For the first 20 minutes of the two hour plus discussion on Thursday, August 16th, Kessinger speaks in vanilla generalizations. Even after Koback reminds Kessinger that they’re talking because a woman is dead [Shan’ann’s body was exhumed hours prior to the discussion], and it’s become a homicide investigation, Kessinger still pushes back telling him she’s can’t give him specific information. She tells Koback, who is grovelling for details at one point:
It’s not gonna happen!
But then there’s a turning point. Kessinger begins to reveal slightly more and then more still. Below is Koback’s summary following the turning point in his interrogation of Watts’ mistress.
The Phone Data Review starting on page 2081 is a mostly dry and colorless logging of dates, call durations, names and places. The few grainy selfies provide a vague sense that something was going on between two people. It’s when we visit those places, orientate ourselves and familiarize ourselves with them that we start to get a sense of what that last summer in July must have felt like to Kessinger and Watts.
Right at the end of this whirlwind romance, just before Watts flew to North Carolina, he told his mistress he loved her, and she began considering what the future might be like if he left his wife for her.
1. Rusty Bucket, Westminster – 15 minutes by car due south of Saratoga Trail/12 minutes north of Claude Court, Northglenn.
2. Shelby Museum, Boulder + 24 Carrot Bistro. Erie – the museum is eighteen minutes drive due west of Saratoga trial, the Bistro is five miles drive southwest of Saratoga Trail.
3. Brandimere Speedway, Morrison – The Speedway in Morrison is about 42 minutes drive southwest of Saratoga Trail.
4. Great Sand Dunes and Zapata Falls – The Great Sand Dunes Park is about four hours drive south of Frederick
In true crime we spend so much time trying to figure out what’s missing, or what’s misconstrued, we often miss what is right in front of us. It takes insight and familiarity to get to the stage where what we see in plain sight begins to mean something.
This certainly applies to the Phone Narrative. We can spend countless hours analyzing thousands of messages across several devices, and trawl through Shan’ann’s seemingly infinite social media posts, but there is an aspect to the phones that is so obvious it’s almost laughable, and yet many have missed it.
Even when the information is provided out of context in the Discovery Documents, on page 569, we don’t necessarily see what it means.
In the above screengrab Nichol Kessinger’s August 16th interview with CBI Agent Kevin Koback is summarized in a third person narrative. The yellow highlighted text reveals a minor, throwaway discrepancy. Do you see what it is?
We get a clearer picture of this discrepancy by looking at his and her email signatures. When all the phones were analyzed, four handsets were chosen. Kessinger’s phone [highlighted in pink below – 720 656 9605], Watts’ phones [highlighted in yellow – 910 309 1702 and 720 390 9424] and Shan’ann’s phone [highlighted in blue – 910 3286].
Watts is the only one of the three with two phones.
The 910 number circled above is Watts’ personal phone, with the 910 prefix referring to North Carolina, just as Shan’ann’s phone is a 910 North Carolina number. Watts, however, also has a local 720 number, his work phone.
Kessinger also has a 720 number. And this is the crucial difference.
On Kessinger’s email signature, two numbers are listed. The 970 office number is in fact a landline.
In other words, unlike Watts, Kessinger was using her phone for personal and business use. The Discovery Documents, quoting Kessinger, say as much.
Once their relationship developed, Kessinger said Watts moved their communication from his work phone to his personal phone [and the Secret Calculator app]. But Kessinger didn’t. She couldn’t, because she only had the one phone.
When shit hit the fan, Watts deleted information off his personal phone. In his case, he did this in a premeditated fashion before the shit hit the fan, whereas Kessinger did so reactively off her work/personal phone after the shit hit the fan.
This means that when Anadarko, who paid for her phone, did a GPS and phone data review at the request of the FBI and CBI on Tuesday [August 14, 2018], they likely knew about the affair based on Kessinger’s phone activity with Watts as well.
