. He wasn’t being as attentive to the girls as he normally is,” Atkinson said.
Chris’s friends described him to The Daily Beast as reserved, smart and gentle, and a man known to get along with anyone. In other words, a charmer.
Brandi Smith, a high-school friend, told The Daily Beast:“Everyone liked him. It’s actually amazing how many people that knew him have completely turned on him and think he’s this monster when he hasn’t even been convicted…Chris found himself as a father. Those girls brought him to life and out of his shell. He’s not a crazy person. He’s not a violent, abusive or mean person.I’ll be broken if he’s convicted and it was a lie but there’s a chance… and it’s not fair that he’s being crucified.”
But why was he in a shell to begin with if everyone liked him?
“This was one of the smartest students I ever had … the guy had a photographic memory. He knew chapter and verse, everything you could ask about NASCAR. Anything.” — Retired automotive teacher Joe Duty, on Chris Watts
Smart – but how smart is smart in the context of an auto mechanic?
“It’s amazing that my husband and I have created more memories in the last two years than we did in the previous eight,” Shan’ann in STRIVE article
Shan’ann boasted of Chris’s fitness progress—he went from a pants size of 38 to 32 in 2018
In a June Facebook post, Shan’ann discussed grocery shopping for Chris, who would be a “bachelor” for five weeks while the family was gone. He joined them for the last week of the vacation.
“He was very passive … She was very aggressive with him. Bossy. Do this. Do that. Telling him what to do. Dominating the relationship.” — Greg Alore, Shanann’s former boss
Now some evidence on Bolte that’s not from Trent Bolte, but from his brother. The fact that The Daily Beast is citing this is significant:When reached by The Daily Beast, the man’s brother said the story was true. “I know my brother saw a different side of ‘loving’ Chris Watts,” the sibling said, adding that Chris “gave my brother his first lip botox injection.”The alleged lover told HLN that Chris “portrayed himself as this victim” who “would be shunned and he wouldn’t be allowed to see his girls” if he came out as non-heterosexual.“He told me that he was the victim of emotional and verbal abuse, and he was trapped in a loveless marriage,” the man said. “And he didn’t know any way out because of the kids.”
Why did the Watts family move to Colorado in the first place? Alore said the Wattses moved to Colorado after Chris accepted a job as a mechanic at the dealership in 2012. Shan’ann was hired by the company’s internet sales department and, according to online reviews, was a talented salesperson.
“Shannan went out of her way to find the vehicle I wanted, as well as tirelessly went back and forth to get me the payments that I needed to get me into a new car. She was never pushy, and while I know she really wanted to sell a car, she never tried to sell me something that I didn’t want,”one customer wrote in April 2013.
Linda Biggers, a realtor who listed Shanann’s home, told The Daily Beast she believes the couple moved because Chris got a job out West. “I think she wanted to get married and move to Colorado with him,” Biggers recalled. “The house was hers; it wasn’t his…. She just had a really beautiful home, it was beautifully furnished.”
Shan’ann King hurried to sell her residence and left furniture behind as part of the sale, the buyer told the Associated Press. A deed for the house was signed in August 2012 while Shan’ann was living in Colorado, property records show.
Bella Marie was born in December 2013
A month before the birth of Celeste in July 2015 the couple filed for bankruptcy
In April 2017, Shanann announced was leaving her job at the children’s hospital to become a full-time stay-at-home mom working for the Le-Vel supplement company, which makes Thrive dietary patches.
On her one-year anniversary with the brand, she told Facebook friends she was “broke” when she started Le-Vel.
“Sometimes when you have children and your relationship starts to deteriorate a child could help repair it.”
— Chris Watts, in a YouTube video on ‘Relationship Deterioration and Repair’
March 15, 2018: Had about 2 hrs of sleep last night. I couldn’t sleep, I had a lot on my mind with girls surgery today. Took my 3 simple steps and I feel good! Love my Thrive. I can be awake and focused for my girls.
May 7th post by Shan’ann of her husband: “Someone’s thrivin’…Up for work at 4am. Just got home and now mowing the grass. #likeaboss#helovesme
June 15: “Chris, just said he’s been more talkative since he started #Burn! Talking to random strangers. #Hesaintrovert.”
“I am really feeling the need to ‘gift’ this to my hubby for Father’s day!” one of Shan’ann’s friends commented. In response, Shan’ann joked, “Gift it then leave for the day.”
Frankie Rzuce: “They were always well-dressed and well mannered. [Shan’ann] taught them to be brave and independent, just like Shan’ann. She was very successful and independent, before any man came along — and that’s just the way she wanted it.”
Despite Shan’ann’s independence, Rzucek was always concerned about the distance between them. “I always worried about her and the girls being so far because I couldn’t protect them. Growing up, she was a perfect role model. She had a lot of friends and was very popular, which made it hard for me being her little brother trying to protect her from heartbreak and other things. She moved out at 18 and never looked back.”
By early September, just three weeks after the murders that rocked Colorado, the Chris Watts case has become “an obsession” on Facebook.Shanann painted a portrait of the perfect family on social media. Homemade videos and photos she posted show what seemed to be a doting father and happily-married couple.“Eight years later, we have two kids, we live in Colorado and he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Shanann said in one of her Facebook live videos promoting her business.Other videos show Chris playing with Celeste and Bella while Shanann can be heard from behind the camera laughing and playing along.But that picture-perfect image was shattered when Frederick police along with Weld County prosecutors arrested Chris Watts for killing his own family and unborn child and then allegedly hiding their bodies at a Weld County oil and gas site where he worked.People from around the world are now combing through Shanann’s Facebook videos for answers or any clue to help them understand how a family who seemed so happy could end this tragically.
According to an arrest affidavit Chris purportedly said he “went into a rage” and strangled Shan’ann. This is Chris’ version of what happened. It’s the “heat of passion” defense, but is it true?
A source who has spoken with Watts in jail tells PEOPLE that the 33-year-old suspect was “aware” of the funeral proceedings, but had no input in it. “He knew better than to suggest anything,” the source says. – People
…detectives believe Watts killed his children first and then killed his 15-week pregnant wife, the Daily Mail reports. According to police documents, Shan’ann was killed on August 13, the same day she returned home from an out-of-state business trip. The charges allege that Watts killed Bella and Celeste “between and including August 12 and August 13”. One way to determine if the children had been killed earlier is to test the cadaver traces. A stronger scent would obviously indicate an earlier death.
The Daily Mail has mistakenly reported the following image as the last of Shan’ann Watts while she was still alive. In fact there is a more recent but blurry image of her here taken at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill. Shan’ann Watts’ final social media post appears to be after 18:30 on August 12th, in Tempe Arizona. It was a comment following a power outage in response to the above image.
Scenes of the interior and exterior of the Watts home…
Status on September 4th:Since he was put in jail, Watts has been placed under watch protocol, which is better known as suicide watch, and must be checked on by a detention officer every five to 10 minutes.Several times a day, someone enters Watts’ cell to make sure he is still alive and still in custody. There is also a cell check every day, in which he has to be completely searched.For one hour each day, Watts is allowed out of his cell, into a room where he is the only person present. He has also been denied access to television and is not allowed to have reading material in his cell.
Chris Watts had “a lot of secrets…Every day, we learn more and more about him.” – People
Was the fact that Chris was younger than Shan’ann a factor in his wanting to get rid of her the way he did? What’s the inference in a younger man with a slightly older women pregnant for the third time…?
Is it possible for a small screen to capture a scenario of an adult strangling an infant? https://twitter.com/CrimeJusticeHLN/status/1037117441845866496
September 5 according to People: The co-worker with whom Colorado triple murder suspect Chris Watts was allegedly “actively involved in an affair” at the time his wife and daughters were killed has been opening up to police. He had initially denied the work affair to police, his arrest affidavit alleges. But authorities said they carried out a two-day investigation and confirmed the cheating.
Shan’aan’s social media output dropped drastically in the month she was murdered. Did she suspect a serious deterioration in the family dynamic, or was she starting to experience it?
16. Arie King is the brother of Shan’ann’s first husband. Arie King told 9News.com in mid-August 2018: “I am sick over it, honestly. Any family she has here in North Carolina, we are heartbroken.” What was her first husband’s name and occupation? Why did they divorce?
17. The following neighbors have been identified thus far: Colleen Hendrickson, Ann Watt and Bette Marcoux. According to Marcoux:
Watts’ truck was on when she left for the gym early Monday. She goes to the gym at 5:15 a.m. five days each week, she said, and hadn’t noticed him heading out somewhere at that time before. The night before, he was barbecuing, she said.
