Shan’ann & Chris = Mary Sue & Gary Stu?

Once we’ve gone beyond reflex responses – such as “he just snapped” – we must begin to deal with the characters in true crime as just that: characters. Is there more to them than meets the eye?


What’s fascinating about the Watts case is how the characters of Shan’ann and Chris Watts seem to be perfect cardboard cutouts. It’s also why this case is so disturbing.

They’re too good to be true, which is why this case is such an indictment of the real world and how fake it is.

To be clear about what we’re talking about, let’s define it. These definitions are from various sources available online:

A Mary Sue is a fictional character, usually female, who is seen as too perfect and almost boring for lack of flaws, originally written as an idealized version of an author in fanfiction.

In Shan’ann’s case she’s the Facebook author of her online alter ego:

  1. Fictional
  2. Too perfect [and everything and everyone around her is too perfect AKA “Thrivin'”]
  3. She’s an idealized version of herself, by herself [in order to sell products]

A Mary Sue is an original character in fan fiction, usually but not always female, who for one reason or another is deemed undesirable by fan critics. A character may be judged Mary Sue if she is competent in too many areas wrg, is physically attractive, and/or is viewed as admirable by other sympathetic characters.

Science Fiction, interestingly enough, is an area where the Mary Sue moniker and criticism comes up repeatedly. I’ve written sci fi fantasy myself, and because the scenario is to create a world from scratch, and to populate it with fantastic characters blessed with unbelievable abilities, author’s tend to lose touch with reality. They also tend to write themselves into the story.

In Star Wars George Lucas did exactly that with Luke Skywalker as a glorified beginner car driver shooting around Modesto with a big hairy dog sitting beside him on the passenger seat – but translated onto the biggest possible canvas: he’s driving that car and hanging out with his hair animal because he’s saving the galaxy.


Facebook allows mere mortals on Earth to translate ourselves onto a much larger canvas too. Like actors and actresses, we also have our captive audiences, and if we say the right words and perform appropriately, fame and fortune [and Thrivin’] follow.

There was a time when the world needed a Gary Stu. The early 70’s was that time when the world sobered up. Simon & Garfunckle broke up, as did the Beatles. We’d gone to the moon and back, Vietnam had happened. It was time to pick up the pieces and start again. It was time to go back to our old farmboy values and from there, set out to rule the galaxy.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos [the world’s wealthiest man by a country mile] was a small child in the early 70’s. The Star Wars seed fell on fertile soil, but over the course of a generation, the world has changed. It’s gone from having Skywalker’s self-belief and determination, to self-belief and little else.

A “Mary Sue” (or “Gary Stu” for males) is a character who is overly perfect. … Often,Mary Sue represents the author’s idealized version of him- or herself projected into the world of the original fiction, also known as canon.

We may find ourselves becoming uncomfortable with these notions, and how they reflect on us, which is why it’s easier to look at it from a narrative and totemic perspective, via George Lucas’ dog.

If we’re not sure how cute, funny and ridiculous it is to artificially oneself, well, just look at what Lucas did to his hairy Alaskan malamute Indiana.



Now it’s fine if we make up fairy tales and we’re allowed to believe in them too. It’s not fine when we begin to imagine that we’re actually fairy tale characters living in an actual fairy tale [an apt description for many Facebook profiles out there], or worse, try to convince others we are.

True crime is in itself a reality check on our limited perceptions. True crime tests our perceptions not just in how the crime manifests in reality, but to see through the perpetrator’s insistence on perpetuating a particular fairy tale version of his or herself. If we’re brave enough, we should also take this a step further: we should challenge our ability to recognize these deceptions in others in our world, and our circumstances [and hopefully ourselves too].


Society has grown up since the 70’s, but in some ways we’ve regressed. We see this in the schizophrenic acceptance and devotion to Star Wars‘ latest Mary Sue, as well as the rejection of her as too one-dimensional.

How have we regressed? Social media has made many of us into one-dimensional blow hards, with an emotional repertoire no more sophisticated than that of a reptile. We are nourished on daily doses of reinforcement – it’s either a plus or a minus. The reptilian parts of our brain respond to this like its crack cocaine, and some unfortunate souls become fatally addicted to the endless kick of LIKES and LOLS.

We’ve regressed because we’ve gone from being people, to one-dimensional zombies.

A similar battle is raging on social media for the rights to Shan’ann’s soul. There are those who see her exactly as she pretended to be, perhaps because Shan’ann’s most ardent fans want to be seen in the same way [as they pretend to be].


