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Tag: sentencing hearing

7 Surprisingly Serious Inconsistencies in the Chris Watts Case that have little or nothing to do with Chris Watts

The Discovery Documents are like a giant haystack, a Mount Everest of evidence, yet the mountain itself seems to obscure the fact that there’s nothing there. Important needles that should there are missing. There are no crime scene photos, for example, released by official police photographers, in fact, it’s still not even clear where the “crime scene” was in the Watts home.

There is also no certainty about time of death, order of death or even motive. If this wasn’t problematic enough, in the aftermath of the status conference [which ended up being a “surprise plea deal”] the defendant’s mother took to the media to bang the drum that her son was coerced into taking the plea deal, and was doing all she could to “scuttle the plea deal before it was too late”, as one 9News reporter put it.

That narrative also swirled into nothing. Just as suddenly as it manifested it swirled quietly down a drain and disappeared.

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In hindsight we can see that despite Cindy’s attempts in the week before the sentencing hearing, the plea deal wasn’t scuttled. In court Cindy’s lawyer/representative said the media blitz she’d initiated was because they were “misinformed”. Judge Kopcow accepted that, he decided the plea wasn’t co-erced, Chris Watts maintained a mute though slightly tearful silence in court, and the rest – as they say – is history.

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The history of this case is filled with weird mismatches, incongruencies and downright deceits. Let’s examine 7 Serious Inconsistencies, starting with Shan’ann Watts herself.

1. “Shan’ann Watts was excited and happy to have children” versus “I don’t want to have this baby…I’m not happy”

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2. “Chris Watts wasn’t excited or happy about the third pregnancy” versus “Little Peanut! Love her/him already!!!”Fullscreen capture 20181208 093626

It feels like it’s taking things too far to suggest Shan’ann’s expropriation of Watts’ social media extended to making declarations of his joy and happiness at the arrival of the third baby on his behalf. And yet she did indirectly do exactly this by posting screengrabs of his reaction and letting the whole world know about it. She was also adamant in her pregnancy announcement posts that the pregnancy was all his idea.

If that’s the case, and it probably was, then Watts clearly had a change of heart almost immediately after the baby was conceived. It’s not like that’s never happened in human history. And the seed for the family holocaust that followed began with the announcement – ultimately – of an unwelcome arrival at an “inappropriate” time.

Shan’ann’s excessive social media posting, including about the pregnancy, placed him and her in a bind. Now that the whole world, including the Thriver cabal, knew about the pregnancy, they were both locked-in. They couldn’t back out even if they wanted to, unless they wished to court a social death for the mortal sin of giving up their child or aborting it.

3. Nichol Kessinger claimed she didn’t know Shan’ann’s name “for a while”. How long and when exactly was that “while”?Fullscreen capture 20181208 084430

More pertinent is once Kessinger did know about Shan’ann, then what? Did she see Shan’ann’s happy family fairy tale spiels on Facebook and dismiss them, or did she cynically think they were just part of vacuous Thrive promotion, and held no actual meaning [which has evidently proved to be the case].

4. Nichole Kessinger maintained that she didn’t know Shan’ann was pregnant, and found out via the media around August 14th, after her disappearance. Fullscreen capture 20181208 091433

Kessinger also claimed when she found out about the pregnancy [sometime in August after the disappearance] and confronted Chris Watts, he told her the baby wasn’t is. But what if she did know? How could she not know when Shan’ann posted the first video on May 29 and the changed her profile picture to “Oops we did it again” on June 11th.

What if she did know before the murders that Watts’ wife was pregnant?

A cursory glance at Shan’ann’s public Facebook page during June and July [when Kessinger’s affair supposedly began] would have confirmed not just a happy family narrative, but the fact that Shan’ann was happily pregnant too.

If Kessinger did know about the pregnancy, why did she persist with the affair?

