What Netflix’s ‘American Murder’ Didn’t Tell You About Chris and Shanann Watts

Warning: Graphic discussion of family annihilation and toxic masculinity.

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Some of the comments are just heartbreaking as folks talk about how they wish Shanann had never returned home to reunite with Chris aftertheirsixweeksapart.

Again, it?s hard to believe that if Chris?s mistress Googled Shanann, she?d be in the dark about their real life.

Chris Watts might be a classic narcissist.

When you go online to read more about the case against Chris Watts, you?ll run into plenty of arguments that sound something like a men?s rights manifesto.

Some folks insist that Shanann was a demanding wife who ?drove? Chris over the edge. In that light, people paint Chris as a victim of a bad marriage, the nice and quiet man who felt like he couldn?t do anything right.

I have a hard time buying that argument, but I do see it a lot among men who chronically cheat. Every time I see it, it strikes me as a classic mix of misogyny and narcissism.

Throughout the documentary, I wondered about that. On more than one occasion, Chris made a comment like, ?Because she?s the woman.? Those comments weren?t inherently off-color, but they sure seemed like an odd and distant way to talk about your wife.

I?ve written in the past about how the one type of man I avoid at all costs cares so deeply about his image as a ?good? man, that he hides his discontent and then blames his wife or family for his unhappiness. Guys like that seem to have this need to blame everybody else for their choices, because if something doesn?t turn out well, they don?t feel responsible. That?s the vibe I get about Chris Watts. I don?t think he felt responsible for his own choices.

In the documentary, we see how Chris initially lied in his confession and insisted that Shanann choked their children. Knowing what he?d done, he had no qualms about tarnishing his wife?s reputation after death.

Throughout the footage we see of Chris, he appears increasingly self-absorbed. After his confession, the police want him to tell them exactly where he hid the bodies. Instead, he asks, ?What?s going to happen?? When an investigator says they?re going to get the bodies out of there, you get the sense that Chris was never asking about them.

Just himself.

Later, when he?s crying in front of investigators, he talks about how he always wanted to be a dad and have kids who loved him. See where I?m going with this? He appears to only have concerns about himself.

Givenmypersonalfeelingsabouthisattitude, I was intrigued to find out that a psychotherapist named Lena Derhally wrote a book about Chris Watts in which she called him a classic narcissist.

Derhally specializes in trauma-informed therapy. She explains that narcissistic people are excellent at crafting a mask that is different from who they really are:

?They know exactly what to do to manipulate people, they know how to get people to like them. Often they can seem even nicer or more empathetic than an average person, which is really interesting.?

Some people scoff at the notion that Chris could have been a narcissist. As if he?s too wounded or sensitive for that to fit the bill. Yet, this is a man who brutally killed his pregnant wife and two small children. He wasn?t too sensitive to do that.

Besides, recent research on pathologicalnarcissism among men suggests these men experience ?significant distress and impairment, including interpersonal problems, a tendency toward chronic feelings ofdepression, andsuicidality.?

Furthermore, ?These men can alternate between grandiose needs to drawattentionto themselves in the process of seeking admiration, and extreme vulnerability, in which they experience extreme sadness and lowself-esteem.?

And in an earlier film about the murders, it?s said that:

?Chris feels that if the affair would have never happened and [Nichol Kessinger] would have never came into his life, that the murders would never have happened. He thinks that she had this strong control over him, that he describes like a ?leash? that he wasn?t able to get off of or get away from, and he thinks that that has played a role in what happened.?

Classic narcissism. Chris continues to make excuses and shift blame.

According to Shanann, Chris told her he didn?t want the third baby.

Text messages retrieved by the county?s district attorney revealed that Shanann Watts began confiding in friends about her marital problems onAugust7,aboutaweekbeforeherdeath.

In fact, Shanann told one friend:

?Chris told me last night he?s scared to death about this third baby. And he?s happy with just bella and Celeste and doesn?t want another baby.?

Weld Country DA office
Weld Country DA office

In another set of texts, Shanann wrote:

?I grabbed his hand during ultrasound and he didn?t grab back. I cringed. He rejected sex night we arrived here. Only thing I can think of even though I don?t think he has it in him is another girl.?