And then there are others that think part of why this terrible happened had to do with faking it day in day out. Maybe there’s something about social media that’s not healthy, not only for the person projecting continuously, but the people around them. Their partners. Their children.

Maybe social media isn’t good for families?

Many engaged in this battle neglect to apply the same logic to the other spouse in this story, the guy who presented himself as Gary Stu. If there’s some debate about Shan’ann, there’s no doubt in our minds that Chris Watts pretended to be perfect but isn’t perfect. He’s a murderer, isn’t he? We miss such a vital insight by glossing over this area, because just as it was so fundamentally important to Shan’ann to push her fairy tale, it was also important to Chris Watts to keep his going.

That’s actually why this crime happened – for reasons I won’t go into right now – Chris Watts felt his fairy tale had been ruined. What was his fairy tale? Well, that’s the question isn’t it, and we’re not going to get it if we’re stuck on a bidding war for who’s better:  Mary Sue or Gary Stu?

Can we apply the same logic of caring about fairy tales to the victim, to her killer and to ourselves?

Our double standard in this department is exposed by the ease inwhich we can see how Lucas’s dog in Star Wars is excessively fantastic. We can see how Chewy is a silly but catchy projection.

We need to apply the same good-humored cool appraisal to characters in true crime – the criminal and the victim. Because true crime is invariably, inevitably, a story about us.


“Chris Watts Just Snapped”

On an almost daily basis, those commenting on true crime use the phrase that the criminal [any criminal in a high-profile case] “just snapped”. It’s a doozy. And in just two words the case is solved from bottom to top, left to right and everywhere in-between. There’s no need to have an investigation or a trial or write a single word in a book about the case because the case has been solved. He “just snapped”.

The term is so permissive it was actually used as the title of a true crime documentary about Scott Peterson – SNAPPPED.

One of the reasons the “just snapped” idea is so popular is because so many criminals in court, or in their versions of events like to use it, their families like to use it and dumb journalists unthinkingly recycle it.

In the Oscar Pistorius trial he doesn’t use the word “snapped” but describes shooting his girlfriend to death [four times behind a locked door] as “an accident”, something that happened “before I knew it.”

Many people, including the Judge hearing the case, and many trial pundits and media folk, believed this story and as a result Oscar initially beat the murder charge against him. Fortunately, saner minds prevailed and the culpable homicide charge was eventually overturned to murder.

Jodi Arias also used the idea of herself drawing a blank when the crime happened. She wasn’t thinking when the murder happened, she went into a fog. And then, at a particular time when it was all over, the fog lifted. So something in Jodi, according to her, snapped too.

So with so many buying into the “snapped” scenario in the mainstream media, it’s not surprising that social media regurgitates the same thing.

Below are a few more handy examples:

  1. OJ Simpson

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2. Chris Watts

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3. Henri van Breda

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4. Adam Lanza

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5. Stephen Paddock

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But isn’t “just snapped” the lazy man’s way of addressing a simple but difficult question? When there are no low hanging easy answers to why, then “just snapped” answers why, except “just snapped” is about as useful as “just because”.

It was while I was researching a book on mass murderers that this default non-explanation really came to the fore, and the more it did the more I made it my personal mission to figure it out and give it the proper true crime treatment.

As such I consider SLAUGHTER one of my best achievements in true crime to date.

What I discovered researching SLAUGHTER was that the more heinous the crime the more inexplicable it is. Apparently. So the more people someone kills, the less reason they have for killing – they’re monsters, and mad, end of story.

And so the poster child for a confounding motive is Stephen Paddock. His crime is so sadistic that no one – not the FBI, not the cops, not his family – no one was able to figure out why he did what he did. Even today that remains the case! Apparently he had no motive. And because we can’t figure out his motive, maybe he didn’t have one…And because he didn’t write a suicide note explaining his actions, apparently what we’re left with is an unsolvable riddle. Ergo “He snapped”.

Initially, Paddock was a tough nut to crack. But as I did more and more research on 7 other mass shooters, I was surprised by how clear the motive and the sadistic patterns were in each case. Just as serial killers can be profiled, so can mass shooters and school shooters.

The dirty little secret about school shootings is it’s very easy to see who the most likely candidate is going to be, but counter-intuitively, knowing that can actually precipitate the shooting.  How is that for a mind bender to the “just snapped” theory, that specifically in the high school setting one can actually set off a crime ahead of time by profiling your most likely shooter.

An incredible case study to understand why the “just snapped” notion is such ridiculous heresy is Adam Lanza. Thanks to the FBI there is a treasure trove of data which I dug into in detail in SLAUGHTER which reveals how chronically dysfunctional Lanza was as a person.