5. If Kessinger was aware of the pregnancy, then she HAD to have seen red flags, including seeing herself as potentially creating one by the process of actively tearing her partner away from his newly pregnant wife

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5. Shan’ann’s parents say they had no clue Shan’ann’s marriage was falling apartFullscreen capture 20181208 083822

Sandi claims she had no idea Shan’ann’s marriage was falling apart, even though Shan’ann and Chris Watts slept in their home for several days during the first week of August, Watts refused to touch his wife and Shan’ann slept alone. Shan’ann also claimed, during that week, that she cried herself to sleep each night. Did her parents not know this?

Sandi also told her colleagues at Hair Jazz that the couple were definitely separating.

6. Shan’ann was a very controlling, OCD type personality. 


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Her personality as a factor that may have caused Watts [wrongly of course] to assume he couldn’t “come clean” to her about the affair, or about not wanting the baby, was likely an important factor in the underlying dynamic that made him feel locked-in.

7. Does the DA know the motive or doesn’t he?

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Does the DA know the motive and won’t tell, or does he not know why this crime happened? Which is worse? \

It’s difficult to imagine the DA can’t have a clear motive, even though the cops, CBI and FBI were on the case, and Watts confessed and struck a plea deal with the DA.

There are other factors that don’t make sense, such as the secrecy surrounding the autopsy reports, the rushing of the legal process and avoidance of a criminal trial, and the strange argument around avoiding the death penalty when everyone knows the death penalty was never any issue to anyone in the first place.

So why is the Chris Watts case so peculiar in so many respects?


Chris Watts Sentencing Hearing [All The Relevant Video Coverage]

REPORTER: Was justice…served here today?

ROURKE [Rolls eyes, wheels upward]: I think justice was served in the best way we can…uh…in Colorado right now. 

The District Attorney also said that Watts’ own statement was the strongest piece of evidence they had, which tells you how weak their cases was.

Chris Watts’ defense attorney is asked at 40:37 [as she rises from her chair] to address the court. She walks to the podium, speaks, and finishes with her representation on her client by 40:57, twenty seconds later. Her entire submission on behalf of her client lasts 14 seconds.

Was Chris Watts’ mother really “misinformed” about the plea deal?

After a week-long blitz during which Chris Watts’ parents appeared on a spectrum of American media criticizing the plea deal and undermining the investigation, when they appeared in court Monday with an anonymous “representative” they appeared to have had a sudden change of heart.

The representative, speaking on their behalf, indicated that they’d been misinformed.

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Interestingly, Ronnie Watts, like his son, never spoke at the hearing. He did speak to his son indirectly though, through the slick representative dressed in black standing beside them. While Chris Watts stared in front of him, not making eye contact but appearing emotional, the woman read his father’s words:

“We still don’t have all the answers and I hope one day you can help us. You are here today accepting responsibility but I want to tell you this now: I love you. Nothing will ever change that. And I want you to find peace and today is your first step. Chris, I forgive you, and your sister forgives you, and we will never abandon you.”

His sister didn’t seem to be in court, and declarations of clemency at a sentencing trial seem – to me – out of place. How do you forgive someone when they still haven’t told you what they did, or why? Obviously Chris Watts can’t fully confess, because even he can’t forgive himself for what he did.

While the designee – representative, whatever – read his father’s statement, Watts bobbed silently in the background, as if a child himself, trying to contain his emotions by rocking, by trying to soothe unvoiced and unvoicable torments.

But his mother did speak. She spoke genuinely and with compassion, and it seemed her words may have reached even deeper into the heart of stone sitting behind her. And yet, even his mother said to him, “We [still] love you…maybe you can’t believe it either.”

Below is the full original interview with Cindy Watts a week before the sentencing hearing. She makes an interesting point about the plea deal in it. Was she really misinformed? If so, how did that happen – how could it – three months after the murders?

