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

Tag: MLM (Page 1 of 2)

Hands Up: Since learning about the Watts case, have you tried Thrive?

The Watts case was a tragedy, but the greatest travesty was that the case never made it to trial. Had it done so, millions of other lives could have been saved – literally millions.

Millions of Americans ruining their lives on a daily basis could have been warned through the coverage of a high-profile crime, especially when experts cross-examined the impact of MLM on the Watts family, and their finances.

This is not some obtuse legal issue; it’s a moral issue. People’s lives are being destroyed and until MLMs are stopped, it will continue to happen.

Through the TWO FACE series I’ve tried to address the MLM wrecking ball; to make it clear in no uncertain terms that MLM is evil, no ifs, buts or maybes. But misconceptions persist. People want to believe something works for them, because it’s tied to their own greed, laziness and narcissism.

Someone contacted me recently and said she’s been using the Thrive pills/formulas to lose weight. It seems the Watts case has worked a treat for Le-vel. Even folks obsessed with true crime have been tempted to use a product that’s at the epicenter of a family annihilation. It doesn’t matter though, as long as it works for me, right?

I won’t go into the merits of the product here. If you feel taking powders and supplements is a good way to lose weight and improve your appearance, well, that’s your poison.

One easy way to check how well Thrive works is to visit Nickole Atkinson’s Facebook page. Has she visibly lost weight a year since her best friend was murdered?


Whether you support the products or not, they’re part of the MegaMachine that is Multi-Level marketing. It’s a huge $36 billion business. It is a powerful lobby group with political connections. One of its proponents is President Trump, along with many in Trump’s cabinet.

Many in Trump’s cabinet have strong ties to MLMs as well: Betsey DeVos (whose husband is the president of Amway — by the way, DeVos family has donated $200 million to the Republican party over the years), Ben Carson, Carl Icahn (a billionaire who is also a major investor in Herbalife and holds five board seats at the company), and Charles Herbster.

In this article MLM seems to be criticized, while at the same time a case is made that IF YOU WORK HARD, YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL. YOU CAN BE PART OF THE 1% WHO SUCCEED!

No – you can’t!

When statics show that 0.4% make any money out of MLM, what the math is showing isn’t that ALMOST 1% SUCCEED – it’s that 99%, almost everybody, fails. We might as well say everybody fails. But it’s this niggly little 0.4% that is used to argue the “truth” – that actually, it works, and it can work for you.

If MLM is a scam, why do people not involved in the MLM structure buy overpriced miracle products from scammy companies?

And for those who buy into MLM, imagine applying for a job, and being told there’s a 0.4% chance you’ll be paid a salary at the end of each month?

So is it possible to make any money doing an MLM? After finishing all of his analysis and research on various MLM data, Jon Taylor concluded, “In every case, using the analytical framework described, the loss rate for all these MLMs ranged from 99.05% to 99.99%, with an average of 99.71% of participants losing money in an MLM.

On average, one in 545 is likely to have profited after subtracting expenses and 997 out of 1,000 individuals involved with an MLM lose money (not including time invested).”

That sounds dismal unless you’re the 1 in 545 or the top 1 percent working your business. Further, it blames MLM without considering any of the individuals who joined.  MLM is a viable home-based business opportunity. Anyone interested in selling a product to generate income has the ability to achieve success. With that said, it is crucial to research and investigate the company and products thoroughly to make sure that it’s not a scam, and also, that it’s a product and system you feel you can promote.

“That sounds dismal unless you’re the 1 in 545…” No one said the 1 in 545 are rich, merely that they didn’t lose money. The reality is most LOSE money, and a tiny fraction are super rich, at the expense of everyone else.

“Anyone interested in selling a product has the ability to achieve success…” – that should read, everyone interested in selling MLM is almost guaranteed to fail. This can be derived down to anyone interested in using an MLM product is also guaranteed to fail.

If you’re aware of this [and if you’re reading this blog, right now, you are aware of this], and if  you persist regardless, then you only have yourself to blame for ruining your life, and those around you.


The Two Faces of Chris Watts – what does it mean?