Since we’re dealing with Chris Watts here, I won’t go into detail to say how and why we know Lanza didn’t just snap, just that he’s a classic case where neighbors and the public  assumed that’s what happened, while a careful study of who he was, his habits, the dynamics with his mother and his digital breadcrumbs clearly showed months of meticulous planning.

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And that’s really the essence of it. A clue to what we need to do to find out what really happened is in this screengrab just below the highlighted text. Paddock’s brother claimed Stephen paddock “was just a guy” and “just snapped”.

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But the real insight here is what he says afterwards:

We know absolutely nothing about his motivations or situation before the shooting…

And so, if we are to move beyond kindergarten catch-alls in true crime, we have to know more than absolutely nothing about the criminals we’re talking about. We have to know more than absolutely nothing about their motivations about other things in their lives. We have to know more about their situation before they commit crimes. When we do, what we invariably find is that these crimes were accidents waiting to happen. These people didn’t just snap, the terror is that the way they were heading, a holocaust was inevitable.

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And so I’d like to encourage the regular readers of this blog: Please try to refrain from using those words, it plays into the hands of the criminals without exception. They prosper thanks to our ignorance.

We begin on the path to authentic knowledge by admitting the most difficult thing, which is that we know absolutely nothing about these people, let alone their motives. Until we know more, we can’t begin to guess their motives.

In the Watts case we have two choices. Either he just snapped and Watts will be an enigma forever and ever, or he planned, plotted, calculated and even fantasized about murdering his family. If it’s the latter then by spending time finding out who he was, and who the Watts family were, who they were as people, what their personalities were like, their back stories and circumstances, only then we will find our way to the key that unlocks the reason for why what happened happened.

TWO FACE BENEATH THE OIL is available now on

Shan’ann Watts died Intestate – Is A Court Battle Looming in Probate Court over Life Insurance?

Weaving straw into gold. It sounds poetic, it’s even the stuff of fairy tales, but real human bodies can be converted to gold coins. It’s called Life Insurance. It should be called Death Insurance.

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We saw the same battles over Laci Peterson’s inheritance, which was quite sizable, dragging on for years as a parallel to the criminal trial.

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Chris Watts Case: What would Sherlock Holmes Do?

As a detective story, the Watts murder mystery isn’t very compelling. There’s a little intrigue about who did what, and given the current moratorium on releasing information to the press, people have become even more intrigued about what unknown unknowns may be out there, based on the known knowns [the surveillance video] and known unknowns [the children dumped into the tanks, but precisely where and how is uncertain].

For the world’s greatest detective, certainly in terms of evidence and investigative work, the Watts case looks set to be fairly open and shut. If Sherlock Holmes did walk the Earth today, it’s unlikely Weld County would call on him to consult – especially not about evidentiary aspects.

The second crime scene adds a complicated layer to the first, but the quick work of the cops means even the tissue evidence was still in a similar relatively fresh condition when their little bodies were recovered, compared to when the girls were dumped there just a few days earlier. Compared to the paper-thin cadaver evidence in the Casey Anthony and Scott Peterson cases, there’s going to be a whole lot more, an encyclopedia of tissue data, to go on in the Watts case.

There is some speculation, currently, that the delay over the release of the autopsy report is due to a lack of incriminating DNA evidence.

Is that so?

Although possible the lack of DNA theory seems unlikely, especially since 1) the remains as mentioned were recovered as quickly as they were, 2) the overall slapdash nature of the crime [shallow grave, cell phone found in the home, bed sheets stuffed in the kitchen trash etc] and let’s not forget 3) Watts’ shaky version of evidence as presented in his slippery-but-not-slick Sermon on the Porch.

The Science of Post Mortem Tick Tock 

Even if the DNA evidence is in doubt, the case could easily turn on something as elementary as whether the children died first. Has the coroner been able to establish with a reasonable degree of certainty how long before their mother’s death the children were killed? If the time of death difference is significant, the only logical inference is that Watts murdered all three victims.

Time of death is a science, but not an exact one, and even the prescient genius of Sherlock Holmes isn’t going to perform miracles in the area of clockwork.

We ought to caution ourselves on this matter of time, because in the same way if the murders may be demonstrated to have all occurred simultaneously [or cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt that they weren’t] , then the legal pendulum edges in Watts’ favor.

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In the Scott Peterson trial, time of death was a huge issue on two fronts. The second involved the contention by the defense that the fetus had developed for several more days after Laci went missing, and thus Laci was supposed to have been murdered several days later. The enormous uncertainty around her precise time of death, as well as the fetus, meant this area above all gifted the defense case with significant reasonable doubt.