Watts Sentencing: Live Coverage and Analysis [Updated throughout the day]

Welcome to what appears right now to be the end of the legal road in the Chris Watts case. November 19 is just three months and six days after the tragic murders that rocked the small, thriving Colorado town of Frederick in mid-August.

Today the legal journey is expected to conclude with Judge Kopcow officially accepting Chris Watts’ guilty plea [on all charges]. In exchange Chris Watts will be spared the death penalty and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Irrespective of the legal outcome in this case, an entire family has been completely destroyed through the events that played out sometime between August 12 and 13 this year. According to the District Attorney, they have – and are satisfied with – a “partial motive” to this crime. This “partial motive” will be revealed in court today by Michael Rourke.

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There’s more to it than this, of course. On November 16 the Greeley Tribune spelled some of the shenanigans out:

1. Chris Watts’ parents do not want him to accept the plea deal and have claimed they’ve been denied access to their son, and that the plea deal was/is coerced. If that’s true, the plea deal is invalid. The District Attorney has not responded to these allegations, but the Rzuceks have through an anonymous legal representative.

2. According to the Tribune:

…on Monday [November 12], the court received an email from a “K Almand,” an assumed representative for Cindy and Ronnie Watts. In the letter to Judge Kopcow, Almand claims the Colorado Public Defenders Office, which is defending Watts, has denied Cindy and Ronnie access to their son.

Cindy, Ronnie and an unnamed sister finally gained access to Watts for 30 minutes each the night before the sentencing hearing, Almand claims. Cindy asked her son if a plea deal is what he wanted.

“Do not ask him that or we will shut this (expletive) down now,” said an unnamed attorney before Watts could respond, according to Almand’s letter.

Almand said that type of “bullying” has been common in the Watts family’s dealings with the public defender’s office.

“It is the opinion of Mr. Watts’ family that he has been coerced, has been denied his constitutional rights and more — all in an attempt to quickly close this case,” Almand wrote. “They want to have a new attorney speak to Chris, on their behalf, to determine if this is a true confession or one that is based on inhumane treatment at the hands of the Public Defenders Office of Weld County.”

Almand closed the letter by saying Cindy Watts wanted to speak to Judge Kopcow about her son’s case and possible mistreatment. Kopcow issued an order saying he was barred from having any conversations about the case outside of the courtroom.

3. The autopsy reports regarding the remains of Shan’ann Watts [34], Bella Watts [4] and Celeste Watts [3] have not been released prior to sentencing. These reports, completed on October 2will be released after sentencing according to the District Attorney. This release of the autopsy reports will likely neutralize a civil hearing on the matter that was originally scheduled for December 21. The District Attorney’s original position on the autopsy reports was unusual in that it was claimed their release “could taint witnesses, make it difficult to seat an impartial jury and the victim’s cause of death would be critical evidence at trial”. If Rourke felt the autopsy evidence was so sensitive, then why did the defense feel they had no case to plead? Why did they make/accept the plea deal?

4. A raft of publications including the Tribune claimed in a court motion on October 12th that the withholding of the autopsy reports from public scrutiny could “cause substantial injury to the public interest.”



Welcome to a bitterly cold day in Greeley, Colorado. Minimum temperatures today were  17°F [-9°C] at 06:00 and may climb to a crisp 46 °F [7°C]  by the time the press conference is scheduled at 13:00.

The day will start mostly sunny in the early morning, and remain bright and sunny throughout, a typical early winter’s day in Colorado with a slight breeze blowing over the snow-covered prairie.

This is a big change from the weekend, which saw a big cold front roll in and dump snow and drizzle over the mountains and plains surrounding Denver. On Thanksgiving Thursday, another cold front is due to move in and change the regions weather, for the worse.