Another word for a “Two Face” is a hypocrite, and in some ways a hypocrite is a coward. A fearful person who appears one way but is another.
Many of the YouTube conspiracy buffs associated with this case spend their time sifting through details and detritus, looking for meaning and revelation. But it’s not in shadows or dolls covered in plastic sheets that the real answers lie. It’s somewhere else, somewhere more subtle.
One of the obvious idiosyncrasies of this case is not only Shan’ann’s OCD, but Chris Watts’ OCD. If Shan’ann was more about organizing and scheduling, Watts seemed preoccupied with numbers, cleanliness and self-grooming.
Those who dispute the OCD Narrative, or which to minimize it, do the disservice of breaking a vital fragment of the psychology from this case, and removing it from the main body. If we acknowledge that OCD was present within both of these people, where does it lead us?
There’s a long and a short version to the answer. The short version is that OCD is symptom of one simple thing: anxiety. It’s a psychological attempt to control anxiety. This suggests that both Shan’ann and Watts were – despite appearances, despite their public faces or social media avatars – privately insecure and unusually anxious.
This chronic social anxiety partially explains Watts’ motive. He was a weak man with a weak social currency, and in his mind destroying his family and making them disappear was the easier option than a messy divorce. Probably money factored into his decision-making, but it was driven by fear. Fear of retribution from a vindictive society if he did things by the book.
Coming back to Shan’ann, and her second face, when we take the OCD Narrative [as well as the anxiety] into the realm of MLM and Facebook, we see all the troubles that are there magically disappear. How? Through magical thinking. Suddenly the world is recast as a place where one can Thrive. All problems disappear as soon as I put a patch on my arm. What the MLM effectively is in this case is a proxy for the OCD. It’s an antidote against anxiety.
It’s also a lie, which shows how ultimately the efforts to control anxiety by putting on a brave face may fool a few people, but the real loser is the liar. We don’t learn by lying, we learn by living. We don’t grow or enrich ourselves by lying, but by advancing ourselves in reality.
Where these ideas bring us is to the original title I wanted to use for this post: The Psychological Connections Between OCD, Trauma and Victim Culture. Since I thought it would scare most people away I went with the kindergarten version.
Elsewhere on this site a discussion arose around the relevance of history. It doesn’t seem relevant, does it? What does a war in a previous century have to do with a family in Frederick Colorado? Everything and nothing. Everything in the sense that a myriad of forces we’re not aware of are forming our culture, and who we are, and who we respond to our circumstances today. And nothing, because the identities in this story were to some extent self-generated.
It’s important to consider both aspects in true crime – the cultural psychology aspect and the identity aspect.
We ought to be aware that “identity politics” was what fueled the Second World War. Identity politics is all about rallying around and identifying strongly with an idea. One identifies so strongly with this idea, that one’s identity becomes infused with it.
For those interested in this subject, I recommend a brief browse through the history of identity politics [written by the sociologist Frank Furedi]. Here’s an excerpt:
…the politics of culture has rarely allowed the forging of strong bonds between different groups, as today’s acrimonious dispute between feminists and trans activists shows. Human solidarity is one of the main casualties of identity politics. Once different groups retreat into their respective safe spaces, there will be little common ground left for those committed to the politics of solidarity and the ideal of universalism…
How identity politics appears in the Watts case is this tribal approach to identifying with the victim, or sympathizing excessively or inappropriately with perpetrator, and then the two groups bombarding one other with the backing of their respective political camps. TCRS actively discourages this practice, but it’s nevertheless a constant theme in true crime.
Identity politics is our own form of OCD. It’s our own version of trying to control or recast our anxiety. There is a lot more to say about the Culture of Victimhood as a general theme pervasive in our society, and also the victim psychology within the Watts case. What’s clear is during his “confession”, when Watts himself was becoming a real victim in his own story, he was offered an olive branch.
He was offered the chance to be the victim, and thus innocent of his own actions. This was ironic given the reason he committed the crime – it was a chance to no longer be a victim, and not be held accountable by his ex-wife for his actions [meaning his new partner could see him as innocent, or in his mind, as “who he really was”.]
When offered the chance to be the victim during his interrogation, Watts did this by making his murdered wife the offender.
Think about Identity Politics and idea of identifying with a Perceived Victimhood. Maybe you feel discriminated against because of your race, sexual orientation or some other reason. Maybe you feel diminished because of someone or something else. Maybe you feel your country is about to be overrun by immigrants. Maybe you feel someone or some class of people is invading your domain and will soon steal your job. All of this raises anxiety. At the same time, the source responsible for this narrative offers an instrument to sort it out [a wall, a patch, an exit, an army of the like-minded etc].
There is also a fascinating relationship between history and victimhood, in fact history tends to be used like a convenience store to prop up victimhood, especially in modern times. So after decades of silence on the subject, concepts like slavery and colonialism and the idea of privilege comes into vogue, at a time when – for example – colonialism is safely in our past. So why bring things up if their relevance to our actual lived realities is such a stretch?
Because it cuts to who we are. It cuts to the core of our own whys. And this is the attraction of true crime. We don’t realize it, but in some way, shape or form we identify with the circumstances of a crime as much as we are horrified and try to distance ourselves from it. Even when we blame and disassociate ourselves, calling the criminal names that makes us feel better about ourselves, we reveal our own shallow approach to the victim and their lived experience. We’re not expressing solidarity when we gravitate to a victim psychology, we’re doing the opposite: we’re separating ourselves from a universally lived existence, and we do that in an attempt to elevate ourselves [as innocent victims we deserve some sort of recompense, some compensation].
We need to move beyond imposing our own sense of Perceived Victimhood on how we see others, and how we see the world. Just as MLM recasts the world in an instant as a place filled with magical solutions and patches that can transform our lives, victimhood does the same. We wear a patch branded with a particular kind of victimhood, which allows us to belong to a fellowship of victims, and we may even pay money to do that.
TCRS is about seeing the people in these cases, not imposing our own narratives onto them.
It’s not easy.
I don’t like to discuss these concepts here, simply because they require a lot of background, and a lot of silent contemplation. I prefer to do due diligence to these ideas as a chapter within a narrative where it will resonate best, and where there are a lot of enriching references to sketch the psychology properly. Also, many who come here skating on the highways of Google, tend to be the least affected by them. This is a private and personal matter, and better debated and considered as part of one’s own internal dialogue.
Let me leave you with something from Psychology Today originally posted in June 2014.
Why would people loudly and publicly proclaim themselves as victims? Perhaps a better question, based upon the level of secondary gain, attention, protection and support received by these people, is why wouldn’t they? With all of the attention on the issue, why are we surprised when people are exaggerating, using, or downright lying, about victimization? Of course, when we attach benefits to identification as a victim, we will hear from more victims, both real and exaggerated. Acknowledging a history of victimization is healthy, but is that all that a person is?
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“It’s just as much his fault as hers that their finances are in a shambles…”