18. Public records show that they were each arrested multiple times in North Carolina – he three times and her 15 times – but the charges in the arrests are not known. – Daily Mail, August 17. This could explain why the couple left North Carolina in such a hurry, and sold their house with all their furniture still inside. On the other hand, it’s possible the Daily Mail confused Shan’ann Watts with Shannon Ann Watts, a 28-year-old woman arrested 3 times and facing 16 charges in North Carolina.
This snippet was provided by one of the regular visitors to this blog, thanks Pauline.
19. More reason to believe Chris Watts could be bisexual comes via a profile posted on Adam4Adam, and the profile picture, showing a man with a goatee. The couch in the rear of the picture also looks like the same couch the 3 foot doll was modeled onto.
Unless he updated his waist size [last login was April 2008] but didn’t change his age, the waist size is also off.
Chris birthday would make him a Taurus and on one post Shannan praised Chris on going from a 38 to a 32 waist size. So 2 years ago he would have been much heavier.
The area code for Denver Colorado is 80205. Check of this profile for Bi-Guy #80205. Star sign Gemini [21 May – 21 June] Chris Watts’ birthday is May 17, 1985.
Seems to fit the #ChrisWatts profile: "Engineer – Mining/oil and gas drilling" it reads. The Denver zip code, the 31-year-old age means #ShanannWatts husband sought men for 2 years. The 5'11" height and 170 pounds seems about right. And if 30 means his waist, that looks correct. pic.twitter.com/WA7PesLAY8
20. The Walk to the top of an oil tank & Actual Photos of Anadarco Oil Tank Site.
21. Police have found hundreds of hairs in the trunk of Chris Watss’ truck. It sounds like hair fragments, which suggests the hair was cut or shaved. If true, it’s a clear sign of processing a body, which invokes the idea of planning and premeditation.
137. Defense attorneys for a Frederick man accused of killing his wife and daughters have filed a motion asking the government to investigate whether the prosecution has made extrajudicial statements or tried to prevent the spread of prejudicial information. What this means is the authorities are accused of leaking evidence to the media and thus potentially prejudicing a jury trial. Stan Garnett, the former district attorney for Boulder County, said it is not unusual for the defense to raise such issues early on, especially in high-profile cases.
While it’s standard to point out potential to prejudice a jury , Garnett said the wording of the motion — requiring “the government” to investigate the issue — is unusual.
It raises an issue, as the district attorney’s office is part of the executive branch of the state.
“If you’re asking them to be investigated, who would do it?” Garnett said. – timescall.com
24. Ashley Bell, a close friend of Shanann Watts who owns a tanning salon, said she got to know her because she was a customer.
Bell said the gender reveal party was supposed to be held at the Watts’ family home on August 18. Amanda Thayer’s daughter Emily was also meant to sleepover at the Watts’ home that weekend.
140. “He didn’t have a plan. Things unfolded so quickly that he was trapped with no alternative but to cooperate with the reporters [in his TV interviews]. I don’t think he anticipated that a friend of his wife would so quickly alert authorities to her failing to show up for a scheduled medical appointment and was not at the house on Monday.” – Philip Stinson, criminologist
25: Nickole Utoft Atkinson found out Chris Watts planned to separate from Shan’ann on the morning she disappeared, when she called him to find out whether he knew where she was.
“I didn’t find out that they were going to separate or anything like that until I called Chris that morning,” she told ABC (who credited her as Nicole Atkinson). “When I called him [August 13 at noon] and asked him where she was, that’s when he told me and I basically told him that that wasn’t my [concern] at that particular moment, because it wasn’t and that their business was their business, that they would either work it out or they wouldn’t.”
26. “He was defending himself, but it just didn’t make sense.” – Nickole Atkinson
27. “Things were not how I would think that they were…supposed to be…I guess. I had [inaudible] look in the garage, to see if her car was there and it was there, which was like peculiar, because Shan’ann doesn’t [shurgs] like go places without her car, usually, because both of the girls have car seats. The front door was locked different to the way it normally was. The girl’s beds weren’t made. Shan’ann was very OCD. Everything in her house had a place. Everything was labelled.If something was out of the ordinary it was really out of the ordinary for her.” – Nickole Atkinson
28. When Chris Watts told Nickole Shan’ann was on a playdate with the kids, she immediately wondered why she’d go on a playdate without her car, and why did he know she was on a playdate but couldn’t say who with.
“He just kept saying that he didn’t know where she was and that she was on a playdate. But he couldn’t give us the name of the friend. I knew he had something to do with it the day I was at his house with him, but I didn’t want to think that. Anyone in their right mind will start piecing things together and think something had happened, but you don’t want to go there. You want to believe the best in people.” – Nickole Atkinson
29. “I know that Chris and her were having some issues about three weeks prior to everything happening.” – Nickole Atkinson [But three weeks prior she was in North Carolina with her folks and he was in Colorado].
30. Nichol Kessinger’s father appears to be Dwayne Kessinger, Chris Watts’ boss. The image from his LinkedIn page still exists on Google cache, but appears to have been recently removed from his profile.
31. September 12: Motion to obtain clear and visible Polaroid photograph and digital photographs of both Chris Watts’ right and left hands.
32. Kirk Nurmi [who defended Jodi Arias] weighs in.
33. On September 11 an unsubstantiated rumor on Twitter that Chris was involved with a Thrive colleague of Shan’ann’s surfaced. Josh Rosenberg appears in several images from the San Diego trip. This doesn’t appear to be credible line of inquiry.
Josh Rosenberg is the (mistress). Both Josh & Chris Watts worked for Thrive. Police found texts between Chris & Josh. Detectives spoke with Josh who retained an attorney. Shanann snapped when she found out Chris was leaving Shanann for Josh. Per Source. pic.twitter.com/MactFxDUmf
34. Chris Watts does appear to have been actively cheating on his wife. Was it with one woman or several? Was it with women, or women and men? One thing is clear, he was paying an inordinate amount of attention to grooming himself in the lead up to this crime.
Police say Chris Watts was actively cheating on his wife…but were their signs? Was he getting in shape to impress someone other than Shanann? pic.twitter.com/d2PHt8nPUz
35. Trent Bolte – the man from Wyoming who claims to have had an affair with Chris Watts – has produced communications suggesting an affair between the two men. Previous screenshots of texts appear to have been fabricated so there’s some reason to believe these might be too. It ought to be very simple to prove whether they were in a months-long relationship – a photo of the two together.
Bolte provided CrimeOnline with screenshots of text messages between him and Watts that appear to support some type of relationship with Watts. Bolte said they were the first text messages he and Watts exchanged away from the MeetMe app. The messages differ starkly in tone from screenshots circulating on social media, purporting to be messages between Watts and Bolte. Bolte is aware of the images that have circulated and insists they have been fabricated, pointing out that the messages indicate the two men met on Tinder, which Bolte says is not true.
37. Chris Watts is very specific at turns during his porch interview. He refers to Shan’ann arriving home at 01:48 [that’s very exact] and Nickole Atkinson calling him at 12:10. He also describes Shan’ann going to bed at 02:00 but not getting much sleep. In a police interrogation he said they’d discussed separating at 04:00 that morning. When he descibes himself leaving, he’s vague – it’s between 05:15 and 05:30. In fact he left at 05:37. This specificity is indicative of planning. He’s finely tuned to exact times, just as he had to be to the evolving pregnancy and the deteriorating numbers on their balance sheet.
38: CHRIS: I mean…could she have van- [interrupts himself]. Could she have just taken off, I dunno. But if someone has her and they’re not safe, I want them back now.
He starts off saying “could she have vanished” then tailors that to something better: “Could she have taken off? Could someone have taken her…” He’s doing this to seed the audience’s mind with the most credible alternative to what’s actually happened, to what he knows has actually happened.
39. As part of ongoing research into this case, I contacted a guy I’ve known since school who went from being in law enforcement to working for the oil and gas industry. I sent him information on the Anardarko oil site, and asked for his input on what the conditions are inside a tank. I will address some of the insights in a separate blog post, but a few things that stood out from our discussion included the following:
Only an oil maintenance worker would have the tools/know-how to access and open the tanks. This would in theory limit the chances of discovery by anyone else to almost zero, at least while Watts was in charge of that particular site. This also explains why Watts initially repeated the words “vanished”. He wanted people to think that’s what had happened, because that’s what he intended to happen.
The maintenance of the various oil sites are scheduled, sometimes with annual checks, sometimes once every 5 years. If Watts knew the schedule, and especially if the checks had just been completed for the year [or if Watts himself was responsible for performing them] then he could theoretically supervise and control the access and information regarding his own crime scene.