Although this is not explicitly mentioned in the phone data review, it’s difficult to imagine if the company had the capacity to investigate computer network traffic, emails and Watts’ work phone logs, that they wouldn’t do the same with Kessinger’s.
It should also be noted that to date, many have tarbrushed Kessinger for deceitfully deleting Watts from her phone. They see this as an effort to defeat justice and to undermine law enforcement efforts. While this is possible, it’s also possible Kessinger was trying to clean up her “work phone”. She may have feared that sending risque images to a coworker could be seen as a fire-able offence, and perhaps that’s how it was seen. Do you see what I’m driving at? It’s possible she was far more fearful of getting into trouble at work than with the cops, and ultimately, her fears were well founded.
This clearly places Kessinger in a somewhat different light, doesn’t it? If you had one phone, and you were cheating, and your boss finding out would mean losing your job and income, wouldn’t you delete evidence of being in flagrante delicto?
The final entry in the 50 page Phone Data Review is Nichol Kessinger’s online search for details about Amber Frey, the mistress of Scott Peterson [convicted on November 12, 2004 for the first degree murder of his pregnant wife].
To many this snippet from the last page of the review is proof positive that Watts’ mistress is pure evil. I don’t agree that’s it’s as black and white as that. Before dealing with this aspect, though, I want to highlight a crucial difference between the Watts Family Murders and the murder of Laci Peterson.
Until the murders, Watts was a family man – through and through. He wife commended him numerous times online for being a good husband and a caring father. Probably when compared to the average father, Watts did way more than his fair share of chores and appeared to get down and dirty taking care of his children. On the day of their deaths he took the kids to a birthday party. Watts also did the laundry of the entire family. How many fathers do you know who do that, or would ever do that?
Scott Peterson wasn’t a family man in the same way. He had no children, and unlike Watts who already had two, Peterson committed murder prior to the birth of his first child. But that’s not the crucial difference. This is it:
Watts intended to take his wife and two children [plus the one on the way] completely out of the equation. The idea was then to begin a new life with a younger woman who had no children.
I’ve written a trilogy of books on Scott Peterson, and it’s excellent reference material for the Watts case [in terms of similarities, parallels, psychological patterns and idiosyncracies]. The irony of the Peterson case was that his mistress had a 20-month-old daughter called Ayianna [born in 2001].
Peterson took an active interest in Amber’s little girl, including picking her up from school, putting a car seat in his vehicle and taking her along for a romantic hike with her mom [Peterson carried the little girl for much of the way].
He even went with the mother and child to pick out a Christmas tree, and when someone mistook them for a family, Peterson didn’t correct the error.
Here’s more from SFGate.com:
Frey later described the couple’s second date, a hiking trip on Dec. 2, 2002. Peterson, she said, showed up at her Fresno home with an amaryllis plant and a bag of groceries — with which he planned to make her and her daughter seafood lasagna for dinner.
Frey testified that they picked up Frey’s daughter, Ayianna, from school and then hiked at a nearby lake. Afterward, they sat in the back of Peterson’s pickup and watched for the first star, before returning to Frey’s home to cook dinner.
“He had mentioned that he was going to check into a hotel somewhere,” Frey said. “I said, ‘Don’t be silly, you can stay with me.’ ” The next day, Frey asked Peterson if he would pick up her daughter from school and gave him a key to her home.
“He said he would be honored,” recalled Frey. When she got home that night, Peterson was waiting for her. He had poured two glasses of wine and was warming up the previous night’s dinner. The threesome then went out and picked out a Christmas tree. As they were decorating it, Frey said, Peterson told her he was not married and had no children.
By their third meeting, Frey said, she had given him a key to her home and trusted him enough to allow him to be alone with her young daughter.
Many have summarized the Peterson motive as involving a man who simply didn’t want children. He committed murder because he dreaded fatherhood. It’s not true. If it was, he would have sought out a mistress who was single and without children. He didn’t do that. He didn’t want children with his wife. He also needed his wife to be out of the picture so he could get his hands on Laci’s jewelry and inheritance.