A lot of mystery and intrigue surrounds the Watts family finances, particularly on Shan’ann’s side. Although we don’t know the numbers, Shan’ann’s Facebook provides an almost infinite portrait of Shan’ann’s work ethic, lifestyle choices and product choices.

Without knowing the numbers exactly, we can be pretty clear what was going on behind the scenes in the Watts family.

I expect this to be a controversial post, with many dismissing whatever is written here with the “Victim Blaming” label, simply because as far as the finances were concerned, Watts was clearly the true breadwinner of the couple.

There’s a caveat to this, but before dealing with that aspect, let’s examine a few undisputed facts, all of which are anchored in the legal realities of the Discovery Documents:

  1. In August 2018, whatever the circumstances were prior, the loan on 2825 Saratoga Trail was in the name of Chris Watts. We know this because Shan’ann herself said so in a text on August 8th. This suggests Shan’ann’s credit was curtailed in some significant way. Fullscreen capture 20190206 131230
  2. The credit cards of the entire household were also curtailed. When a transaction went off on the morning of the murder, irrespective of who authorized it, it bounced.Fullscreen capture 20190206 132009
  3. Watts seemed to function largely without credit cards, certainly in terms of his affair with Kessinger. Although one reason was likely to keep the relationship secret, another may have been that they simply didn’t have any credit, or if they did, they had very little. He mostly used prepaid gift cards to pay for Kessinger but on Saturday night, August 11, Watts broke his own rule regarding this and used Shan’ann’s Baby Blue Credit card, which alerted Shan’ann to the expense. This may have been because by then Watts had burned through his last gift card.Fullscreen capture 20190206 134811
  4. Neither Chris Watts nor Shan’ann actually owned a vehicle. The truck was a work vehicle [which Watts wasn’t allowed to drive on personal errands] and the Lexus was a lease.Fullscreen capture 20190206 132126
  5. There is no doubt that Shan’ann wore the pants in the household, and this included maintaining absolute control over the finances.Fullscreen capture 20190206 132854

These are the facts, but the bottom line is the Watts couple were in serious financial difficulty by August 2018, and for the second time in three years. This time, the difficulties were compounded by a third pregnancy, an affair, and the imminent threat of the family losing their home because of a debt spiral they would not acknowledge, and this time, could not escape.


So how did this financial disaster double act actually happen?

Because of a kind of “tunnel vision” regarding the Watts case, many are disinclined to acknowledge any flaw or failure on Shan’ann’s part. It’s disrespectful to criticize her in any shape or form [so the argument goes] because she’d dead, didn’t deserve to die no matter what, and can’t defend herself from beyond the grave.

But the question here is what was the true state of the finances? There is none better than Shan’ann to tell us about this, and she does. She can; even from beyond the grave.

We have her own texts and behaviors to work from in the final days.

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When Watts spent $62 at a restaurant on Saturday night, August 11, Shan’ann’s phone alerted to the purchase and Shan’ann freaked out. She went into emergency mode, battening down the hatches, Googling menus, checking prices, and giving her husband instructions to keep the receipt for the meal. Fullscreen capture 20181213 175839Although this was a symptom of Shan’ann checking on her husband’s fidelity [and her suspicions were valid] we shouldn’t miss the mechanism that this takes – the finances. Shan’ann’s surveillance of her husband is done via financial vigilance. And if this meticulous financial oversight of a restaurant bill [while she was on a trip in Arizona, also eating at restaurants and Thrivin’] wasn’t a sign to her friends and companions that the Watts family were stressed financially, what would be?

Nickole Atkinson was aware that Shan’ann was careful about expenditures, choosing cheaper restaurants,  while at the same time, sending her children to a school Nickole herself considered unaffordable for Shan’ann.

We know that at the same time the girls were going to be back at $500-a-week Primrose school, Watts [not his wife, not him and Shan’ann, just him] was facing a mortgage payment of $1700 that he simply could not meet, and he was already three months behind.Fullscreen capture 20190206 133128

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Someone else’s debts are easily dismissed.  It’s easy to treat someone else’s mortgage and credit card impairment as passé. When it’s yours, it’s less easy to be that laissez faire about it, isn’t it?