The interior of the oil tanks is fairly static, with natural gas sequestrated through outlet sieves. These sieves could theoretically be blocked by human hair, and human hair could also theoretically be glued to the lid of the tanks. This might indicate a need to remove excess human hair, and possibly also clothing.
40. More photographs of Chris Watts with Shan’ann during her other pregnancies.
41. When were Bella and Celeste last seen alive? From early reports it seems this could have been at a birthday party in Erie on Sunday, August 12. Erie is less than 20 minutes drive east of Frederick.
The Watts’ home on Saratoga Trail was about half that distance to the Lindstrom’s house in Erie.
The party was held by Jeremy Lindstrom for his 5-year-old son. Chris Watts was there, and so were his two daughters.
Murder suspect Chris Watts and his two little girls, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celste, were just at Lindstrom’s home for Jeremy’s little boy’s birthday party. The girls were happy. They were normal. And, so was Chris. Or so it seemed.
“He would reach out and help anybody that needed help with anything,” Lindstrom said. “He was a good mechanic if you needed help with your car – he’d help you. If you needed help with furniture, he’d be over there in a heartbeat to help you out. You don’t know what, when, why, where or how everything goes weird.”
42. Should the DA pursue a death penalty in this case?
According to Colorado law, a district attorney has 63 days from the date of an arraignment to determine whether to pursue capital punishment in a murder case. An arraignment hearing isn’t on the docket yet and won’t be scheduled until Watts’ next hearing in November. – Denver Post
43. Photos of Chris Watts as a young man:
44. More photos of Shan’ann during previous pregnancies and the aftermath after giving birth.
45. Chris Watts isn’t talking to his family, even though he has nothing else to do except sleep all day. He’s not allowed reading material or television, and has virtually no one to talk to except the prison guards who look in on him every 15 minutes as part of an ongoing suicide watch.
If Chris Watts isn’t talking to family this may be because:
He knows [and perhaps they do too] that calls are monitored, and that anything they say over the phone can and will be used against him [or them] in a court of law.
He doesn’t want to talk to them [for the above reason and perhaps other reasons].
They don’t want to talk to him.
We know Chris Watts’ dad flew in to see his son at around the time of his arrest and confession. We don’t know much more than that – who Watts senior is, what he does etc. We do have a photo of him at the house on Saratoga Trail, however.
46. Shan’ann’s father was in court during the initial hearing, and was memorably emotional about the fate of his daughter and granddaughters. Chris Watts’ father, evidently wasn’t in court, even though he possibly was in town. Interestingly, neither of the mothers were in court, perhaps because they couldn’t all afford to travel.
47. On September 17, 2018 District Attorney Michael J. Rourke vehemently opposed the release of autopsy reports on the basis of “injury to the public interest”. As the motion notes, autopsy reports are public documents, so Rourke is likely to have an uphill battle withholding them from the public and also from the media, until November.
The motion is explicit in that all three victims were dead when they were moved from the crime scene [the Watts residence]. The District Attorney notes that the cause of death has not yet been made public. I’m not sure that’s accurate.
Police and prosecutors have not said officially how any of them died, though court records suggested they were strangled. – Denver Channel
Besides that, Chris Watts has suggested the same and that irrespective of who committed murder, it was murder by strangling. Possibly this isn’t accurate, but even if it isn’t, the defense attorneys will be in possession of the same facts. It may be that by going through the motions of putting forward this motion, the District Attorney wishes to be seen as being responsible and conservative, as opposed to purposefully and recklessly leaking sensitive documents.
Given the high profile nature of this case, it seems a stretch to imagine October will go by without even a redacted version at least being made public, as occurred in the Ramsey case which also had a sensitive autopsy-situation.
In the Ramsey case it took as long as seven months for portions of the autopsy to be made available, prior to any hearing. In that case there was an army of lawyers and a reluctant prosecutor’s office holding the tides at bay, and ultimately they succeeded – the case never went to criminal court.
Back to the Watts case: the District Attorney, through this motion, also appear to be concerned about autopsy results tainting witness testimonies and “impacting” potential jurors. By handing this over to the court, the prosecutor’s office effectively keeps their side of the story clean, and the onus for the release then lies on the partiality of the presiding Judge.
48. HLN’s Ashleigh Banfield interviews Richard Hodges, a former college roommate Chris Watts. This is going back more than 13 years – approximately 2003 – 2005. What was he like? “Straight as an arrow,” according to Hodges. It doesn’t seem like he intended this as a double entendre on the word straight.
Hodges describes Watts as very dedicated, and he does look the part of the dedicated husband – washing dishes, mowing the lawn, keeping fit etc. But Hodges goes further, describing Watts as a dude that didn’t go out partying when everyone else did. He was “very hard on himself” according to Hodges.
Banfield raises an interesting point when Hodges admits he was the closest to Watts out of their group of friends, and that even they weren’t really close. They weren’t Facebook pals either.
“Chris was quiet. He was pretty reserved. But not in like…what I would say a negative fashion….He was more of the kind of guy who you become friends with…out of like…happenstance. We were obviously friends because we were in classes together, and that’s how we ended up meeting. He very very rarely went out with us, so maybe that contributed to it…He wanted to get those good grades. He wanted to do well. So he would never do anything to jeopardize that like partying, or drinking…”
163. Just in from the Longmont Times-Call, a daily newspaper serving Northern Colorado, prosecutors are asking the court to order Watts to provide ink footprints [as opposed to fingerprints]. This is according to court documents filed on September 18th.
Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke wrote in the motion that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation has “developed possible bare foot impressions” from “items of evidence.” The items of evidence are not described in the motion, but Rourke does say they were collected at the scene where police found the bodies of 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her children, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste. – Longmont Times-Call
49. Ashleigh Banfield interviews a tech expert on the data her Apple series 3 watch may have stored [automatically uploaded to the cloud] in the last hours of her life. Apple watches automatically record movement and effort level. Both Shan’ann and Chris had these expensive Apple watches. Banfield raises a good point. The data rests in the cloud for 30 days, and that period has now passed since she died. Have prosecutors managed to extract the data in time?
50. In an order oddly dated two days from now, Judge Kopcow denies Chris Watts’ request to investigate leaks by the law enforcement.
166. Chris Watts has also refused to consent to DNA tests citing lack of probable cause.
53. If his adultery [adulteries] played a significant role in why he committed murder [murders?], then Chris Watts must be aching to see his lover/lovers. But to do so could wreck his legal case if the “list” were made public. Something of a conundrum, right?
A judge has denied the request of an accused Colorado killer to keep the names of all his jail visitors under seal. – Daily Mail
54. The autopsy results must be submitted to court no later than today [under seal] – September 25th.
The prosecution meanwhile is already doing all it [can] to keep the autopsy reports under seal…
55. Meanwhile, on HLN:
The above discussion analyses the importance of bruise patterns on the children’s necks. In the Amanda Knox case, the bruises on Meredith Kercher’s neck were so clear, investigators were able to tell that they matched the size and shape of a woman’s fingers. But it’s no as conclusive as a fingerprint unless there’s DNA present as well.
Far more key, in terms of evidence, will be the autopsy results, particularly the food contents of the girls’ stomachs. It could turn on whether the birthday cake treats from Sunday were still in their digestive tracts or not when they were killed.
Ashleigh Banfield is completely consumed by the #ChrisWatts case.
58. There appears to be unprecedented interest in gaining access to the autopsy results of the four victims. Not only have media made their intentions clear, but members of the public as well. Media is apparently calling the Weld County Coroner’s Office on a daily basis.
59. Shan’ann made a Facebook page for Bella when she was born. From the list of 38 friends on Bella’s page, some are family and several list themselves as “Brand Promoter at Le-Vel”. The page lists her favorite sports teams as the Pittsburgh Steelers, and her favorite music as Bruno Mars. Final activity on the page was on May 24th, 2014.
60. Chris Watts isn’t supposed to have access to any media reports, but apparantly he’s aware of how “infamously famous” his case has become, including internationally.
Watts has said he feels the public doesn’t know the full story, the source says. “He feels like no one understands him, and nobody knows what happened,” says the source. “He thinks if they did understand, they’d realize that he’s not the monster everyone says he is.” – People
My personal view is that he’s right that most people don’t understand who he really is, but I’m not sure that makes what he did any less monstrous.
61. Large moving truck arrives at Saratoga Drive. Shan’ann’s father Frank seen moving a bed-frame and mirror into it under police supervision. An unknown 30-year-old woman was with him.