Although there are similarities between Peterson and Watts, as we can see, a major difference is that Peterson’s hangup wasn’t children, per se, but the pregnancy clearly had an impact of his already precarious financial situation. Ironically, his wife’s financial situation was less bad. In the Watts case the financial seesaw was the reverse.
But Watts’ hangup wasn’t children either. When he was married and a dad he seemed to relish the role, and he seemed pretty good at it – until that critical six week break. And then something changed. Watts’ resistance started with the pregnancy. Like Scott Peterson, Chris Watts seemed to get cold feet and change his mind. While the pregnancy went on Watts became more and more opposed to the idea just as he became more and more ensconced in an affair.
Like Scott Peterson, I think it’s a mistake to assume Watts didn’t want his own children. He didn’t want the baby, and part of this came from his impression his mistress would have of him if she knew he was about to be a father while having an affair with her.
KESSINGER: Like, ‘How would that go?’ Like, ‘Hey my family just disappeared.’ And you think I’m just not going to be concerned about thaaaat?
In the same way, Watts’ approach to his children and why he needed to murder them was borne out of his impression of Kessinger, and what he thought she may have felt about it. Irrespective of what Kessinger’s feelings were, it’s clear what Watts’ thought those feelings were.
This brings us at last to a moment of truth. Demystifying Kessinger’s “Amber Frey Moment” involves contextualizing her search within the timeline, and we see Kessinger searched for Frey on August 19th, a Sunday. That was on the first weekend after the murders and two days following Watts’ first court appearance.
During this period Kessinger was “helping” the cops investigate this case, the case was all over television, it was being hailed [if that’s the right word] as another Scott Peterson-type case, Watts’ unnamed mistress was being compared to Amber Frey, and Watts had just appeared in court. All of this was going on that weekend.
So it’s likely Kessinger came across chatter about it and heard about someone she knew nothing about [on television], or knew about vaguely, and Googled her.
Here’s one tweet from August 21 which I published on #Shakedown on August 23rd.
It’s abundantly clear this chatter was going on very soon after the cops announced that the missing pregnant woman from Frederick had been found, and her husband was the prime suspect in her murder.
With all the chatter, Kessinger did what anyone else would do. She searched online for the person people were comparing her to. Remember, Kessinger’s 30-years-old. She was 14-years-old when Laci Peterson was murdered, and so unlikely to have known too much about it.
It remains to be seen whether Kessinger will write a book on her involvement in the Watts case. Unlike Amber Frey, Kessinger’s been far less in the limelight and never appeared in court, so I wouldn’t bet on it.
Today on the True Crime Rocket Science Facebook Group someone asked whether it was true that Nichol Kessinger is in witness protection or just a rumor. I quickly Googled a fairly credible source, posted the link and the member responded [obviously having read it]. Then the link disappeared.
Then I posted it again.
Below are the original screengrabs…
After about 2 minutes, when I refreshed the page, it was gone again.
Why don’t you try the same thing on your Facebook page, using the same link I used. Let us know what happens.
The address given by the FBI for the first interview with Kessinger is a public park in Arvada. According to the Discovery Documents, this is where the Feds recorded their first meeting with Chris Watts’ mistress.
Arvada is 16 miles southwest of Kessinger’s home in ClaudeCourt Road, Northglenn, and about 31 miles from 2825 Saratoga Trail in Frederick. It’s also 40 miles from the offices of Anadarko in Platteville.
So why meet there?
I don’t usually discuss dynamics here simply because it’s not something you can come to lightly, and it requires a lot of focus, concentration and backstory to understand. The other issue with discussing dynamics on an open forum is it attracts the most biased and closed-minded folks of all.
These types are likely to rush in and begin lecturing on why their opinion is just as informed if not more so, and in fact better. So that’s why I don’t discuss dynamics here. It’s not about who is right, or who is more right, it’s about figuring out the true nature of this crime and why it happened. So we want to see where the insights take us, not bicker about whose insights are best.