Now imagine you do care about your debt, and you do care about losing your house, and losing everything, but someone else is in control of your money [your salary, the bank account, even the actual state of your financial situation]. And no matter how much you try to address it, nothing changes. Someone else remains in control and the situation simply continues to unravel. Well, that was the situation in the Watts family.

In any scenario where a couple have no money and there is a pregnancy, there is an automatic crisis. We see it with teenagers and unplanned pregnancies all the time. The difference was that the financial side of Watts fairy tale appeared to be there when in reality, in 2018, it was little more than a facade. Now why might this be?

Shan’ann’s approach to the finances seemed to be not 100% grounded in reality, just as Thrive and MLMs in general are not 100% grounded in reality [to put it mildly].

Perhaps Shan’ann’s attachment to MLM had a lot to do with a delusion about the true state of her marriage and their finances. People who sell for a living, and marketers, are incentivized to make believers out of their buyers. To sell they must be confident and convincing, and the best way to do that is to believe their own bullshit. When it comes to MLM, this stereotype of brain addled huns drunk on the same Kool-Aid is so common it’s cliche.

But making the sale is one thing, believing you’re sitting on a pot of gold when it’s actually a pile of shit is another situation altogether. In the Watts household, it didn’t just happen. It took two-and-a-half years for the debt bubble to balloon into a debt mountain of steaming dung. Sometimes debt can be like a nightmare. Sometimes one’s own debts can just feel like someone else’s, or simply hypothetical, especially when one’s escaped or wriggled out of a tight financial impasse before.

Typically, phantom money exists around fake people.

In this fakery, both Watts and his wife appeared to be complicit. Neither really told their friends about their financial problems, and yet their friends and colleagues seemed to know there were financial problems regardless.

What their friends said:

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In all the text messages during the weeks prior to the murders, the issue of financial strain seems to be the one thing Watts and his wife never brought up, and never argued about. Unless this aspect has been selectively excised from both their phones.

More likely though, neither were particularly focused on the finances until it was too late. Watts may or may not have been misled or kept in the dark about their money, something that may have been an error, a weakness, a misrepresentation or a manipulation [or a combination of all of these] from his wife.

There appears to be some evidence not only of financial mismanagement in Shan’ann’s past, but possible dishonesty and criminality.

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The same can also be said about Watts, who, if Trent Bolte’s accusations are true, Watts was spending money on male hookers and buying him botox treatments. Even if Bolte’s allegations aren’t true, we know Watts was conducting an affair when – financially if not otherwise – he could least afford it.

Probably the best insight we get into the Watts finances is from a source almost everyone dismisses as either unreliable or just plain evil. Nichol Kessinger. By judging her in this manner, an entire line of evidence is simply lost. In terms of finances, and narcissism, Kessinger is one of very few characters in this true crime story that had no debt and wasn’t pitching herself across the suburbs and rooftops of social media.

From Kessinger we find:

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In sum we can see that both Chris and Shan’ann Watts hid the true nature of their finances from the rest of the world. They both seemed to be actively hiding other things too, for various reasons [for him the affair, for her the Thriving fakery and the true nature of her marriage].

Isn’t it ironic that both were arguing about when to “reveal” the gender of the third baby at the time of the murders? Forget about the fact that it was about the baby, or the baby’s gender, it was a conflict about when to make known something…

If Shan’ann’s side of the income equation was shaky, and I believe it was, that doesn’t make her completely and utterly responsible for the financial mess they were in, but it sure did aggravate it. Unfortunately, because the Watts case never made it to trial, we’ll never know just how much “aggravation” Shan’ann’s MLM addiction caused the marriage, and sadly, millions of Americans caught up in MLM will have to learn their lessons firsthand – the hard way.

Ultimately, whether he was pushed, misinformed, stupid, or simply not paying attention, Watts was responsible for allowing things to get as out of hand – financially – as they got. Lest we forget, Watts was a participant in the Thrive thing as well, albeit a rather lackluster extra in his own Thrive spiel.shanann-watts-51

He ought to have taken control of the MLM train wreck sooner. He would have had he been more hands-on and informed about the practical financial realities they faced. Had he been more hands on he would have learned from the first financial disaster and not pursued a third pregnancy.

The purchase of the big house was the main millstone around their necks. Simultaneously, thanks to the health of the housing market, disposing of the house was their potential salvation. Watts may have felt justified in only saving himself financially, since Shan’ann couldn’t be saved [in his mind], but he conflated financial ruin and resurrection with murder and death.

While all of this is true, it should be noted that things spun out of control [financially] in the final few months before the murders. While Shan’ann was in North Carolina, Watts was falling in love. It’s possible the debt monster when it hit seemed to come out of left field.

An aspect almost everyone seems to have missed is that Kessinger likely made Watts not only aware of the true state of his deleterious financial situation, but pushed him to be responsive to it.

Neither saw it coming when the financial tsunami hit, but when it did, Watts panicked. He didn’t panic in a vacuum – probably he blamed Shan’ann [and possible the children too] for “ruining” his life. Financially, that is.


Nichol Kessinger asked Watts: “Is your lifestyle sustainable?”

