Do we have to wait for prosecutors to tell us Chris Watts’ motive, or can we figure it out on our own? If we can’t, what does that say about our ability to intuit the thoughts, desires and machinations of those around us? If we can’t figure out hypothetical catastrophes in other folk’s families, do we have any chance of piecing the puzzles [hidden and less hidden] of the motives of those that are part of the fabric of our lives?
What true crime offers is a series of precedents and templates. The criminal psychology is never a new journey, although some tangents along the way may be a little unusual or even novel.
The best place to start in order to fathom a motive for Watts is Scott Peterson. There are many similarities: pregnant wife, business trips, Mr Perfect persona, picture-perfect marriage and family, fairy-tale home, sunny smiles all round versus fertilizer/oil, selling, foreclosure, financial ruin, her earning more than him and the collapse of the Picture Perfect Charade. There’s a lot of vanity in both marriages. There’s also a lot of shallowness. Under the vanity there’s no real wealth, just empty words.
Of course, to intuit a motive in the Watts case requires that we went to the trouble to figure out Scott Peterson’s motive. Did we? Was Scott’s motive that he wanted to have an affair? I hope that’s not your answer, because millions of married folk cheat on each other quite happily, without resorting to murder. The affair was a factor, and I believe it was a factor with Watts. Both good looking, charming and facile men. In both cases, women who knew or should have known their husbands were cheating, but kept up the pretense that everything was just fine, including through the new pregnancy.
Was money a factor? Of course it was. But millions of couples struggle through financial difficulty without resorting to murder, though perhaps less than the group committing adultery. Add together financial difficulty and adultery, and we’re starting to get somewhere, but we’re still not quite there.
The vital element of course is the pregnancy. In the Scott Peterson case, Scott endured the pregnancy for eight long months, until just before Christmas. He figured Christmas was a good time to do things when people would be away or not watching so closely.
In the Watts case, fifteen weeks proved to be his cut-off date. What does the pregnancy reveal about the motive? Simply that her husband’s threshold for commitment had been exceeded by a substantial margin.
It’s not just financial commitment, and financial overreach that’s at issue here. Like Scott, Watts is having a kind of existential crisis. He doesn’t want to be married.
He doesn’t want to be a dad. He doesn’t want to be burdened or pressured by life-sapping and gut-draining expectations. He was living a life he didn’t want to be living, and it was killing him. He was living a lie, and in his fucked psychology, the only way to fix that was by killing them. That way he could get his life back. By taking their lives, he got his.
It’s transactional, but then Capitalist society is rigged that way. Give and take, cash on delivery, no work no pay. So we’re wired to function in a transnational system, but every now and then someone thinks they can outsmart it. How to get something for nothing. How to get what you really want without paying the price.
So in a sense, it is the simply dimension of a man who wants his freedom. He wants to escape the bind he’s in. But we have to look at the scale of the things that are tearing at him. Moneylessness. Pregnancy and the raft of commitments and expectations that are part of that. And probably someone else pulling him away from the marriage, some sort of fairy-tale romance that offered him a better, alternative happily ever after.
When we add all of these together, we need to come up with a simple hypothesis. Why, in a single word, did Watts commit triple [actually quadruple] murder of his own family.
He wanted more. But he wasn’t prepared to pay the price to get what he wanted, so he chose subterfuge, so that he could dodge paying for what he wanted, the same way he’d been dodging reality for year.
He wanted to have his cake and eat it. Just like Scott Peterson did. I suspect further investigation will show Watts was a spoiled kid, and used to entitlements. He didn’t like the drudgery of his job. He wanted to convert his family to oil and gold, cash in his chips and start a new life with someone else.
JUST IN from People Magazine – When Nickole Atkinson, Shanann’s friend, didn’t hear from her, she called Chris Watts to find out what was going on. That’s when he made this surprising disclosure to Nickole about his 6-year marriage:
“I didn’t find out that they were going to separate or anything like that until I called Chris that morning. When I called him and asked him where she was, that’s when he told me and I basically told him that that wasn’t my [concern] at that particular moment, because it wasn’t and that their business was their business, that they would either work it out or they wouldn’t.”
Why would Watts be chomping at the bit to tell someone their marriage was in trouble immediately after his wife was dead and the kids gone? Why would it not be okay for his own wife to know [or say] their marriage was in trouble?
There could be other factors too, depending on issues of Watts’ identity. Without knowing his background, his make-up, his backstory, it’s difficult to be more accurate.
Now let’s see what the prosecutors have to say today…