We dig deeper into the oil tanks Chris Watts allegedly dumped his two daughters in. A petroleum engineering professor explains how he thinks Chris could have placed his kids into these tanks. pic.twitter.com/ovLAjKHTJK
Some factoids that emerged from the interview with the petroleum engineering professor:
CERVI 319 was producing about 200 barrels of oil per month.
The expert believes liquids were shifted from one tank to another in order to gain access from the bottom, which he says requires not only a lot of technical knowledge but also requires a certain amount of time. He doesn’t specify how much time, but one can assume it would take weeks to fill the tank even a little, rather than days or hours.
It would take three months to fill the tanks naturally.
HLN notes what Shakedown indicated earlier, that the access hatches are too small to place an adult inside.
HLN believes they were also too small to fit the children’s bodies in.
The professor suggests the clean-out manways [plural] at the bottom had to be opened to dump the bodies, a rigorous process involving the loosening and refastening of a large number of bolts.
The time to unfasten and refasten the bolts [presumably for both manways]? The professor estimates an hour.
That’s an eternity at a crime scene trying to get rid of three bodies with the sun coming up..
The only problem with this line of questioning is this, which is a screengrab taken from the video below, depicting a bird’s eye view of the setup similar to CERVI 319.
If that’s an access ladder it suggest there’s enough space not only for a child, but for an adult technician to descend into it. Here’s another diagram showing the internal ladder but not connected directly to any access hatch.
It’s difficult to make out on the HLN image; the angle doesn’t show a stairway leading to the top of the oil tanks, and clearly there was one. The reverse angle does show the staircase.
The below image is of a “floating roof” tank. Although that’s not the sort of tank design at CERVI 319, the design in the floating roof does allow for a hatch with a ladder through it.
63. Image of Deeter posted to Shan’ann’s Instagram.
64. HLN interviews Matt Francis, Shan’ann’s high school teacher. Francis describes “being very impressed with how she did Facebook Live…and how she’d become such an encourager”. He also describes Shan’ann as having come a long way. “You’d be amazed at how far she’s come. She’s a wonderful, beautiful human being…she was a very insecure young ladywho didn’t have a lot of friends when I met her at 14-years-old.” She was also teased a lot – humiliated – while in high school.
Francis pronounces Shan’ann’s name as Shanna ‘ann, and says she didn’t correct his mispronunciation of her name in three years.
Francis also describes Shan’ann as “thriving” while under her tutelage. Methinks he’s just another dude that’s drunk a little too much of the MLM Kool-Aid.
65. Chris Watts is inmate #360519 in a Greeley Colorado jail cell.
66. HLN noted in late September that Chris Watts made numerous complaints to the Judge about press leaks. He referred specifically to many complaints but apparently had no comment about People magazine articles discussing his affairs, including with another man.
67: “Listen, everything about this case is over the top. And I think it’s because nothing about this case makes sense. You don’t typically have an accused family annihilator with a background like Chris Watts, with a wife like Chris Watts, with children like Chris Watts. With Facebook pages like Chris Watts. A guy like this who everbody, I mean literally everyone who we contacted, has said, ‘This is not…the guy.” – Ashley Banfield, September 29th, 2018
There’s as good a description as you’ll find for a man with two faces.
1. TWO FACE BENEATH THE OIL is published on October 1st, 2018, exactly 3 weeks after the first book in the K9 series. The second book digs far deeper into issues of identity, backstory and the motives for the murders.
The second book also presents a possible scenario for the murder of Shan’ann Watts, including where in the house it may have taken place, and how it was executed.
2. It appears CERVI 319 is situated on the Guttersen Ranch, a 35,000 acre-ranch 10 miles sutheast of Kersey, which holds Guttersen’s family homestead, barns.,outbuildings and horses. The ranch also is a working cattle ranch with about 3,000 head of cattle that run between Guttersen’s and an adjoining ranch to the east.
4. Motion for an emergency hearing. This appears to be about time-sensitive inheritance law. Shan’ann died intestate [without leaving a will], and so, under normal circumstances the surviving spouse would inherit. Life insurance policies of Bella and Celeste will probably be disputed.
7. Retired Detective Karen Smith explains why she thinks the bizarre location of Shanann’s phone upstairs beneath couch cushions was no accident.
Smith goes about as far to say the phone was deliberately placed between the cushions but no further.
The real issue about where the phone is relates to the murder scene in the house. Was it right there? Did it fall onto the couch during a tussle at the landing on the top of the stairs? Did Chris Watts put it there with some fictitious scenario in mind?
8. On October 5th, an emergency court hearing took place over the phone between Shan’ann Watts’ family and Chris Watts. Oh to have been a fly on the wall. Would a recording exist somewhere?
9. Frank Rzucek senior, Shan’ann’s father, has been identified as the executor of her estate. Chris Watts didn’t object to this.
11. Records for the sale of the home show that Chris obtained the home and the loan solely, adding Shanann later to the title possibly via quitclaim deed methods. [I] saw a discussion on FB from a realtor that explained when lenders find out that a home owner has done this, they can call the note out and demand it be paid in full or the home will be foreclosed on. Usually this goes undetected…until you get behind on payments or say an HOA agency decides to file a lien against the home for failure of nonpayment. – reddit
12. After several direct complaints about unfair victim blaming, reddit bans TCRS from posting Chris Watts-related content to its True Crime page.
Fancy that – a true crime blog banned from a true crime discussion page.
14. Chris Watts’ defense counsel seems to be placing it on record that media coverage to date has already tainted a jury. He doesn’t seem opposed to the release of the autopsy report however, saying he’s satisfied to leave this to the discretion of the court.
This could be a ploy by the defense. On the other hand, if Watts is innocent of killing the children, he may wish the media to have access to the reports.
15. There’s a contention on social media that the tweet below was ‘liked’ by Cirs Watts’ protected account hours before the murders. Have requested confirmation on this claim.
Wow I can't believe that Guy that killed his wife and kids, #chriswatts liked this post hours before killing them. Last post known to like… Creepy
16. Ashleigh Banfield is a little behind the curve in dealing with the family dynamic. But finally, about 10 days into October, almost two months after the murders, she does.
If I may be so bold, the reluctance to deal with the family dynamic this early [or this late] by HLN may be because they’re trying to set up the first phase of the narrative of the fairy tale family, and Shan’ann as a beautiful, innocent victim.
No one is arguing that, but of course as soon as you begin to probe issues around the dynamics, you’re invariably going to figure out the good and bad stuff of the parties involved. You’re going to find out who these people are, warts and all.
If you’re serious about true crime, you do that at the beginning. It should not be about playing out a narrative to manipulate/suck in viewers.
17. Did dad’s work truck lead cops to bodies?
Is everyone forgetting that a) Chris Watts has already confessed to killing Shan’ann? Or b) the bodies have been recovered because he told law enforcement where they were, and we know exactly where they were from the affidavit. And c) there is video surveillance footage showing Watts truck backing into the garage and leaving.
So a tracking device is nice to know, but about as useful as whether the sun was shining that day or not.
The real reason the cops knew Watts was involved was because the video surveillance showed Shan’ann arrive but never showed her leave. But it recorded Watts’ truck leaving. So if Shan’ann wasn’t home, and she wasn’t seen leaving, how else could she have left? QED.
18. The Watts family home has been confirmed as 1107 Vass Road.
20. Sherry Wiens appears to have dug out some of the first pictures of Chris Watts’ mother Cindy Watts.
21. Watts Home: 1st & 2nd floor plans.
22. HLN releases material from Shan’ann’s “heartbreaking” blog.
We uncovered a blog we believe to be written by Shannan Watts, posting about her pregnancy with Bella in 2013. Here’s a look at the heartbreaking posts written years before her husband is accused of killing them. pic.twitter.com/HkqbOdpwzp
24. Family grave site. Was Niko buried with Shan’ann?
25. On Friday October 12th, Weld Count District Court denied Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke’s request to keep the autopsies of 34-year-old Shanann Watts, and two children, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste sealed, saying it lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” on the issue.
26. Weld County Coroner Carl Blesch has already communicated his intentions in terms of the Watts family autopsy reports. He intends to file a response between October 15 and 17 to state his intention not to release the autopsy reports.
29. The Weld County Coroner filed a petition Monday requesting the court keep the autopsy reports of Shanann Watts and her children sealed at this time.
Carl Blesch, Weld County coroner, stated in a news release Monday that a hearing on the request to seal the reports has not yet been set.