Proving time of death in the case of the Watts children will probably come down to an analysis of stomach contents. If food remains of the birthday party are evident, then time of death may be imputed to as early as Sunday afternoon. That’s early afternoon – before dinner. If there are barbecue-type morsels in the digestive track, if they were murdered after dinner, then it may be less simple to separate the murders of the children from that of their mother.

In hindsight we can already see how things are shaping up for the defendant in court: Chris Watts may rue the fact that the flight delayed Shan’ann by several hours, especially if the children were killed in a premeditative fashion in terms of Watts’ initial estimate of Shan’ann’s arrival [in the relatively early evening].

Did Chris Watts anticipate time of death would be so vital to his defense, or lack of? Chris Watts was counting on the bodies never being discovered, and thus rendering any autopsy [let alone autopsy evidence] moot.

“Mr. Holmes, we need you to pick this man’s brain…”

But what makes the Watts case interesting – even terrifying – isn’t the forensic side at all, it’s the psychology. Why did a picture-perfect dad destroy such a picture-perfect family?

In that question [and in the questions around who was “picture perfect” and how much], there’s the real mystery. When we plumb through Shan’ann’s enormous archive of posts, pictures and videos, the psychological mystery deepens. All is not as it seems.

This is the area where we might want Mr. Holmes to apply his mind. Why did this guy commit the murder [or murders]? Was it economics? What was the motivational mechanism exactly?


The worst criminals in true crime are also the most anal, and thus, the best detectives are also the most anal. Think about the likes of Dexter, Monk, Dr. Hannibal Lecter [when consulting for the FBI] and Mr Holmes himself. All sticklers for detail, all anal.

The anal aspect matters when it comes to forensics, but let’s face it, any idiot with a magnifying glass and tweezers can find and recover evidence if it’s there. Photography is there to record it. Technologies are there to decipher it. Great minds are no longer needed in the forensic side. They’re needed to decipher the criminal mind.


Although popularly known as the world’s greatest detective, there’s actually someone better at the detective game than Sherlock Holmes, it’s his brother Mycroft.

This is Wikipedia’s description of Mycroft:

Possessing deductive powers exceeding even those of his younger brother, Mycroft is nevertheless incapable of performing detective work similar to that of Sherlock as he is unwilling to put in the physical effort necessary to bring cases to their conclusions. In “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” Sherlock Holmes says:

…he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right. Again and again I have taken a problem to him, and have received an explanation which has afterwards proved to be the correct one. And yet he was absolutely incapable of working out the practical points…

Though Sherlock initially tells Watson that Mycroft audits books for some government departments, he later reveals that Mycroft’s true role is more substantial. While Conan Doyle’s stories leave unclear what Mycroft Holmes’ exact position is in the British government, Sherlock Holmes says that “Occasionally he is the British government […] the most indispensable man in the country.” He apparently serves as a sort of human computer, as stated in “The Bruce-Partington Plans“:

He has the tidiest and most orderly brain, with the greatest capacity for storing facts, of any man living. The same great powers which I have turned to the detection of crime he has used for this particular business. The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience. 

I like to bring up Mycroft when I hear criticism that one cannot possibly know anything about a case [because it’s too early or too late], how can you know if you weren’t there, and “how can you write a book about a case before the trial” etc.

Mycroft manages to be omniscient without setting a toe on a crime scene, and doesn’t seem to talk to many of the people involved directly either. So how does he do it? He does it by gathering evidence, reading newspapers, listening to the news, listening to what people say about people and what the criminal says for himself. He does what no one does – he looks armed with sufficient background information [sufficient in the sense that this knowledge opens all the doors and windows to deepest and most difficult sanctum in true crime: human nature].

The Craft of Pattern Recognition in True Crime

When we are masters of psychology, the variations in human nature are a snip. Quickly,  intimately and intuitively one can step into a new crime scene schema and see how the strings tie-in, and how the puppets got themselves tangled.

Over time overlaps re-occur, repeat and reinforce themselves, generating so many  mental maps. Each new iteration allows for ever quicker and more effective processing of people, patterns and predispositions. Once he’s developed the handy psychological profiles and patterns, this sharp tool of the mind allows him to recognize systemic data shapes that can be easily mapped, matched and oriented.

That’s a fancy way of saying, for example, that when you spend time in true crime, the semantics repeat themselves. Criminals on different continents tend to default to the same patterns when lying and covering up.  Deception, it turns out, is fairly uniform in how it plays in the real world. Criminality tends not to reveal creativity and enterprize in the criminal mind, but the opposite: laziness, entropy, weakness, path-of-least-resistance programming, impulsivity, lack of foresight, lack of compassion etc.