It’s 05:55, one hour until sunrise. Sunrise on August 13 was at 06:08, 42 minutes earlier than today. At this time three months ago Chris Watts was on the road, driving to CERVI 319.
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In ten minutes the sun will rise over the sandstone courthouse in Greeley, Colorado. Did you know Greeley was the setting for Pulitzer prize-winning historical fiction author James A. Michener’s Centennial. Michener studied in Greeley, and was so inspired by the setting and the history of the region, he used it as the backdrop for his bestseller, which was also made into a miniseries in the seventies.

The scene in front of the Weld County Centennial Center. Notice the spattering of snow in the background.

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In the morning news, two large fires are under investigation, including one that started as an explosion in Aurora. The Aurora fire included reports of a gas leak days prior, and conflicting reports on whether the gas company notified residents in advance via email.

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Other news making the headlines – the weather on the run up to Thanksgiving on Thursday, Black Friday sales, a shocking report on flu vaccinations, rezoning plans, a new name for a baseball team, a new Disney on ice show, getting water supply from a distant mine to Aurora, a new Marijuana store opening in Longmont [Longmont is a town close to Frederick where Chris Watts and Shan’ann worked at a Ford dealership], how to prevent peanut allergies, a surge in porch piracy, Denver-based Furniture Row Racing finishing second at the NASCAR championship, Christmas tree-cutting tips, a Christmas countdown, what teens want for Christmas according to a recent survey and lower gas prices.

Chris Dekker defense attorney: “I wasn’t surprised…I think Michael Rourke deserves quite a lot of praise. He was smart and brave, and acquiesced to their [the families’] desires.”

David Beller defense attorney: “The speed at which this deal was reached…is extremely unusual…”

Rachael Gibbs from Nags Head, North Carolina said she also spotted a rainbow this morning.

What to expect from today’s sentencing hearing in a nutshell:

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Megan Lopez has tweeted a couple of photos about the media presence outside court. Wish we could see more pictures of the court building. Just a wide shot to get a sense of the whole area.

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Meghan Lopez says she’ll be tweeting from outside court because no tweeting is allowed inside court. Seems excessive and extreme, doesn’t it?


So from beginning to end the sentencing hearing lasted less than 45 minutes. A total of about six people spoke, including Cindy Watts, a representative on behalf of Ronnie Watts, Frank Rzucek, Michael Rourke reading Frankie Rzucek’s statement, Sandi Rzucek, a brief 15 second statement by Chris Watts’ legal representative, and then a delineation of the evidence by the District Attorney, which lasted about ten minutes.

Throughout the proceedings Watts drummed his foot on the floor, and appeared to struggle to contain his emotions. He breathed heavily, but made no sound, and repeatedly curled his lip and bit it. At one point, while his father was speaking I believe, a single tear streamed down his cheek.

At the end, when Judge Kopcow asked him if he wished to say anything, Watts answered softly, “No sir.” His legal representative spoke briefly on his behalf, saying that he was “truly sorry”.

What was unreal was the mismatch between the crime the District Attorney and the Judge were describing, a vicious, calculated, monstrous act, and the demeanor of the defendant. Passive. Voiceless. Trying his best to be emotionless, as if a lack of emotion under these circumstances was some sort of virtue.

When he rose and walked out of the packed court, Watts looked down, not making eye contact with anyone. Not his mother. Not his father.

Welcome to a living hell.

Will Nichol Kessinger testify?


Press Conference [Updates coming soon]

Weld County District Attorney, Coroner, Cops Host 37-minute News Conference after Chris Watts Sentencing

Autopsy Reports

Shan’ann, Bella and Celeste Watts 25 Page Autopsy Report

true crime rocket science

Analysis of Monday’s Hearing 

There were a few things that were downright weird about the hearing. No actual witnesses testified, only family members, and although each statement was emotional and tugged at the heartstrings, it did precious little to advance the narrative of the Watts case.

Rourke did that himself in a ten-minute or so summary, in which he provided a few [very few] insights into the case. He mentioned Bella biting her tongue and fighting for her life, a tuft of her hair snagged on the side of the thief hatch, and scratch marks on her buttocks incurred when she was forced into the tank.