The autopsy reports were completed Oct. 1, but the Weld County District Attorney had filed a motion in Weld County District Court requesting they be kept from the public.
The court ruled against the district attorney’s request, citing a request filed by three statewide associations representing the media, the Colorado Press Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association and the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.
Steven Zansberg, an attorney for Ballard Spahr, LLP in Denver who is representing the three associations, said previously that they plan to oppose any future filings to seal the reports. Zansberg did not return a call seeking comment Monday afternoon. Jill Farschman, CEO of the Colorado Press Association, declined to comment until she could speak with the other two organizations. – Times-Call
30. Things are certainly getting more and more unusual in the Watts case. Now Watts wants privacy around a sealed motion based on a health insurance law that protects private information. But this only applies to living people…
31. Not sure what to make of this latest legal document in The People of the State of Colorado v. Christopher Lee Watts
MR. WATTS’ MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A PLEADING UNDER SEAL
PURSUANT TO ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER 2016-04, AND FURTHER REQUEST
TO HOLD AN EX PARTE HEARING ON THE ISSUE
Counsel for Mr. Watts hereby respectfully requests the court authorize the filing of a sealed pleading in this case, pursuant to Administrative Order 2016-04. Counsel believes the motion will include information protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
However, based on the court’s Order (C-8), filed September 11, 2018, counsel for Mr. Watts is concerned the court may order the pleading unsealed if it doesn’t believe the information in the filing is protected by Federal Law.
It must be remembered that counsel for Mr. Watts is not the privilege-holder of protected information. Cf., People v. Sisneros, 55 P.3d 797 (Colo. 2002)(holding that, even where the government called a witness whose memory of the crime was only elucidated after speaking with a psychologist, the privilege-holder herself did not waive the privilege with her testimony at the preliminary hearing.); and Wesp v. Everson, 33 P.3d 191, 199-200 (Colo. 2001)(noting that attorneys may not disclose attorney-client privileged information, even after the privilege-holder has died).
On top of that, any person who unlawfully discloses information protected by Federal Law is potentially subject to fines and imprisonment. See e.g., 42 U.S.C.A. § 1320d-6. Thus, any further disclosure of protected health information, especially to the government, would potentially violate the law.
Because of this reality, counsel asks the court to order an ex parte hearing on this issue. In addition, if the court does not believe it has enough information to make its judgment, Mr. Watts requests an ex parte hearing to advise the court further.
The attorney representing three state media associations that petitioned against an initial request to seal the autopsy reports for Shanann Watts and her children said the associations will oppose the latest effort to keep the autopsies from public view.
Steven Zansberg, a media attorney for Ballard Spahr, LLP in Denver, said that while his clients are “glad that the case is proceeding properly,” they still plan to oppose the new petition to seal the autopsies, now filed by the Weld County Coroner’s Office.
Zansberg plans to attend a hearing on the petition, which, because by law it must be set at “the earliest practical time,” he expects will take place before Thanksgiving. Zansberg is the attorney for Prairie Mountain Media Publishing, which includes the Times-Call and the Boulder Daily Camera. The two papers also are members of the Colorado Press Association.
In his motion, Rourke said the autopsies contain information that would be “critical evidence” at the trial, and that early release of that evidence could taint potential jurors or witnesses that have yet to be interviewed. Zansberg said that argument does not meet the burden of substantial injury to the public, which must be proven to withhold public documents subject to open records requests.
The argument that releasing the autopsies would make interviewing witnesses or finding a jury more difficult “is true anytime autopsy reports are released before trial,” he said. “That’s a categorical rule, not unique to circumstances of this one trial.”
He also disagreed with the prosecution’s argument that releasing the autopsies would compromise witness interviews. Typically, that’s usually argued at the onset of a case, before a suspect is arrested or charged for the crime, according to Zansberg.
“The prosecution sees it as necessary to try to use as another nail in the coffin, basically but the DNA by itself is really not all that informative in these kinds of cases.” – Dr. Phil Danielson, a professor at the University of Denver’s Department of Biological Sciences who specializes in DNA collection and analysis
In short, this is not going to be a DNA case. One of the most important factors will be time of death. Food contents in the stomach, if there is any, and clothing, if the kids and Shan’ann were wearing any, will prove more decisive in calculating time of death.
34. On October 19th, Chris Watts’ defense submit a three page civil motion requesting that disclosure of the autopsy reports be denied to the media and the public. Excerpts of the report [full report here] are as follows:
CHRISTOPHER WATTS, through his attorneys hereby moves this Honorable Court to hold a hearing on the government’s proffered reason for wanting to deny disclosure of the autopsies in this matter. As grounds for this motion, Mr. Watts states: 2. Out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Watts files this motion before this court, as well. If the court denies Mr. Watts’ motion in 18CV30907, Mr. Watts respectfully moves this court to hold a hearing on whether the release of the autopsies “could result in tainting witnesses that have not yet been interviewed” as the government claimed in its Motion [L] at paragraph 3. 3. As stated in Mr. Watts’ notice (D-039), the government’s alternative claim that the results of the autopsies will taint potential jurors is groundless – the results will almost assuredly be revealed in court proceedings well in advance of trial. 4. However, counsel for Mr. Watts remains concerned about the government’s spurious claims related to tainting witnesses who have yet to be interviewed. Counsel remains specifically concerned that the government possesses information that the defense does not have.
What this reveals is that the defense wants to know which witnesses the state prosecutor has or has yet to interview. Interesting legal arm twist here.
5. It is not clear if the government’s assertion means that it has knowledge that witnesses may change their testimony once they see the coroner’s opinion. It is not clear which witnesses the government knows about who have not been interviewed that may have that reaction to the opinion of the coroner. It is not clear what information the government possesses that would lead them to that conclusion. Perhaps more importantly, it is now clear that no party in the civil case has an interest in developing the record about this specious claim. According to the petition filed in 18CV30907, the coroner (whose office is ostensibly independent from the district attorney’s) “concurs with the District Attorney’s reasoning” and has “no reason to doubt [the] District Attorney . . . .” 18CV30907, VERIFIED PETITION IN RE: THE REQUEST OF THE GREELEY TRIBUNE FOR CERTAIN RECORDS PURSUANT TO THE COLORADO OPEN RECORDS ACT, C.R.S. §§ 24-72-201, ET. SEQ., at ¶¶ 13, 14. Counsel for Mr. Watts cannot share the coroner’s apparent confidence. The coroner’s naked deference to the government has therefore made clear that he has no interest in challenging the government’s judgement; consequently, he has no interest in investigating and ferreting out the validity of its claim. Mr. Watts does.
It’s interesting how the defense are shooting warning shots over the bow, basically alleging that the coroner is in cahoots with the district attorney’s office. The tone of the motion also indicates the tone of Chris Watts’ defense – it’s defiant!
7. The respondents to the action may have some interest in determining the validity of the government’s witness claim. But, their interest can, of course, be no greater than that of Mr. Watts. Mr. Watts is constitutionally entitled to know and meaningfully challenge the evidence and witnesses against him and to have and make use of any and all information related to their veracity or credibility. See e.g., COLO. CONST. art. II, §§ 16, 20, and 25; U.S. CONST. amends. V, VI, VIII, XIV; Washington v. Texas, 388 U.S. 14 (1967); Giglio v. U.S., 405 U.S. 150, 154-55 (1972); People v. Bueno, 626 P.2d 1167, 1169 (Colo. App. 1981); Crane v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 683, 690 (1986).
8. Because the government’s claim that the release of the autopsies may taint witnesses who have not been interviewed seems to suggest there are witnesses that the government knows who may slant or change their testimony based on the autopsy results, Mr. Watts has an obvious and substantial interest in developing the record on that claim. In addition, because that result, if true, has a direct effect on the criminal proceedings in this case, this court, should the court in 18CV30907 deny Mr. Watts’ request to intervene, must hold a hearing in this case.
9. Even more concerning, though, the coroner requested the court in 18CV30907 allow him to offer specifics about his agreement with the district attorney “under seal to the Court or in a closed hearing . . . .” 18CV30907, VERIFIED PETITION IN RE: THE REQUEST OF THE GREELEY TRIBUNE FOR CERTAIN RECORDS PURSUANT TO THE COLORADO OPEN RECORDS ACT, C.R.S. §§ 24-72-201, ET. SEQ., at ¶¶ 16. If the court were to allow this extraordinary request, Mr. Watts would be denied the opportunity not only to challenge the evidence but also, and obviously more egregiously, to even know what the evidence is.