The murders were most likely premeditated.

So, the Netflix documentary hints at a couple of strange things. It mentions that after the murders, Chris Watts called the girls? school to unenroll them. He texted with a realtor about selling the house. And he texted with Nichol Kessinger about their future.

While those sorts of behaviors seem less like a natural reaction to sudden rage and more like a continued plan, the documentary sort of takes his insistence that this was a crime of passion at face value.

Watts repeatedly talks about the murder of Shanann as this moment where he snapped because she supposedly threatened to take the kids away from him. But the whole ?act of passion? angle doesn?t make sense.

In reviewing his letters to Cheryln Cadle, you can see why.

August 12th when I finished putting the girls to bed, I walked away and said ?That?s the last time I?m going to be tucking my babies in.? I knew what was going to happen the day before and I did nothing to stop it!

Watts has also confessed that he slipped oxycodone to Shanann several weeks before the murders, hoping to cause her to miscarry.

I thought it would be easier to be with Nichol if Shanann wasn?t pregnant.

According to Cheryln Cadle, Watts told her that his girlfriend wanted to be the one to give him a son. And in speaking about Shanann?s murder, he wrote:

Isn?t it weird how I look back and what I remember so much is her face getting all black with streaks of mascara?

All the weeks of me thinking about killing her, and now I was faced with it. When she started to get drowsy, I somehow knew how to squeeze the jugular veins until it cut off the blood flow to her brain, and she passed out…

I knew if I took my hands off of her, she would still keep me from Nikki. They asked me why she couldn?t fight back, it?s because she couldn?t fight back. Her eyes filled with blood; as she looked at me and she died. I knew she was gone when she relieved herself.

It?s unknown what happened to Chris Watts’s mistress after November 2018.

Nichol Kessinger reportedly took a new job and moved out of state, but nobody online has been able to suss out her whereabouts. There?s been a lot of speculation that she?s in the witness protection program, though that seems far-fetched with Chris serving multiple life sentences in prison.

The last time the internet heard from Kessinger was in her 2018 interview with The Denver Post. She didn?t testify in court at Chris Watts?s trial, but she frequently expressed fears about her name and image being slandered.

?I would not be surprised if it?s going to be hard to go out in public sometimes for a couple of years.????Nichol Kessinger

At least one other woman and two men claim to have been sexually involved with Chris Watts.

One thing the documentary never mentioned was that other people came forward to say they had been in relationships with Chris Watts during his marriage. All three people claim they met Watts online, but he denies these claims and says he only cheated on Shanann with Nichol.

The nature of Chris Watts?s private life and whether or not there were other affairs will likely remain a mystery, though such claims hardly seem surprising. After all, his story about the murders has changed at least three times already.

In the documentary, we hear Shanann explain how she met Chris on Facebook after he sent her a friend request. Sending random women Facebook requests? it happens, obviously. But it?s also indicative of a man who was looking for a relationship online.

She also talks about how Chris pursued her even when she tried to push him away and didn?t want a relationship. How he was there for her when she was at her sickest with lupus. Between that and the clip of Chris talking about relationship deterioration and repair, something seemed incredibly phony.

I looked up his ?relationship speech? on YouTube and discovered it?s a presentation he gave for his communications class back in 2012. And, it?s strange. He mumbles for 9 minutes about relationships without ever seeming to grasp what he?s talking about. And when he talks about how a child can repair a deteriorating relationship? Well, it?s really no wonder his marriage didn?t turn out well.

Chris Watts now says he found Jesus.

Oh boy. If you?re curious what Chris Watts is currently up to in prison, he says he?s now an evangelical Christian.

He joins a long line of killers who claim to have found religion during their incarceration. In this case, it?s Watts?s newfound faith that he and others attribute his willingness to finally open up about the murders.

It?s also why Cheryln Cadle said Watts agreed to write back and forth with her for a book???he wants his story not to be about murderandfamily annihilation, but of redemption.

Of course he does.