What was more interesting in the sentencing hearing wasn’t what was mentioned, but what was left out. Nothing about time of death whatsoever. No one close to the Watts family in Colorado testified for or against him. The Thayers didn’t appear to be in court, neither did Nickole Utoft or Nichol Kessinger.

In fact the families appeared to be ushered into court via a private entrance, and ushered out privately too. It was all conducted with seamless precision. The crowds roared afterwards, justice is served!

More: Chris Watts has been sentenced, it’s all over and justice is served – but does the DA’s motive wash?

Chris Watts: Here’s what to expect from today’s Sentencing Hearing

Whether it’s a British or American court, the format in a sentencing hearing is pretty much stock standard. In broad strokes, the sentencing hearing is really a conversation about aggravating and mitigating factors [and in that order], and whether there are any substantial and compelling factors that cause a court to deviate one way or the other in sentencing. Should the sentence be more severe or should the court use its discretion and be lenient. But there’s more to it than just a tug-of-war between aggravation and mitigation.

Here’s what else to expect from today’s sentencing hearing at 10:00 [some have reported a 10:30 start] in the Weld County Court, in Greeley Colorado.

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  1. The sentencing hearing has been set for two hours, starting at 10:00 and finishing before 13:00 with possibly a recess halfway through. A press conference will be held afterwards at 13:00 with the Weld County District Attorney’s Office. The proceeding will be held in a larger court than the previous hearings already held in this case. This is in order to accommodate both the defendant’s and the victim’s loved one’s, family and friends, multiple witnesses representing each side as well as the media [who have been permitted expanded media coverage]. It has already been announced that the court proceedings have been moved from division 17 to the larger division 16, and that “overflow” facilities will be made available to extended family, the media the public. Follow the live feed at this link.
  2. images (1)It’s also likely to be held in the newer complex, rather than the old pillared building.
  3. There will be no jury present.
  4. Judge Kopcow will consider the evidence in the case, and hear the prosecutor [Michael Rourke] and his submissions on whether Chris Watts has had any priors. According to his mother he has [or had] a single traffic fine for speeding.
  5. There will also be evidence led on whether Watts was the primary offender in this case, or whether he had an accessory. This is a potential stumbling block if Watts decides to change his mind. His initial version was that the victim was an accessory, though not in the usual sense of the word.
  6. The serious nature of the crime in terms of the respective victims will be outlined. The autopsy evidence may be referenced here to reinforce the injuries and suffering of all three victims, and possibly Niko as well.
  7. In line with this, the prosecutor will specify if there was any unusual cruelty involved in the commission of the various acts. In this respect he may refer to contusions, defensive wounds as well as the heartless disposal of all the remains.
  8. The prosecutor will probably make a case for premeditation. Once again, this may involve referencing specific evidence, and if available, the autopsies my show a significant span of time separating the time of death between one victim and the others. If the autopsy results cannot be relied on in this sense, it’s possible other data might, including evidence such as microscopic human tissue and/or cadaver traces [and odor] left at the scene. Premeditation obviously goes to the calculated, cold-bloodedness of a crime.
  9. The court will consider whether the defendant destroyed evidence, whether he took the court [and/or law enforcement] into his confidence, or whether he attempted to misdirect, mislead or cover-up his crime in some way.
  10. The court will consider whether or not the defendant expressed any genuine remorse.

In the Jodi Arias trial, when Judge K. Stephens announced her judgment on the sentence, Jodi’s mother petitioned on her behalf, and Jodi petitioned at some length for herself.  A lot of baby pictures were presented to curry sympathy, and these were actually on-screen when the Judge pronounced sentence.

Judge Stephens was clear in noting Jodi’s “expressed remorse” which, given the sentence [life without parole] shows the Judge didn’t believe it was genuine or a mitigating factor, whatsoever, especially given the cruelty of the Arias’ act against the victim in that case, Travis Alexander.