Relationship dynamics are a sensitive subject. Whatever we say tends to reveal our own views of others, and ourselves, and it may expose others and make them feel judged or otherwise uncomfortable. That’s why this discussion sits better in a narrative that one has to pay for and will spend time with – pondering it in private.
What I will say, as I reach the finishing stages of the fifth book in the TWO FACE series, is that the dynamic between Chris Watts and his mistress will never be understood as long as people continue hating and throwing stones. If you wish to feel good about how awful Chris Watts is – go on. It seems some people don’t tire of this pursuit after weeks, months, perhaps even years. If you think Kessinger deserves to be lambasted and accused and insulted till kingdom come, don’t expect to ever understand the dynamics of why the crime happened. You can’t have both. You can’t have emotional/ego satisfaction and expect to gain any intellectual insight or understanding.
One can’t hurl insults one day and on another, innocently go: “Why? Why don’t we know why?”
To understand their emotional dynamic we have to put our emotional dynamic [our projection, transference, bias] aside. Are you ready to do that? If so, then read on.
An Inferiority Complex
Chris Watts felt inferior in his marriage. His overall introversion suggests a crisis of confidence in general. It’s clear from the videos, he played second-fiddle most of the time to a domineering wife.
Initially he probably liked that she took control and perhaps it worked very well for both of them. Maybe he wanted to take the back seat, wanted her to be in control. But after a while it got old. He tired of being told what to do and how to do every damn thing. That’s not being unkind to Shan’ann – she was OCD so it was natural for her to be antsy about everything. The problem was that he probably allowed it to get out of hand. Instead of setting boundaries, he allowed her to walk all over him, and when he wanted to stand up for himself it was too late. He didn’t know how to and perhaps even if he did, she wouldn’t let him.
With “three girls” in the house, over time he felt increasingly impinged in some way. Probably, over time, the spark did start to disappear in their marriage and probably, at the time, the idea of having a third child made sense to bring them back together.
It’s clear to me that shortly after mutually deciding to have a child, Watts had a change of heart. This may have been because he had an epiphany then about their finances, or because he realized he’d developed feelings for someone else, or both. It may also be that he had the idea but hadn’t thought through what it actually meant, and what consequences came with it [just as occurred with the affair, and the murders].
It could also be that at the same time the spark was fading in their marriage, Watts’ sense of inferiority was changing. Even though his wife still had him in a box [she thought], a part of him was starting to escape and rediscover himself. His work life was one area where he was growing and enjoying respect. Of all the Thrivers in this story, Watts was arguably Thriving the most – he looked the part, he was developing in his career, he was also living the part [including with the hot mistress from work].
But despite Watts’ newfound freedom [to cheat, to go camping, to eat out and hire a babysitter], the other aspect was that because Shan’ann was in total control of everything, she was also in total control of the finances. Her control of the finances meant at the end of the day she was in control of Watts’ ability to conduct an affair [especially once she arrived home].
Whether you wish to believe Watts was bringing in 100% of the income, 90%, or 50%, whatever is the case Shan’ann was the one controlling the money and also spending a lot of the money. Besides the mortgage they couldn’t afford, a lot of the money was going to medical expenses for Shan’ann and both children. Watts had virtually zero medical expenses; he didn’t even spend money on a gym. If Watts was contributing most of the money to the household [and I believe he was] but spending hardly any of it, then this was cause for massive resentment when he found out how little money they actually had.
Realizing the True Scale of their Financial Debacle
Throughout this case people have pooh-poohed the financial situation. Even the District Attorney did at the sentencing hearing. A triple murder happened, no one knows why. And the finances weren’t really that bad. Really? Watts must have felt they were really that bad for him. Three months behind on their mortgage, a mortgage payment due the day prior to his arrest, hefty private school bills that he did his damnedest to avoid on the day after dumping their bodies, about $10 000 in credit card debt [all credit cards maxed out]and another $25 000 still outstanding on Shan’ann’s neck surgery.