My impression, both on this site and the social media I’ve seen, is that folks are so busy trashing Nichol Kessinger, they’re no longer trying to figure out what insight she provides into Watts and Shan’ann.

Just prior to the two minute mark in the clip below, Kessinger covers a particularly murky area in the Watts case – the family finances. The mistress was privy to the Watts’ financial set up, but like everyone else, she was only provided a limited view.

Eventually [not knowing about their bankruptcy in 2015], Kessinger asked Watts:

“Is your lifestyle sustainable?”

If Shan’ann had been asked the same question [by anyone], how would she have answered?

At 01:14 Kessinger is asked she ever saw Watts’ bedroom basement setup.

KESSINGER: Yeah, I went down there and saw his little…work out equipment, and there’s a bed down there…all set up. It’s all clean and organized. Um…like a decent bed setup. 

What do we know about CO 528-ZJV?

While the media have been in snooze mode over the past few days, I came across a short video blog posted on December 13 by Daniel Bishop. At 1:03 Bishop mentions “everyone wanting to know what happened to Shan’ann Watts’ car.”

Bishop describes Shan’ann’s vehicle as leased, and given to her by Thrive as part of an “auto bonus.” Remember Thrive? How long has been since Thrive or MLM has entered the media narrative, or any narrative regarding this case?  Too long in my view. I suspect Bishop’s contention that the Lexus was a lease is true, and have suspected that for some time, but is there any proof of this?

What the Discovery Documents say about Shan’ann’s Lexus

Lexus appears 69 times in the Discovery Documents, while the word car appears 87 times. And there it is in black and white:

Curiously, the wording isn’t even that Shan’ann had leased the Lexus, but that the “Watts family” had leased it. This suggests that technically it wasn’t “Shan’ann’s car” even in the family sense, especially if Watts was paying for the lease.


Now we don’t know that for sure, but consider what we do know:

  1. The Lexus was usually parked inside the garage while Chris Watts’ truck was invariably outside [the vehicular equivalent of him not sleeping in his own bed, but in the basement].
  2. Watts’ work truck was outside during a hailstorm, one Shan’ann filmed, while “her” vehicle was in the garage. According to Watts, be believed his vehicle had been vandalized or broken into, but left his toolboxes in the back unlocked to “see if anyone was trying to break into the truck” again.
  3. Watts used the Lexus frequently while Shan’ann was away, including to drive his mistress to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on the weekend of July 28.
  4. Following a six minute call to Shan’ann, Shan’ann sent Watts an insurance identification card on the Lexus on July 30, the morning following his return from the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It seems Watts used this information to renew the insurance [another expense] effective from August 15 to February 15. It’s unclear whether the car was insured prior to these dates, and who was paying the insurance premium. The fact that Watts appears to have requested insurance information may indicate that they had defaulted on these payments, or that he intended to take them over once Shan’ann was dead.
  5. Watts was not allowed to run errands in his work truck, which was fitted with a GPS and monitored by Anadarko. This means technically, neither Watts nor his wife were actually vehicle owners in their own right. It also meant he would necessarily need to use the Lexus himself, and Shana’nn’s Facebook does show Watts often behind the wheel, while she is in the passenger seat.

According to Bishop, the leasing company took back Shan’ann’s 2016 Lexus, and because it was too old to be leased out any further, they auctioned it off. So, CO 528-ZJV – like Chris Watts – is gone.

Over the past month or so, Chris Watts has been villainised [not without good reason] and Nichol Kessinger villified, particularly on social media. But one entity has come out of this debacle with barely a speck of blame. Let’s deal with Thrive again, briefly, and the “auto bonus” spiel. We’ll so via Shan’ann and other MLMers.

What Shan’ann and other MLMers say about the luxury car bonus

Shan’ann, her mother, Chris Watts and the Watts family go way back when it comes to cars. Shan’ann used to work at Dirty South after all.

So posing next to cars was almost second nature to her, and if you’re a mechanic, what’s wrong with you or your wife, or you and your wife, using a snazzy car to sell shit?

In the above video, Shan’ann and her fellow promoters are at the rooftop pool of a San Diego hotel, when Shan’ann announces Nickole Atkinson has hit her “12K”, and earned her auto bonus. Atkinson appears to shed a tear on camera, that’s how moved she is by her achievement, and the honor of being recognized by her MLM peers.

In the video, dated June 26, Shan’ann adds that Nickole had started working full-time as a Thrive promoter for the past month [presumably June], “working the business”, and that she [Nickole] had quit her job of 14 years to do that. Basically, after working for Thrive full-time for a month, selling vitamin patches and shakes, the company apparently wanted to give Atkinson a car to reward her for her hard work.

The Discovery Documents, however, disagree with Shan’ann’s claim that Nickole had quit her job in May or June 2018.

Here it is:

On August 21, when detective Baumhover contacted Atkinson, she was getting ready to do a night shift as a nursing assistance at Mesa Vista Nursing Home in Boulder, a short drive west of Frederick and Erie.


In the video, Atkinson mentions using her auto bonus to get a Tesla, but it’s clear in the crime scene footage that she’s still driving a white Mazda Dodge GT more than six weeks after the rooftop video was recorded.