In this respect, something as simple as simple observation – penetrating observation – where you see through things rather than simply seeing what everyone else sees, can be  a mighty skill.

The work of a true crime writer [ahem] is similar, except that unlike Mycroft he uses an actual computer, and through this extraordinary modern tool he becomes capable of Mycroft’ s superhuman data collection, data mining and data assembly. But even with a computer doing all the processing, he still needs the imagination and the intelligence to tie all the pieces of string together. That can’t be taught. It can be learned, and the skill honed and that’s the difference between a true crime rookie and a true crime maestro.

So you see, it’s not so much about how big and powerful your true crime grey matter is, it’s what you can do with what you have in your head that counts.


The computer facilitates the same swift assembly of Mycroft’s mental palace. It does the rudimentary but colossal work of finding the right needles in the right haystacks. It collects these haystacks and needles and sorts them further into something that adds up to an orderly and untidied fabric. Finally, the structured mind must examine the fabric and see how haystracks and needles translate into trees, until trees become woods.  The woods then tear apart to reveal the castle. This is how a cogent narrative is conjured into being.

While the work of the lawyers, law enforcement, journalists, experts and pundits all matter, it’s only the true crime writer who synthesizes all of it, and if he truly has no horse in the race, then you’re probably going to get to the crux first, and best, via this  uniquely authentic omniscient narrative. Needles retrieved from haystacks need to build castles, not tee-pees of hay or worse, tee-pees of needles.

The narrative is the Holy Grail of true crime. It’s the story about what really happened, isn’t it? It’s such a simple question and yet how often is it adequately addressed, let alone answered.

What really happened?

In court, two narratives compete for jury votes, but the narrative in court is only the one that sells best based on the available evidence. It’s not what happened, but a distorted reflection at best. The distortion the jury likes best is voted on and becomes legal reality for the defendant. Think about the warped legal realities in the Casey Anthony, Oscar Pistorius and O.J. Simpson trials. Justice is an imperfect system, but with enough grease in the right gears, the wheels do turn and sometimes it can and does work.

A narrative needs to be more and do more than just turn a few gears. It has to do more than reflect a cool distillation of all the facts. A good example of a narrative that simply loads the reader with information is Perfect Murder Perfect Town. The book provides no insight into who killed JonBenet, other than to offer every conceivable tidbit about who it might be. That’s a cop out. It has to be better than that!

After gathering all the information, there has to be an intuitive flourish at the end – not necessarily demonstrable or even provable, but accurate all the same. This is why the thing that differentiates the exceptional true crime narrative from the trial narrative and the media narrative and the defendant’s narrative, is the ability to decisively answer not the forensic question, but the psychology.



Side-View of the CERVI 319 Crime Scene + An Analogy

Most of the glimpses we’ve gotten thus far of the CERVI 319 site have been aerial shots from news helicopters. Google Earth also provides global geographical context to the site. And it seems, with everybody watching and looking at these images, these maps, we know exactly what we’re dealing with. But while I was researching TWO FACE an elementary question arose. When Chris Watts drove to the site before dawn on August 13th, was he visible through line of sight?

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Given the remote location of the site, the answer seemed to be obvious.

I wanted to make sure, however, because of something that had recently played in my mind.

An Analogy for the Importance of Line of Site

During a recent trip to the coast, I was told by some folks I was staying with about a murder that happened down the road. As it happened, I’d stayed in the house of the murdered woman months earlier when I’d gone down to attend a wedding. Because so many people were visiting that weekend, various neighbors opened their homes and I happened to stay in this ladies’ home…and then she was murdered a few months later.

So when I arrived and her murder was still unsolved, I made an effort to speak to the woman’s best friend, and visit the crime scene. Initially, I asked for directions and wandered down to the nearest beach and tried to orient myself. She had been stabbed on a staircase leading to the beach. Her blood was all over the stairs. But standing there, it didn’t make any sense. Although there were some trees blocking the view, the area was clearly visible from across the river, and especially from houses perched on a small hillside nearby. It was also right next to a roadside parking lot, a terrible place to commit murder.

It turned out I was at the wrong beach. When I went to another beach just further up the coast everything was completely different. The moment one entered the staircase, one was effectively in a downward slanting tunnel. In every direction there was no sign of human habitation. When I was there I didn’t see anyone. Not on the beach, not in the distance, not at the parking lot, not even further down the beach.