How was Watts going to continue to conduct an affair with no money? And why had they fallen behind on their mortgage in the first place? Who was supposed to be paying for that? And where did the money for the house go if it didn’t go to the house? Did it go to San Diego, North Carolina and the flights to and from Arizona?
Giving Away Control – Then Taking It Back
Watts had given control over many things to Shan’ann, and one of those included control over the finances [including his money]. Possibly he discovered the true extent of their financial woes while Shan’ann was away. He took some time off and maybe opened a few bills, looked at their account online, looked at the accounts in her office.
I believe a huge area missing in the Discovery Documents and the text messages on their phones, are arguments about money. Put otherwise – why are there no arguments about money given their disastrous financial situation?
When Watts bought a meal for two for $62 on Saturday, August 11th, Shan’ann immediately alerted to this expense. What about all the others? That conversation leads somewhere, and somewhere very serious, but I won’t be discussing that dynamic in any more detail here either. Let’s deal with one dynamic at a time.
At some point in 2018, Watts found himself in an affair that allowed him to be someone else. He wasn’t being ordered around any more. He was being listened to. He had become someone again. Moreover, he was interested in and wanted to know about the woman he was with, and wanted to converse with her, and be with her. But he also felt incredibly inadequate around her.
He had good reason to feel inadequate. She was better educated, solidly middle class [whereas he was blue-collar trying to be middle class], and probably better paid than he was. Kessinger’s finances were clearly in far better shape than his were but besides that, his wife was pregnant, and their finances were eating them alive. Plus he had two children to take care of as well.
So there was no way on paper he “deserved” Kessinger unless he lied to her. He knew that. If he told the truth he knew wouldn’t have been “good enough” for her. He wanted to be good enough. He didn’t want what he had in his marriage, which was to be relegated to an ATM, errand boy, video prop and baby maker.
So all things being equal, Watts found himself in an affair with someone who liked him, and whom he liked, but nevertheless wasn’t right for him. She was smarter, she was available but in a sense, was out of his league. Most of us can’t see just how out of her league he was because we can’t stop demeaning her as the wicked mistress.
But if we look at them as people on paper, he wasn’t as smart as she was, he wasn’t as available as he pretended to be, and financially he definitely couldn’t afford to be in a romantic relationship [with all its ancillary expenses] with anyone.
In order to be in a relationship with Kessinger, he needed to be divorced. But if he divorced he’d likely lose the house directly or indirectly in terms of alimony and many other mutual debt obligations.
He would have calculated that in order to be with Kessinger he needed the house. Not to keep or to live in, to sell. To be engaged in a relationship with a woman, especially one a man feels is better than he is, he’s going to feel he needs a lot of “spending money” as the old George Harrison song goes.
To understand the dynamic between Watts and Kessinger, we must understand how and why he felt inferior to her and with her. His appearance counted in his favor. She found him sexy and attractive, and obviously his Thriving and jogging and working out at home had imbued him with a good physique. So that part was good.
But the rest wasn’t. He needed to be divorced and he wasn’t [hadn’t even discussed it]. He needed there not to be a pregnancy [but there was]. And he needed money [money that wasn’t there unless he sold the house soon, and at a profit].
Murder was Watts’ way of balancing out the equation, at least in his mind. Of course, as soon as he committed the murders his inferiority to Kessinger became manifestly clear, both to her and to him.
The media reporting and the Discovery Documents are a little slippery when it comes to specificity about when exactly Kessinger contacted the cops [or who contacted whom first], and the precise time this happened.
It appears the first time Kessinger spoke to law enforcement was on August 15, the same day Watts confessed. It’s possible that Kessinger was contacted by phone first [prior to the discussion below on August 15], or that Kessinger herself contacted the cops by phone.
Although this interview was recorded, and despite many YouTube clips claiming to the be the “first interview” with Kessinger, her meeting with the FBI’s Mark Lehrer was her first one-on-one interview with law enforcement. Below is the audio of that first interview. Give it until 3:28 before the static “settles down”.