We know that Chris Watts had received an auto bonus as well, yet in spite of Shan’ann’s grandstanding on social media in May that she was shopping for a new Lexus for him, on his behalf,  he never acted on his auto bonus either.

But Shan’ann was using Chris Watts’ Facebook as an additional “profile”, if you will, to market, promote and sell Thrive products. So his auto bonus, was actually hers.

But that exposes the above spiel as more than a little misleading. If Shan’ann was speaking on Watts’ behalf, telling everyone he was shopping for a new luxury car, when it was actually her auto bonus, her business, and her aspirations [or promotional aspirations], then she was representing an acquisitive ability that wasn’t merely a gross exaggeration, we’re able to see in the discovery dump that it wasn’t true.

Put simply, Shan’ann was advocating spending beyond their means as a way of promoting a product, and using the idea of living beyond one’s means [as a sort of dream-come-true fantasy] as a sales hook. In other words, her sales pitch was essentially to lure others into spending beyond their means as well. Quit your job – like I have – get free stuff, live the glamorous life, and…have no money at the end of it.

In one of the few instances where the Discovery Documents do deal with the Watts finances in some detail, notice the manner in which Watts cagily frames the situation around the Lexus.

It’s “their” car, not Shan’ann’s car, and it’s not a lease, it’s paid for by the company.

This is Watts doing a Thrive spiel to the cops, only, a police interrogation is where pitching fairy tales no longer works.

In reality, the Lexus wasn’t paid for by anyone, it belonged to the leasing company.

Now, it’s probably important to head off the counters to these counters, one of them being that the Watts vehicle was part of a hire-purchase arrangement, and that eventually they would become the owners of the vehicle.

One way to address that, besides through the semantics in the Discovery Documents [the word “lease” isn’t used multiple times accidentally], is to look at former employees and to see what they say about their experience with MLMs. So there’s not a lot of information out there from disgruntled employees, but there is some, like this, posted on Reddit in 2017.Of course, former employees are contractually and legally obligated not to disclose sensitive information, and if they do, they can be – and often are – sued.

But Thrivers don’t pose around fancy cars, and post themselves doing that on Facebook, do they?

According to, Le-Vel/Thrive aren’t unique in using the luxury car lure as bait. It’s pretty much standard practice when it comes to MLM companies:

The dirty little secret promoters won’t tell you, is that far from the auto bonus being a reward for hard work, the promoters are required to get a lease when they reach a particular milestone. This obligation then infects that person’s social network, as everyone goes gaga about X’s brand new car and the wonderful company X works for. It’s marketing gold, and it mainlines into the greed/envy/ego aspect of a person.

At 5:37 in the clip above, HBO’s John Oliver refers to the “dangling of vast lifestyle improvements”, especially flashy cars, and luxury travel, as being “at the heart of the MLM pitch.”

A cursory glance at Shan’ann’s Facebook profile provides confirmation of this. She uses almost every Live pitch to punt the lifestyle perks – flexi hours, better health, wealth, holidays and overall luxury. [Meanwhile, her credit cards are maxed out, she’s about to lose her house,and tragically in Shan’ann’s case, her life].

An argument can be made that Shan’ann started losing her life before she died. That she was so caught up in something, it swallowed her up, and encouraged the swallowing up and wholesale consumption of others, so that while this was happening, she was blinded to not one, by many obvious realities.

The Lexus is one reality that was employed in the Watts family fairy tale to convey an alternative reality.

The white Lexus in the Watts’ garage was a beautiful lie, and each day, that beautiful lie propelled Shan’ann and her two beautiful children through their days. Unbeknownst to them, the beautiful lie was slowly but surely conveying them – and their murderer – to an ultimate destination: permanent ruin.

Ironically, since Shan’ann’s nightmarish murder and burial on a leased oil site, rather than taking a knock, Thrive seems to have reaped a whirlwind of “positive” publicity.

Millions of curious Americans have visited Shan’ann’s still public page since August 13th, and in the process of getting to know her by watching her videos, millions have been pitched.

A sizable fraction of those visitors have undoubtedly converted into the Thrive fairy tale. Think about it. Thanks to Shan’ann’s grotesque death and dumping of her body “like trash” at CERVI 319, Thrive have likely seen a windfall of sales over the last four months leading up to Christmas.


The Discovery Documents also provide fascinating insight into how Watts changed his parking habits at the time of the murders, not only in terms of the truck [which was normally parked to the left of the front door, and Watts typically exited the house through the front door], but the Lexus as well.

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And then there’s this. The Discovery Documents are unambiguous about Watts not only backing up his truck onto the driveway on the morning of the disappearance, but that witnesses had observed the Lexus’s rear hatch was open at the same time. Fullscreen capture 20181223 023950

This could mean that one or more bodies were stowed in the boot of the Lexus prior to being transferred to the truck. It’s also possible then, that one or more of the bodies wasn’t carried outside in plain sight, but transferred instead in the semi-enclosed garage area, in the blind area of Trisnatich’s camera [in other words, from the Lexus hatch to the very rear of the truck].