Walking along the rocky area towards the first beach where I’d mistakenly imputed the crime scene, I passed a length of jungle and rock and nothing else. And still no people. Those houses on the hillside were tucked behind the fringe of trees, so no line of site even of the beach here. And since this section of beach clipped inwards from the coast, as well as at the other end, clipped inward again, there was no line of sight from either side of the beach either.

It turned out the lady came here to walk her dog for exactly that reason – the pristine, deserted nature of the beach. She was in the habit of getting out of her car, peeking downstairs to see if anyone was there, and if the coast was clear, returning to pick up her dog, lock her car and go for her walk.

On the day of her murder [or perhaps before] the murderer picked up on this, and killed her to steal the car [which was unlocked, and still had the keys in the ignition]. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to get the car into reverse, eventually gave up, and cut and ran.

The motive seems to be straightforward. She was someone he didn’t know, and he killed her to steal her car. The difficulty in reversing theory seems far-fetched, except the best friend of the murdered lady told me she had the same car, a Suzuki SUV, and the vehicles were well-known to have reverse gear shift issues. My car sometimes does too.  And getting into a strange car in a hurry, reverse sometimes simply does not engage. The nature of the parking lot was such that reverse was only way out.

What the above anecdote illustrates is the importance of characters, context and anecdotal evidence.  It also shows how important it is to go to the crime scene yourself, if you can, and step into the shoes [into the psychology] of your murderer. [Incidentally, that case remains unsolved, although the woman’s phone was tracked to a shanty in a nearby informal settlement].

Line of Sight at CERVI 319

Although we feel like we know all there is to know about CERVI 319, I wanted to clarify the line of sight issue, at least in my own mind. Google Earth takes us right there, but we’re still not there on-the-ground, as it were.

From the air the CERVI site is a roughly Y-shape of cleared Earth, with the tail of the Y blowing to its left. The upper part of the Y-shaped site rests at a slight angle inside a rectangular corridor.

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On either side of this cleared area are brown rocks, and speckles of green bushes peppering the landscape. This was my best guess that the contours of the area dipped down, and that CERVI 319 is situated in a depression within a shallow valley amongst low hills.  But the question remained: how shallow was this valley?

The service road nearby would be Chris Watts’ biggest concern. Could random strangers peek into or over the site while he was rushing about barefoot trying to get rid of three bodies?5b7c03833cccd121008b45d6-960-555

The Denver Post provides this unusual in situ shot of the site. Notice the power line to the right appears to correspond with to the Google Earth screengrab.

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And according to the caption, the oil site is near Roggen. That puts us in the ballpark too.

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The Denver Post doesn’t identify the image as the actual work site, but what it does do is locate the local topography from an on-the-ground perspective.

It’s clear that there are undulating hills in the area and a small amount of brush. These hills are higher and steeper than I’d perceived them to be from the satellite images. This confirms the CERVI 319 site must have been secluded in line of sight terms by the surrounding hills.

Watts bodies found at oil site

ROGGEN, CO – AUGUST 21: According to Christopher Watts’ arrest affidavit, Shanann Watts’ body was found in a shallow grave near this oil work site, seen here on August 21, 2018 near Roggen, Colorado. Both of her daughter’s bodies, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, were submerged for days in the same oil tanks in rural eastern Colorado, prosecutors said. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

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Shan’ann Watts: MLM & Magical Thinking – just how bad was it?

MLM and Magical Thinking go hand in hand. In the same way that God created the heavens and the Earth, and Harry Potter rose to fame and fortune simply by incantation, we can too. We can also create heaven and whatever Earth we like, we can also slay our enemies – even sickness – simply by saying the right things. Right?

If you’re an actor, yes, maybe. For the rest of us, including the likes of another The Secret follower – Jodi Arias – life turns out a little different no matter how elegant our semantics, no matter how compelling or fake our diaries. Words have power, certainly, but words without action tend to create conflict – and crime.

One definition of Magical Thinking reads:

Magical thinking is the belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. A four-year-old child, for example, might believe that after wishing for a pony, one will appear at his or her house.

MLM is much the same way. It’s a sort of brain fart where people wake up one day and just because they’re told they can have anything they wish for, they think they can. And when enough people wearing the same logos on their hats and shirts say the same thing, it can reach a critical mass with the weak minded.

Le-Vel’s Facebook page shows there are plenty of them out there, over 1.1 million in the Thrive cult at present.

The video below provides plenty of additional psychological back story to Shan’ann. She talks about still being affected by issues of childhood. But she’s abundantly clear that her family is Thrive, her lifestyle is Thrive, her philosophy is Thrive and her savior is Thrive.