10. Because of these realities, the court here should hold a hearing on these matters.
11. Albeit in different contexts, the Supreme Court of Colorado has acknowledged a need to protect “the integrity of the fact-finding process, the fairness or appearance of fairness of trial, . . . [and the] public trust or confidence in the criminal justice system.” People v. Rodriguez, 914 P.2d 230, 290 (Colo. 1996).
14. Here, if the civil court denies the request to intervene, due process requires this Honorable Court to hold a hearing anyway. Denying such a hearing continues to erode and undermine Mr. Watts’ rights to meet and defend the accusations against him, to learn of constitutionally significant evidence, and, ultimately, to a fundamentally fair proceeding comporting with due process of law. COLO. CONST. art. II, §§ 16, 20, 23, and 25; U.S. CONST. amends. V, VI, VIII, and XIV.
15. The High Court has put it most succinctly: “the fundamental requirement of due process is the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.” Mathews, 424 U.S. at 333 (internal citations and punctuation omitted). Mr. Watts moves this Honorable Court to afford him such an opportunity.
WHEREFORE, Mr. Watts is entitled to the relief requested in this motion. Mr. Watts files this motion, and makes all other motions and objections in this case, whether or not specifically noted at the time of making the motion or objection, on the following grounds and authorities: the Due Process Clause, the Right to a Fair Trial by an Impartial Jury, the Rights to Counsel, Equal Protection, Confrontation, and Compulsory Process, the Rights to Remain Silent and to Appeal, and the Right to be Free from Cruel and Unusual Punishment, pursuant to the Federal and Colorado Constitutions generally, and specifically, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitutions, and Article II, sections 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25 and 28 of the Colorado Constitution.
The right to be free from Cruel and Unusual Punishment. What about Shan’ann, Bella and Celeste’s rights? To be free from being murdered by a husband and father?
The Weld District Attorney’s Office announced late Friday that Frederick triple murder suspect Christopher Watts will appear Tuesday in Weld District Court for a status conference.The hearing is scheduled for 30 minutes beginning at 2 p.m. in Division 17. The district attorney’s office didn’t release any other information.
Watts wasn’t scheduled to return to court until 10:30 a.m. Nov. 19 for a status conference in Division 16. That court appearance remained on the docket as of Friday afternoon.
Is it just bad luck that this hearing has been moved to the same day the US media will be preoccupied with the Midterm elections? In true crime there is no such thing as coincidence.
5. TCRS – as you’d expect – called the plea deal long before anyone else did. In the lead up to the hearing, TCRS posted several blogs on the issue.
When the hearing commenced, just prior to the official announcement by the media, TCRS called it once again. Within two minutes of this tweet, Carol McKinley and all the other media followed suit and made it official.
The fact that so many family members are here from both sides of the family [flying in all the way from North Carolina] suggests this is a big deal. It's not just a nothing preliminary hearing. It's not just scheduling. It's significant #chriswatts#pleadeal
“Chris had to come to terms with reality,” the source reportedly said. “He didn’t like it at all, but he’s smart enough to know that his back was against the wall, and the best thing for him to do was to plead guilty.”
According to People, the source said, Watts was furious at having to enter the guilty plea.
“His story didn’t work. He got angry,” the source said. “… It took a little bit of time for him to come around, but he did.”
13. To date Cindy Watts has been quoted by the Denver Post, The Daily Beast and the Times-Callsaying: “I know he confessed, but he was railroaded into it.” It’s fascinating that the District Attorney hasn’t responded directly to these allegations thus far. Playing for time?
16. Defense attorney Harvey Steinberg said there is a way to withdraw a plea before sentencing, but does not believe it will happen in this case.
“Remember the mother is not in a position to withdraw the plea,” Steinberg said. “The mother can scream and yell and do everything she wants. Maybe it’s appropriate, maybe it’s not, but ultimately it’s his decision after sitting and talking to his lawyers.
“There is a rule, rule 32 allows the withdraw of plea prior to sentencing if there is a fair and just reason.I don’t know what the fair and just reason is here. So do I think there is a likelihood that any judge would allow him to withdraw the plea? The answer is no.” – KDVR.com
17. More than three months after her murder, the mainstream media still haven’t figured out how to spell Shan’ann’s name.
Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke has been clear that Chris Watts thus far has only provided a “partial motive”.
There are some odd things about the circumstances surrounding the plea deal Chris Watts struck with prosecutors, according to Law&Crime Network host and former Morris County, N.J. head prosecutor Bob Bianchi. Circumstances that he would never have allowed to happen under his watch.
“What I do find to be unusual in this case … is that I would have required a proffer session with the defendant, where he would have sat down in order to be spared the death penalty,” Bianchi said. “He would have spilled the beans on everything, from A to Z, we would have known what the motive is, which we don’t know right now, and he would have clearly allocuted in court, got up and said this is why I did it.”
22. The Watts children attended the prestigious [and expensive] Primrose School in Erie twice a week. Bella was murdered a week before she was due to start kindergarten full-time. Primrose is about 14 minutes drive due south from #2825 Saratoga Trail.
23. For Monday’s sentencing hearing, no “electronics” [cell phones, twitter] are permitted in court.
Judge Kopcow has granted expanded media coverage for Monday's 10 am sentencing of Christopher Watts. One video camera with audio and one still camera for pool. No electronics in court – No exceptions. I am working on courtroom seating. More to come. https://t.co/Gz89lZYX2i
If his mistress is the daughter of his boss, then a brand new dynamic emerges with various possibilities of their own. The most obvious is that Anadarko will wish to limit damage to their brand through adverse press coverage not just of one wayward employee, but three. Anadarko may ultimately be calling the shots on what the mistress and her dad’s next move should be.
Now, six weeks later, Nichol Kessinger has confirmed she is the “mystery mistress” in a carefully contrived exclusive published today by the Denver Post. Nicely buried in the 1313 word scoop is this:
Kessinger was working in the environmental department with an Anadarko Petroleum contractor when the two met, she said during a Thursday morning interview in the office of her lawyer, Ed Hopkins.
We investigate, prosecute, and defend complex civil claims involving defamation, deceptive and unfair trade practices, slander, trade libel, false advertising, invasion of privacy, breach of confidentiality, wiretapping, eavesdropping, computer hacking, data theft, trade secrets theft, revenge porn, sextortion, cyberstalking, racketeering, and Title IX actions.
Two experts, one of them Stan Garnett, weigh in about why it’s such a great idea not to try the Watts case in a court of law. Garnett is a pro at not taking cases to court [like the JonBenet Ramsey case] so I’m sure he’s pleased with this result.
30. Chris Watts’ parents retain legal counsel, but Judge Kopcow rules he’s not allowed to petition the court on their behalf during the sentencing hearing.
19th Judicial District Court Judge Marcelo A. Kopcow ruled that Cindy and Ronnie Watts should be able to speak in court Monday and deliver victim impact statements in which they could ask the judge for a more-lenient sentence for their son. They can also deliver such statements through a designee, according to the judge’s order.
Judge Kopcow wrote that state law affords the two the right to do so because they are the paternal grandparents of Bella and Celeste, whom Chris Watts pleaded guilty to killing in August along with their mother and his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts.
But Kopcow ruled that the attorney for the two won’t be allowed to address the court.
Rourke said that investigators never believed that Watts was being entirely truthful.
“The spotlight that he tried to shine on Shanann — falsely, incorrectly and frankly a flat-out lie — has been corrected,” Rourke said. “The spotlight shines directly where it belongs: On him.”
31. The article below goes into a lot of detail trying to figure out why the Watts case is so compelling. It’s compelling simply because it provides a devastating scenario of the perfect middle-class fairy tale facing destruction. Through this crime we intuit the security [or insecurity] of our own fairy tales wherever we are in the suburbs.
Peterson never confessed, but was ultimately found guilty, based on circumstantial evidence and, not incidentally, the testimony of Amber Frey, which had decidedly turned the public against him. One California radio station, for instance, put up a billboard with a Peterson mugshot framed with the question “Man or Monster?” and asked listeners to weigh in on his guilt or innocence. “Trapped by His Lies,” was People’s cover story headline, wrapping up the melodrama. The actual guilty verdict rendered through the court was so unsurprising that it didn’t even merit a full cover. The verdict was celebrated nationwide, and passersby honked their car horns and clapped outside the courtroom.
Ultimately, the decisions or verdicts in these cases are simply taken as after-the-fact proof that the criminal justice system works. This is despite the fact that it’s the minivan majority’s identification with the lost lives of these innocent, pregnant white women that mobilizes so many resourcesand brings the glaring media spotlight that keeps even prosecutors under constant scrutiny.