What did the mid-term elections have to do with the Watts case?

True Crime Rocket Science is about thinking a lot deeper and further than everyone else. Those visiting this page are encouraged to think further than the low-hanging fruit. This is an example.

What did the mid-term elections have to do with the Watts case?

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No, the mid-term elections aren’t relevant simply [and only] because they fell on the same as the plea deal hearing.

Shan’ann Watts, the company she promoted and the mid-term elections all have one central idea in common, and, believe it or not, most Americans feel very strong about this issue right now.  That issue is health care.

Let’s start addressing the three levels of this question at the far end, at the level of the elections and voters as a national community, and work our way back to Shan’ann and you, the reader.

1. What does it mean that Healthcare is such a big issue right now?

Health care is a huge issue, not only to Americans, but to many people around the world. Health care costs are rising. Obesity, diabetes and cancer rates are rising, and with it, health care [which ought really to be called disease care].

To appreciate the magnitude of the problem, one only has to look at how healthcare costs have increased in America over the past 20 years.

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While housing costs have gone up 57%, healthcare rates have increased by a factor of five. Over the same period, average incomes have increased only 2%. So it’s no wonder the biggest expense [the fastest growing expense] is the biggest issue right now among American voters.

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What does it mean that healthcare is such a big issue? Well, it means families with constrained incomes [like the Watts family], where unexpected medical issues and chronic disease care [for example a pregnancy, and an autoimmune disease like lupus] will almost inevitably face bankruptcy.

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2. What does Le-Vel and Thrive have to do with Healthcare, or the fact that it’s such a big deal to the average American?

Does Le-Vel have anything to with healthcare, healthcare costs, or the struggle for some families – like the Watts family – living paycheck to paycheck to pay for their healthcare?

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What does Le-Vel and Thrive have to do with healthcare? How about everything?

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Le-Vel markets itself as a health and wellness company, a panacea to America’s wellness dilemma. Put a patch on your arm and your healthcare and money problems are solved.

Thrive is the missing piece in the health and wealth puzzle. Stick on a patch and your life changes – instantly! Not only do you feel better [instantly] you can also make money helping millions of others to feel better too, and make so much money while you’re at it, you can have the luxury car of your dreams, you can even elevate your lifestyle from whatever it is to a PREMIUM lifestyle.

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If you’re not convinced by dry analysis, try Le-Vel’s own promotion spiel for size, and see if you pick up the twin solution for a health and income fix in their promo video about a revolutionary new, innovative, magical formula of powders, shakes and patches.

The part at the end, in black and white, is easy to miss.

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Zooming in the fineprint acknowledges that actually, Le-Vel products aren’t intended to replace healthcare, and becoming a promoter comes with no financial guarantees, in fact you “could also earn no income at all”. So…don’t give up your day job or your current healthcare provider?

So does Thrive even work? As a wellness product and a source of household income?

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One online review site cites “limited earning potential” as one of the downsides of Le-Vel. Just how limited are we talking about? According to the review, promoters can expect a paycheck of $30-$50 per month, which will require hard work, 3-5 hours daily to achieve. Imagine working 3 hours daily for a month and coming out with $30? How many waiters would want a gig like that, even if it came with a nice healthy salad bonus at the end of the month?

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3. What does Healthcare have to do with Shan’ann Watts, or why she was murdered?

Does Shan’ann’s health have to do with anything here? When I searched for MLM under the #ChrisWatts hashtag on twitter, I found just two posts. A paltry pool of just 29 voted on my poll about the impact MLM [Le-Vel/Thrive] had on the murders.

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It’s unclear whether Gerard Courcy is correct that Watts’ defense team intended to blame the murders on Thrive, but it would make a damned lot of sense if that was their strategy, wouldn’t it? They could lay both the financial burden at Le-Vel’s door, as well as the not entirely health affirming side-effects of their product, especially if used to excess.

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The short version is that unlike most Le-Vel promoters, Shan’ann had serious health challenges, and so did her youngest daughter Ceecee. Those health challenges and associates expenses don’t resonate with us because they’re not ours to deal with, or ours to pay. Adding a pregnancy to the equation, meant the medical expenses were about to be leveraged even higher.

Shan’ann Watts was murdered eight hours [arguably five] before a doctor’s appointment. Did that appointment matter to her murderer, do you think? Who do you think would be paying for it if Shan’ann was making $50 a month, or if she was doing really well, perhaps $250 a month?

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Now let’s get back to the original question:

What did the mid-term elections have to do with the Watts case?

Healthcare. In summary then, healthcare matters in the Watts case more than most have acknowledged thus far. A criminal trial would have exposed the minutiae of the healthcare debacle the Watts family found themselves in, and also the driving forces behind them. It would have presented millions of Americans, including the over three million who watched the video above, a swath of compromised individuals in effect, with a cautionary parable regarding one particular multi-level marketing company. A criminal trial could have saved tens of thousands of damaged and dysfunctional marriages and maladapative belief systems.

Because Chris Watts signed a plea agreement, not of this will come to light through the evidentiary process of expert witnesses, and the lazer focus of a high-profile trial covered by the media.