She’s specific in stating that in 2016 her team fell just short of $300 000 in sales volume.

Fullscreen capture 20181002 011323 Is that a lot when divided by a team of roughly four, or was it more than four? It’s not clear what Le-Vel’s various levels actually mean. Shan’ann described herself on Instagram in 2018 at the time of her death as a 80K VIP LeVel Promoter. So was she earning $80 000 in sales per year, commissions, was that her total income?


I’m not going to spend any more time here trying to figure out the MLM finances right now, although that’s a labyrinth that needs to be decoded into simple bottom line figures eventually. Perhaps ex-Thrivers can comment anonymously below on how the dollars and cents add up – or don’t add up.

What we can say is no matter how successful Shan’ann was or how wonderful Thrive products are, the Watts family were in serious financial difficulty when the murders happened. They were being sued by their homeowners association, and it looked like they were headed for a divorce. It also appears as if Shan’ann was losing her MLM mojo for the first time in July and especially August 2018, when her Facebook Live videos dropped to zero.

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What’s the typical space of time for MLM people to be sucked in and spat out? According to one small business website:

  • In the first year of operation, a minimum of 50% of representatives drop-out.
  • After five years of operation, a minimum of 90% of representatives have left the company.
  • By year 10, only those at or near the top have not dropped out – making it safe to say at least 95% of representatives have dropped out.

So by mid-August 2018, Shan’ann was nicely in the middle of the 2nd projection. The other factor is of course her husband, Chris Watts. Whether or not Shan’ann was still gung ho about it, was he? And if her business partner wasn’t, what did that indicate about Shan’ann’s income, with or without his participation?

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As is the case with all MLM, it’s easy [or easier] to make those initial sales. It gets harder and harder to maintain them as the market saturates, and as those drinking the Kool-Aid pass the gullibility peak, and pessimism [otherwise known as reality] sets in. When people start picking up a shitty aftertaste to the Kool-Aid and the momentum turns in MLM, it tends to do so permanently.

MLM lives and dies on buy-in. When your partner promotors become ye of little faith, and abandon all hope, the house of cards craters into a pile of dust. Those promoters who buy into it the deepest have the most face to lose, so they try to dig in, hoping the tide will turn.

When it comes to magical thinking, just as hay can be spun into gold, and God can breathe life into dust, bodies can become dust again, and gold can be spun back into hay. Sucks don’t it?

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The screengrab above is from Shan’ann Watts twitter page, indicating just a few of the accounts she was following. She was also following dozens of lupus-themed accounts.

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For further reading on MLM click here.

Dirty South Customs = Shan’ann’s Dirty Little Secret?

The open question remains: how was Shan’ann Watts able to afford a home [or rather, get a loan to build one] in North Carolina, in 2009 when she was about 25-years-old?

On Websleuths the contention has been made that Shan’ann was co-owner of a car accessory company based in Fayetteville, North Carolina called Dirty South.

In June 2009 Shan’ann [then Shan’ann King] was named one of the co-defendants in a lawsuit against Dirty South and her boss Hisham Bedwan, among others. Bedwan also resembles Chris Watts, even down to the manicured grey hair and goatee, doesn’t he?


It’s unclear at this point if this lawsuit has anything to do with the allegation that 15 charges were filed against Shan’ann Watts at one time, or whether the three charges on Chris Watts are true, and if they are, if there’s any connection.

Rumors are circulating that Shan’ann was having an affair with her boss, and that this is what ended her relationship with the anonymous Mr. King. On his Instagram page, hot girls and hot cars alternate between specials for car parts.

What we do know for sure is the accessory store where Shan’ann worked was less than 10 miles south, literally just down the road from where Chris Watts grew up on Vass Road, on the outskirts of Spring Lake.

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It makes sense if Shan’ann worked in a car parts store, and Chris Watts was an auto mechanic, that their paths would inevitably cross.

Maybe, maybe not, but if that’s how they did meet, it’s not the story she told on Facebook. If it is how they met, one can understand how she might want to keep this aspect of her life under wraps from the fairy tale obsessed Thrive crowd.

Sandra Onorati Rzucek [Shan’ann’s mother]: “Shan’ann and Chris Watts definitely planned to separate”

This is what we know:

  1. He was actively engaged in an affair with a co-worker
  2. Shan’ann was pregnant at the same time
  3. Shan’ann was telling her Facebook flock what a great husband and partner Chris was as late as May 2018
  4. Shan’ann was communicating to her mother about their intention to separate
  5. The six-week period Shan’ann spent in North Carolina – wasn’t that the separation?
  6. If the six-week period wasn’t the separation, then when was it supposed to kick in and what would that involve? Selling the house, moving, taking the kids…?