The bigger and better the fairy tale, the more lavish and picture-perfect the homes and neighborhoods, the more handsome the man and beautiful his wife, the more adorable the children the more difficult it is to reconcile when a nightmare unfolds inside of it, or perhaps because of it.
Judge Kopcow handed down the sentences after an emotional hearing in which Shanann’s parents and brother both testified and called Watts a “monster.” Watts’ parents also testified, saying they had not received all the information about their son’s plea deal before they spoke to media, including Denver7, last week.
“You don’t know what love is because if you did, you would not have killed them, you monster,” Rzucek told Watts, who stared downward throughout the hearing.
A family representative spoke on behalf of Shanann’s brother, Frankie Rzucek Jr., who said that Watts wasn’t worth the time it took to put pen to paper and that he prayed Watts would “never have a moment’s rest.”
Shanann’s mother, Sandra Rzucek, thanked law enforcement and prosecutors for their “exceptional work” on the case and after admonishing Watts for breaking theirs and Shanann’s trust, acknowledged that she and the rest of the family had asked prosecutors not to seek the death penalty for Watts – a request that was granted by prosecutors.
“I didn’t want death for you,” Sandra said. “Your life is between you and God now, and I pray that he has mercy on you.”
19th Judicial District Attorney Michael Rourke told the court of new details in the case that had not been publicly released before in attempting to show the court how Watts, 33, “totally and deliberately ended four lives” in a calculated manner.
He noted that Watts had smothered both 3-year-old Celeste and 4-year-old Bella, and that Bella had fought back against him. He said that he didn’t think Watts would ever tell the truth about what truly happened but that they had enough information to piece the case together.
After killing all three, Rourke said, Watts planned which oil and gas site he would dump their bodies at. Rourke said “Bella and Celeste were thrown away” and put in different crude oil tanks so they could not be together even in death. Rourke also noted that Watts had to shove his daughter’s bodies into the tanks and that investigators found scratch marks on one of the girl’s bodies and tufts of hair on the opening to one of the oil tanks – all in an attempt to show the court how careless Watts was in his actions.
“Prison for the remainder of his life is exactly where he belongs for murdering his entire family,” Rourke told the judge before the final sentences were handed down.
Through a family lawyer, Watts’ parents, Cindy and Ronnie Watts, also addressed the court.
The representative also said that Watts’ parents are looking for an explanation and a confession from their son and said they were looking for “an appropriate time and manner” for that to occur so both families “can have peace to understand details they need answered.”
Cindy Watts also spoke separately, saying she was “still struggling to understand how and why this tragedy occurred” and asking for “peace and healing” for both families.
She addressed her son directly, though he did not look up at her or acknowledge her.
“We have loved you from the beginning and we still love you now,” she said. “This might be hard for some to understand how I can sit here under these circumstances and tell you all we are heartbroken. We love you. Maybe you can’t believe it either.”
Both she and her husband said they forgave their son and that they would never abandon him.
After Rourke spoke, Judge Kopcow took the opportunity to go back over the charges and said Watts should face the maximum penalty because it was the worst case he’d seen in his time on the bench.
“I’ve been a judicial officer starting my 17th year and could objectively say that this is perhaps the most inhumane and vicious crime that I have handled out of the thousands of cases that I have seen, and nothing less than a maximum sentence would be appropriate,” Kopcow said.
37. Excellent detailed summary of the entire sentencing hearing via the Coloradoan:
The parents of both Shanann and Christopher Watts are in the courtroom, per initial statements by District Attorney Michael Rourke. Judge Marcelo Kopcow is speaking to attendees about expectations of demeanor during what he expects to be an “emotional” sentencing hearing.
Christopher Watts is wearing an orange jail outfit and eyeglasses, and is seated between his representation.
Frank Rzucek, Shanann Watts’ father, is first to make a statement in the hearing.
“I trusted you to take care of them, not kill them,” Rzucek said to Christopher Watts, calling him a “heartless monster” while reading a written statement.
Christopher Watts, seated behind the podium where Rzucek is speaking, is slightly hunched over, biting his lip while Rzucek speaks. “Love you, Papa and Dad,” Rzucek says through tears while speaking about his slain daughter and granddaughters.
Earlier this month, Watts entered a guilty plea. Next, his mother came forward to argue for him to rescind his confession, since she didn’t believe he was capable of such brutality. She was followed into the spotlight by Watts’s mistress, Nichol Kessinger, who said she thought he was divorced and castigated him for lying to her throughout their relationship.
This multiplicity of voices, as well as the assorted plot twists and plenty of family photos of the sort seen here, are just what producers of true-crime programming need to transform headline-making offenses into compelling storytelling — and Colorado stories have gotten such treatment again and again in recent years.
FREDERICK — A dusting of snow covered the sidewalks and driveways Monday morning in what was the Watts’ neighborhood. Folks living close by walked their dogs around the block and greeted family as they arrived for Thanksgiving. It was mostly quiet — a far cry from the flurry in the immediate aftermath of the August killings of Shanann, Celeste and Bella Watts.
Shortly after 33-year-old Christopher Watts killed his pregnant wife and young daughters and dumped their bodies on a Weld County oilfield, hundreds of people streamed into the Watts neighborhood to take part in a candlelight vigil honoring Shanann, her unborn son Nico, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste.
Vigil attendees set stuffed teddy bears, unicorns, mermaids, lambs, balloons, notes and flowers in front of the Watts house on Saratoga Trail.
But on Monday, the family’s yard was clear of toys, notes and flowers. Only faded purple ribbons honoring the family, tied around street lamps and trees throughout the neighborhood and other parts of Frederick, remained…
At the press conference that took place after the sentencing, Rourke said that two big questions still remain even as the long investigation has led the authorities toward an understanding of the truth behind both of the mysteries.
He said: “How? And why? Those are the questions that will always haunt anyone who was involved in the investigation.” Rourke also said, however: “I don’t think he’ll ever answer those questions. Like I said in the courtroom this morning, and I think [Shan’ann’s] family said it very, very well as well: I don’t think he will ever tell us. I don’t think he will give an honest assessment of why he did what he did, how he did what he did.”
“I was as nervous as I could be,” Rourke said. “Media outlets from all over the country were following this (case), and I knew if I didn’t stand up and do a professional job for the victim’s family and for everyone who worked on this case it was going to make us look like buffoons.”
“We talked about the point where we thought we would get an emotional response from the gallery and that’s exactly what we got when I said the girls had been smothered.”
Turns out Rourke and Weld County Coroner Carl Blesch had a compelling reason to keep the autopsy reports under wraps.
As has now been widely reported, Shanann had a blood-alcohol content of .128 percent at the time of her autopsy. Although a raised BAC is a natural part of the decomposition process, Shanann was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death and Rourke worried the media would spin that information to raise suspicions about her innocence.
Not to be overlooked, Shanann had just returned from a work trip the night she was killed, which meant investigators needed to confirm she hadn’t been drinking by interviewing anyone and everyone she might have come into contact with in Arizona, at the airport and even on the airplane.
“Had there been reports in the media that Shanann had a BAC of .128, it might have made people question what they had seen,” Rourke said. “Because those reports had not been made public, everyone we interviewed was certain that they never saw Shanann drinking anything other than water.”
It struck a particularly painful chord when photos of the oil tanks were relayed to his office. One of the photos is of an open hatch at the top of a crude oil tank. An investigator had placed a ruler across the opening to very clearly show it was only eight inches in diameter.
By the time Rourke received those photos, Watts was at the Frederick Police Department telling authorities where they could find the bodies of his wife and two daughters. The information that Watts stuffed his daughters into two tanks on Anadarko property in rural Weld County near Hudson was relayed to officers in the field. The response among those at the scene, as well as by Rourke, was universally the same.
“I remember thinking, ‘This can’t possibly be true,” Rourke said. “Then you look and you realize there’s really no other way into that tank.”
The only other way in and out of the tank is through a panel on the back. The unfortunate Anadarko employees who responded to assist law enforcement with the recovery of the bodies had massive power tools to remove the heavy-duty bolts used to keep the tank from leaking.
Watts didn’t have those power tools and even if he did, opening the larger panel on the back would have caused oil to go all over the ground, Rourke said.
“The day he hit the jail, he tried to call his dad once, but for some reason the call didn’t go through,” Rourke said. “He didn’t make another phone call. We checked everyday to listen to his jail calls. He didn’t call anyone.”
Kessinger told police she does not think she is the only catalyst for the sequence of events. She does, however, believe that being in Chris’s life may have “accelerated the process.” She feels “money is the biggest catalyst for this event happening.”