By his taking it all on himself, all the blame, Le-Vel has dodged a bullet.

No, no, no Nickole – a “best friend” should know better!

This post from last Saturday [November 3rd, 2018] has since been removed from Nickoke Atkinson’s Facebook timeline. Less than four months after the Watts family murder, Shan’ann’s “best friend” seems to be back into the swing of all things Le-Vel.


Scroll down the comments and Shan’ann’s mother doesn’t seem like the grieving mother or grandmother, does she? Has Sandi Onorati Rzucek inherited Shan’ann’s MLM setup, is that why she’s so gung-ho about it?

Just how desperate are these Thrivers?

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Sound Familiar? 5 of the 15 Most Hated Multi-Level Marketing Companies Right Now [August 2018]

On August 10, 2018, just two days prior to the Watts Family Murder, Cheat Sheet published an authoritative list of the 15 most hated MLM companies in America.

The article opens with these ominous words:

If you have a social media account, then you’ve probably received a message from an old friend you haven’t spoken to in years. But usually that person isn’t reaching out because they miss you — they’re trying to rekindle your relationship so they can sell you something.

Multi-level marketing (MLM), also known as direct selling, is a strategy that some companies use to peddle their products. Consultants get paid by selling the product directly to friends and family in addition to recruiting new sellers into their “downline.” There are no physical store locations for this type of merchandise — if you want to order your leggings or anti-wrinkle cream, you have to call up your local sales rep.

Not all MLM companies are pyramid schemes — but many are universally reviled by both the people who work for them and the potential customers who are sick of constantly being pestered by friends to buy the products. Ahead, discover the most hated multi-level marking companies today — including the one with a billion dollar lawsuit pending (number 7).

Number 1 on Cheat Sheet’s list is LULAROE. Guess who sold LULAROE from home?

Number 12 on their list is YOUNIQUE. Guess who who was selling YOUNIQUE from her bathroom?


Cheat Sheet lists LE-VEL as their 13th most hated MLM company. Cheat Sheet’s description of Le-Vel is appropriately cautious:

If you’ve seen someone wearing a curious looking sticker on their skin, you may have come in contact with a Le-Vel brand promoter. If you believe that vitamin nutrition patches are just what you’ve been missing in your life, then go ahead and strike up a conversation with them.

The company sells these patches to help with weight management, mental clarity, increased energy, improved circulation, and appetite control. Do they work? That’s for you to decide — but it won’t be cheap to find out. Like other MLM companies, the more people you recruit to sell magic vitamin patches, the more you earn.


Two other hated MLM companies worth noting on this list are AMWAY and HERBALIFE.

Here’s the Cheat Sheet lowdown on Amway:

The largest and oldest MLM also has some of the biggest critics. Amway reported sales of $8.6 billion in 2017, making it a bona fide direct sales success story. But not everyone is thrilled with what they’re selling — or how they’re selling it.

MLM companies often tout flexibility and the opportunity to get rich quick. But Amway distributors aren’t always successful. One former rep put it this way:

“The two years I was supposedly building my Amway business, I lost nearly $10,000 on tapes, seminars, books, gas, and travel expenses for out-of-town seminars. My earnings? Less than $500 total. Since I was unemployed — and pretty much unemployable for any nonburger-flipping job — those $10,000 came exclusively from my grandmother, who was also my biggest (and only) Amway customer, buying expensive, ‘concentrated’ Amway products she didn’t need, every month to support me.”

Now, Herbalife.


Want proof that people hate Herbalife? The Federal Trade Commission mailed checks to 350,000 people who lost money running Herbalife businesses. This is one of the largest settlements and distributions the agency has ever made.

While they were never officially called a pyramid scheme, the PR disaster forced the company to restructure and seriously rethink their marketing efforts. The majority of profits came from recruiting new sellers, not from selling product. And that is the very definition of a pyramid scheme — whether they admit it or not.

If Shan’ann Watts was in over her head with Le-Vel, the fact that she was also drinking the MLM Kool-Aid with at least two other companies shows just how deep into a debt-trap the Watts family must have been in the summer of 2018.

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“Because of Le-Vel…” I am…dead?

MLM has been compared to a cult. The cliche fits because both involve prescriptive beliefs, members only and members only rules, non-disclosure agreements, scams to make money and ultimately, ruin and doom for those who drink the Kool-Aid and sign their lives away to these schemes.

In the two years Shan’ann Watts was involved, she went completely over to the dark side. She wore the t-shirts, it took over her social media, it took over her family, it took over her mind. Even her phone was branded with the Le-Vel logo.


Below are a few screengrabs from one of Shan’ann’s Live videos. They reveal the particular flavor of Kool-Aid the Le-Vel cult was drinking.

At the very bottom is Shan’ann’s prayer flag, sticky-taped onto a makeshift shrine to Le-Vel.

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Because of Le-Vel Shan’ann Watts was able to retire at 33-years-old. That’s quite a boast. Is it true?

And then there’s this:

Because of Le-Vel I have my life back.

But did it give her her life, or cost her her life?

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