#ChrisWatts Why does it fascinate us?

It’s important that we look and pay attention and listen for the family dynamics beyond the sensational headlines and forensic evidence in the Chris Watts case. Authentic family dynamics aren’t always easy to see, especially not by outsiders, and especially when there’s a scenario of keeping up appearances as there are here.

Family dynamics are the key to understanding what happened here. To address that, we must listen to the why of the thing, the human desires that are there but hidden. If we do, and if we learn to see and recognize these impulses that are not so different from our own, then that’s something that can be salvaged from this awful end to a mom and her innocent children.

But what is it we’re supposed to see exactly?

Part of how we begin to see those human desires in others is to understand our own. Why are we interested in this case to begin with, and not any other case? How does our wiring work, and what does it tell us about us? About human nature?

As part of intertextual research on the Casey Anthony case, specifically along the lines of why parents intentionally harm their kids, I came across a truly despicable crime. Heather Jones didn’t only torture her 7-year-old stepson over a period of months, she posted selfies of herself doing so on Facebook. She documented her abuse, apparently enjoying the approval of a private group of Facebook pals.

Those images stored on her iCloud have since been made public, and they’re truly heartbreaking. Over a period of weeks filled with pain and suffering, the light gradually went out of that little boys eyes.  And then the father bought pigs and fed the child’s body to them.

When the cops were called on a domestic dispute, Heather – trying to implicate her husband who’d fired a gun at her – told them to search the property. She said they’d find human remains. It took them more than a day, but eventually the police did find remains, a few small bones. It would take weeks to prove that they once belonged to a little boy who’d not been seen for several weeks.


As horrible as the Jones Case is, it’s somehow horribly predictable as well. The parents lived in a pigsty, they acted like pigs, they expressed themselves in a vulgar way, and so clearly, they weren’t living in a fairy tale. So when things turned ugly, even macabre, it’s shocking but it also feels inevitable, even familiar.

If true crime voyeurism is based on horror alone, this grisly story ought to be a favorite.

What fascinates us about true crime is the same thing that troubles us, and truly terrifies us. It’s when we realize how close to home a crime can be to our lives that we become truly uncomfortable.

It’s when we see a fairy tale, a beautiful couple, the sort of setup we all want, and then realize it’s not real and we’ve been duped that we begin to wonder about or own lives, and our own attachments to our very own fairy tales, don’t we? Beneath the fairy tale these people with perfect lives have somehow been living a lie.

And this is how that lie ends. It’s shocking, but it’s also a warning sign.

All of us have our own fairy tales, and they’re important to us. They’re an idea about the world, and how we wish it to be, and how beautiful and happy and loved we wish to be in it. It’s about belonging, shining, thriving and living life to the full. It’s about living the best life. It’s about the good life. But what is the good life? And why is it that right next to good things and fairy tales are evil things and monsters?

The bigger and better the fairy tale, the more lavish and picture-perfect the homes and neighborhoods, the more handsome the man and beautiful his wife, the more adorable the children the more difficult it is to reconcile when a nightmare unfolds inside of it, or perhaps because of it.

This is why the JonBenet Ramsey case is still so deeply unsettling and compelling more than 20 years later. It’s why Madeleine McCann, the sweet 3-year-old daughter of two attractive well-to-do doctors who vanished in Praia da Luz Portugal while on holiday, still disturbs Britain more than ten years later.

Chris Watts and Shanann looked the part of a fairy tale. The smiles looked real. The colorful photos looked happy. But none of it was. Those patches on the arms in so many photos suggest something wasn’t quite as it seemed, even when everything else looked just right. And what that does, is it asks us to look at what was really going on there, and then dares us to look at our own lives. Is any of that stuff in our lives? If it is, beware. Re-examine your fairy tale. Make sure it’s real and realistic, and not just for you, for those you share your living space with.

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Learn the lesson of what happened here or it could happen to you.



11 thoughts on “#ChrisWatts Why does it fascinate us?

  1. At around age 4, possibly 5, everyone has some sort of crisis from which all future decisions are made regarding relationships. If you are willing to go back far enough you will remember what it was. A parent might have told you they were divorcing. Someone you were very close to may have died. Whatever it was you started to formulate decisions about what kind of relationships you were going to have. Maybe it was that when you grew up and got married there will be no arguing, no fighting, everything will appear to others as perfect. Maybe you are never going to get married. Perhaps you have tried marriage and it just didn’t work out. Remember how you dealt with the crisis at age 4, what you had to do to protect yourself and survive. Now fast forward and see how many of your relationships have been essentially been re-created so that you can again, overcome the pain, fear, abandonment, put on a good face and go forward. But have it turn out differently this time. With Patsy Ramsey we see how everything had to look perfect, busy, pretty, efficient when underneath it all nothing could be further from the truth. Decorated chaos. With Shanann the perfectness had to be recorded and transmitted to others. Did she notice her husband was disengaged? Did she notice but stuffed it down and recorded smiles and happy t shirts and songs instead? Pretense and pretending begins long ago as a survival mechanism. There are others of course – acting tough, being clever, the misunderstood loner, etc.


  2. I was really struck by Shanann’s Facebook Live post by how fragile she was. Chris Watts took advantage of that. I think he sensed an opportunity precisely because she was so vulnerable. I’d be interested to know if they were married in community of property or not?


  3. Me too. I just watched that a day or so ago, where she all but said she pushed him away. At first. I keep seeing him as somewhat of a fortune hunter, a predator of sorts. The media isn’t going to figure any of this out – family dynamics, what he brought to the marriage, what she brought to the marriage. Given that she was married previously was there a large settlement? Had he been in debt before? We have to dig, the media isn’t going to – they are going to just report something secondhand until it gets completely perverted.


  4. I have the previous address where Shanann King lived with her husband in Belmont, NC. And his name. The house was another newly built home in 2009, large, 4 bedroom 3 bath valued today at $558,442. Shanann buys the house in 2009. In August 2012 she sells the home to Byron Falls. He says “Watts was in a hurry to sell” (does he mean Shanann Watts or Shanann King or Chris Watts?) and that they left everything in the house. She marries Chris Watts November 2012.


  5. Reading the Affidavit again this seemed odd – “in a loft area located between the bedrooms was Shanann’s cell phone that Detective Baumhover later learned was found between two cushions of a sofa located in the loft area.” So what does that mean? How soon after she came home was she killed? Where is the loft area (we need an inside floor plan). Was there any kind of a struggle that would cause her phone to be squeezed between sofa cushions? Not likely she just tossed it between two sofa cushions. Remember Reeva’s phone was found in the bathroom area. Laci’s phone was in her Range Rover.

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  6. I hope the coroners can get an accurate time of death from the girls. He would have had a lot of activity from 2 a.m. until he leaves for work close to 5 or shortly after.


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