In that same interview, Kessinger said she could not think of a reason for why Chris would have hurt his children. She continues, “The only thing she could think of was that the kids may have seen him killing Shanann so he chose to kill them as well.”
Shannan to Chris problems:
August 5, 2018
2234 hours: Shanann added (to Chris), “Being away from you, it’s not the help I missed because I handle that. lt was exhausting, but with school that’s not hard. I missed the smell of you, you touching me when l’m cooking, you touching me in bed, you touching me period! I missed holding you and snuggling with you. I missed eating with you, watching tv with you. I missed staring at you, I missed making love with you. I missed everything about you. I couldn’t wait to touch you, hold you, kiss you, make love to you, smell you, laugh with you. I couldn’t wait to celebrate 8 years with you… lf you are done, don’t love me, don’t want to work this out, not happy anymore and only staying because of kids, I NEED you to tell me.”
2300 hours: Shanann asked Watts, “Would you stay with me if we didn’t have kids?”
2309 hours: Shanann asked Watts, “l just don’t get it. You don’t fall out of love in 5 weeks.” Minutes later she pondered, “How can you sleep? Our marriage is crumbling in front of us and you can sleep.”
Problems with in-laws
p. 2085 July 9, 2018
2015 hours: Shanann discussed how Watts’ mother gave Celeste ice cream with nuts in the ingredients. Shanann felt this was done in defiance of Shanann’s warnings of Celeste’s food allergies. Shanann told Watts, “You should call your dad and tell him you did not appreciate your mom putting your daughter at risk today, nor do you like that she teased our girls. You should also say you don’t appreciate her saying they have to learn they can’t always get what they want! (Referring to ice cream) they are 2 and 4!
Shannan discusses marital problems
July 24, 2018 1802 hours: Shanann told Watts, “l realized during this trip what’s missing in our relationship! lt’s only one way emotions and feelings. I can’t come back like this. I need you to meet me halfway. You don’t consider others at all, nor think about others feelings.” Watts replied that he was sorry and he loves her. Shanann responded, “l try to give you space, but while you are working and living the bachelor life l’m carrying our 3rd and fighting with our two kids daily and trying to work and make money. lt’s not hard texting love you and miss you. lf you don’t mean it then I get it, but we need to talk. I kept looking at my phone all night and no response from you. Like seriously! We didn’t just start dating yesterday! We’ve been together 8 years and have 2.5 kids together.”
In a phone search conducted by authorities, investigators found searches on Kessinger’s phone for sexual videos and positions, hours’ worth of searches for “Shanann Watts,” searches including “can cops trace text messages” after the murders, searches for Amber Frey (the mistress of convicted murderer Scott Peterson), if “people hate Amber Frey,” and Frey’s subsequent book deal.
August 13, 2018 (CBS4 note: This contains lyrics from a song which Chris Watts looked up on Google the lyrics include: “- lunacy has found me – Cannot stop the battery – Pounding out aggression – Turns into obsession – Cannot kill the battery – Cannot kill the family .“
“While in North Carolina, Celeste had a birthday party. Chris’s mother and father didn’t show up, and also didn’t text Shanann or Chris. Since that time, Chris started to get distant from Shanann. Shanann thought Chris’s parents loved the other grandkids more than Celeste and Bella. It was a burden for them to talk to Celeste and Bella. Chris’s parents also did not attend Shanann’s and Chris’s wedding. Chris told Shanann that Shanann was putting a barrier between Chris and his dad.
“Chris told Shanann that they were no longer compatible. Chris told her he didn’t want the baby; he just wanted it to be the two girls. Chris told her he wasn’t sure if he wanted a third child. Shanann asked Chris why he wanted another child if he felt that way about her. He said he thought it would fix the relationship. … Prior to the North Carolina trip, Shanann and Chris were both happy, and Chris was excited about the baby.
“Chris said he was considering separating from Shanann. Shanann asked Chris to see a therapist but he refused. Shanann was 100% against separation. Chris wouldn’t talk to her.”
An early police report details the couples’ ongoing financial issues. Chris Watts told officers when they first searched the house that “…he couldn’t log in to check the bank accounts because she does the finances.He said he knows the password but not the user name.” The report continues, “Chris advised if there was a stock pile of cash in the house he would not have known about it.”
Watts’ father Ronnie told investigators that his son “described Shanann as controlling, narcissistic and possible bi-polar,” though he had not seen any verbal of physical altercations between Chris and Shanann.
In a text sent to her friend Ady, Shannon wrote out the entire speech she planned to deliver on Monday, after she had returned home and gotten some rest.
‘Can you please tell me something, because just like you, I’m in my head? I try to fix things and make them better and this is making me crazy. I know that you need time. I want to give you what you’re asking for and respect your space, I need some time. This place that I’m in, in my head, is not a good place,’ read the text.
‘It is not healthy for me, or Niko. I need you to help me help you. I need you to give just a little bit of what I did, or didn’t do, so I’m not going crazy in my head to figure it out. I know I can’t fix this by myself; that, we are going to have to work together.’
She then got on a plane and was not heard from again after her friend dropped her off at home. Watts would later send a text to her phone just before 8am asking where she was, shortly after he buried her body in a shallow grave.
He then looked up the lyrics to a Metalica, called the school his girls were set to enroll in and told them that they would not be attending and called up a hotel in Aspen.
It is unclear if he was trying to cover himself with that move or use the trip as a romantic getaway for himself and his mistress.
By noon multiple people were asking about Shanann’s whereabouts, and to one inquiry Watts responded: ‘l just talked to Nicki. Shanann went to a friend’s house with the kids today. I haven’t heard from her since. I will keep you updated though.’
The situation grew increasingly fraught over the next few hours texts show, with Watts imploring people not to contact the police.
60. It’s the opinion of HLN‘s expert Joseph Scott Morgan, a certified death investigator that Shan’ann was murdered in her bed, and that Bella fought back [which is also the contention of the prosecutor]. TCRS disagrees on both counts.
61. Shan’ann’s phone and watch were retrieved from the loft couch under two couch cushions.
62. Trent Bolte is mentioned in the Discovery Documents, however none of the text messages claimed to have been exchanged between Watts and Bolte form part of the documents.
63. The sentiment towards Nichol Kessinger appears to be shifting.
Before the big document dump on the #ChrisWatts case, back when we had no info to go on, I tweeted that #NicholKessinger was a victim. That was before I knew about the Googling/telling him to pawn the ring/deleting of pix/lying in interviews, etc. Clearly, my opinion has changed.
Watts has not hired an attorney in the case and has not filed a single document in the suit since it was filed, court records show. The Rzuceks filed a motion for default judgment on Monday, court records show. A default judgment can be awarded if the defendant doesn’t respond to a suit, triggering an automatic win for the plaintiffs.
“He has failed to answer the case against him,” according to Steven Lambert, an attorney with Greeley’s Grant & Hoffman Law Firm, who is representing Shanann’s parents. Lambert said he expects the judge to make a decision on the motion in the next week or two.
If the judge finds that Watts is in default, the court will next have a hearing in which a jury decides how much money the Rzuceks should be awarded in damages.Watts likely will appear by telephone for that hearing, Lambert said.
In POST TRUTH, the 100th True Crime Rocket Science [TCRS] title, the world’s most prolific true crime author Nick van der Leek demonstrates how much we still don’t know in the Watts case. In the final chapter of the SILVER FOX trilogy the author provides a sly twist in a tale that has spanned 12 TCRS books to date. The result may shock or leave you with even more questions.
SILVER FOX III available now in paperback!
“If you are at all curious about what really happened in the Watts case, then buy this book, buy every one he has written and you will get as close as humanly possible to understanding the killer and his victims.”- Kathleen Hewtson. Purchase the very highly rated and reviewed SILVER TRILOGY – POST TRUTH COMING SOON.
TCRS MERCH available now – just in time for Christmas!
Book 5 – ALL NEW! “I have thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook…” – Connie Lukens. Drilling Through Discovery Complete Audiobook
Read the entire 9-Part TWO FACE series, the most definitive book series covering the Chris Watts Case
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Book 4 in the TWO FACE series, one of the best reviewed, is available now in paperback!
“Book 4 in the K9 series is a must read for those who enjoy well researched and detailed crime narratives. The author does a remarkable job of bringing to life the cold dark horror that is Chris Watts throughout the narrative but especially on the morning in the aftermath of the murders. Chris’s actions are connected by Nick van der Leek’s eloquent use of a timeline to reveal a motive.”