What we don’t know is after the trial separation exactly what was decided?

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  1. Shan’ann was going to have a gender reveal party on the weekend after her death
  2. Shan’ann continued to sell Thrive and was on a Thrive business trip on the weekend just before her murder
  3. Shan’ann’s best friends seemed to know about Chris Watts’ infidelity but didn’t take them seriously

This suggests Shan’ann didn’t take Chris Watts intentions to leave her seriously as well. But that’s too kind. It wasn’t just a return to the default setting of business as usual. If he wanted to separate and she was striving and contriving to keep them together, then what contrivances were being used to lock him in, besides the pregnancy?

If they were negotiating for them to no longer be together, and Shan’ann was resisting, then wasn’t the murder a way of breaking the deadlock? Chris Watts got his separation, minus alimony and child support.

During Chris Watt’s  infamous sermon on the porch, he appeared to let on that he and Shan’ann had argued prior to her trip to Phoenix on Friday August 10th. According to the Washington Post:

“This might be a tough question,” the reporter asked, “but did you guys get into, like, an argument before she left?”

“It wasn’t an argument,” Watts said quickly. “We got into a conversation, but I’ll leave it at that.” And then he talked some more about how much he missed them.

A conversation about what?

And those words I’ll leave it at that – it seems like he did, doesn’t it. He’d made up his mind.

Besides the semantics surrounding mid-August, there’s also the eye witness statement of Melinda Phillips published in People On August 31st, 18 days after the murder.

“I think they were always putting on a show,” says Melinda Phillips, who recalls seeing Chris and Shan’ann “clearly having an argument” in their driveway one day earlier this summer.

“Their body language was really angry, and they were just fighting back and forth,” Phillips, 34, says. “He was gesturing his hands and they were shaking their heads, and it was definitely an argument.”

“I didn’t really think much of it, because Lord knows that I’ve had the same arguments with my husband,” she continues. “They caught my eye and suddenly, everything changed. They stopped being so angry, and they started talking a lot more calmly. He even gave her a hug. Mind you, this was in the space of 30 seconds to a minute.”

“From a full-blown fight to hugs in less than a minute, it was incredible,” she says.

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We know in his affidavit that he claims they argued that morning too, and that he wanted to initiate the separation.

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Our overall impression of the dynamic between Shan’ann and Chris Watts was that she wore the pants, was somewhat pushy and controlling, but here it was him stepping forward, and it’s a big step. He’s saying he wants out. Didn’t Shan’ann push back by dismissing him and delaying the idea, and by trying to control the outcome. Perhaps she’d been doing that for several months.

Returning to what the neighbor Melinda Phillips saw, and her reaction, she seems to be suggesting that the “making up here” was mutual, initiated by both of them. At the same time she implies that in this instance Chris especially was fake, but that it was also part of what they were doing generally, putting on a show.  They. Both of them.

It’s also Chris who first gestures wildly then hugs Shan’ann, as if she’s the more aggrieved party and he’s trying to justify himself, but then fashions a hasty peace in the name of neighborly optics. And of course, Shan’ann also wants good optics, for her Thrive business and perhaps privately and personally too.

Although she doesn’t say it specifically, when Phillips saw them, isn’t it likely Chris Watts saw her, and changed faces?

Shan’ann talks about spending “quality time” with Chris Watts

SHAN’ANN: And then we have our time to…um…enjoy each other. You know, um…watch TV, or…whatever it is we decided to do. Play games. Or Uno. Or whatever. Um…it’s quality time for me and him. Because you need that in a relationship. When you have kids, it’s always about the kids and we often forget about ourselves and our…significant other. So I think it’s very important and very vital that you spend that time with each other. And…we definitely get to do that now, and awake… We’re not sleeping. Um, or me listening to him snore, vice versa. So it’s been a blessing, with that….Chris works out in the field, very busy job. Um…that has to really challenge his little brain over there…My parents were my biggest sceptics…go figure. My mom and dad lived with me and I had to force feed it to them every single day.

Prior to the murders, was Chris Watts a good father?

Chris Watts appeared to be an attentive dad. We see him reading to his kids, horsing around with them, cutting their hair, blowing hot food to cool it down, even taking cake in the face while Shan’ann and and his mother-in-law looked on with a camera.

He also dressed up as Santa and took direction from Shan’ann in playing that role for them. So at face value, he seems to have a much closer bond with the children than with Shan’ann.

If he murdered his children, why did he?