In terms of Aggravation:

Expect a lot of emotion in this aspect of the trial. Family members, both parents, and Shan’ann’s brother will make statements about the emotional, financial, psychological and spiritual impact of the murders on each of them personally. Shan’ann’s health issues [lupus, fibromyalgia and her pregnancy] may be raised as an aggravating issue in the sense that her compromised condition made her more vulnerable

There may be an attempt to show Chris Watts’ lack of remorse or honesty toward’s the victim’s family following the crime.

Nickole Atkinson will possibly be called to testify in aggravation, including about Watts’ lack of remorse at the scene. Ditto one or both of the Thayers. However given the time constraint, and thus far no motions have been led indicating they will be testifying, this seems unlikely at the present time.

The fact that Chris Watts accused the victim of committing a crime he committed will be seen as aggravating in the extreme.

It’s probable that Nichole Kessinger will testify in aggravation, bolstering the notion that Watts deceived her and deceived everyone. If Kessinger does testify it’s also possible she will be cross-examined by the defense.

State law enforcement and officials, including the CBI and FBI may be called to testify very briefly about how they were able to nail Watts down as quickly as they did. This may involve dog handlers, the detective-on-scene and possibly the county coroner as well.

Again, given the short nature of the hearing, it’s more likely that only the District Attorney and the aggrieved parents will be called to address the court. 


In terms of Mitigation:

Since only two hours have been set down for the proceedings, it’s unlikely the mitigation will go on for much longer than one hour.

Chris Watts appears to have female state appointed defense lawyers. If that remains the case, we’ll see them in action [so to speak] for the first time. If there is a withdrawal of the guilty plea, we could see a motion fielded in court for new defense counsel.

The Judge will consider the health issues – if any, and possibly including any psychological syndromes, disorders or impairments – of the defendant.

The Judge will consider the defendant’s access to support from family and members of the community.

Members of his family will likely step forward and provide character evidence, arguing why the defendant doesn’t “deserve” a particular sentence, or why he does deserve leniency.  This aspect is likely to be emotional and controversial as well. It’s possible one of the Watts clan will raise the specter that Shan’ann was an “abusive” spouse.

The defendant’s childhood background and family history may also be considered.

Given the short nature of the hearing, it’s more likely that Watts’ legal representative and his parents will be the only one’s called to address the court.

The Defendant May Make a Statement

Chris Watts, like Jodi Arias prior to her sentencing, may elect to read a brief statement to the court. It may involve an apology, a demonstration of remorse through words, actions, gestures or commitments. It may also involve a plea for mercy and/or forgiveness.

Scrapping the Plea Deal?

There is also a significant possibility that Chris Watts may elect to withdraw his guilty plea. Although he may or may not do so on November 19th, he could also change his plea during December when the media circus will have shifted gears and moved on.

It seems likely that no matter what happens on the 19th, the case [and the aftermath] is far from over, and far from any kind of satisfactory closure for anyone, including the Rzuceks.

Has Chris Watts really given up? Has his family?

Cindy Watts set up a GoFundMe account on October 5th, 2018, almost a month to the day before his plea agreement. She claimed she needed $50 000 for “medical help” for her son, because of a laceration on his neck [which happened on August 13], a fractured wrist and an Anterior Cruciate Ligament [ACL]  tear on his knee.

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While none of this is likely true, what is true is Cindy was trying to raise cash in hurry on behalf of her son. One day prior to posting the GoFundMe appeal, Cindy wanted Facebook to find her the best Defense Lawyer for her boy.

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At the same time she declared in all caps:


53 people liked/responded to her post.


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Meanwhile, the terms of the plea agreement itself seem to make provision for a change of heart.

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Chris Watts has the right to appeal both his conviction and sentence within 49 days of the sentence, or seven weeks after the hearing on November 19. Assuming it concludes the same day,  January 7th, 2019 is the cut-off date.