The Wounds of Violence and War – Cindy McLeod Watts Genealogy [Prepared by a TCRS Reader/Researcher]

Cindy McLeod Watts’s mother was Gertrud Schoettner McLeod, born in 1925 in Radisfort, Czechoslovakia.

Gertrud died in 2015 in a nursing home in Fayetteville, NC. Her obituary is very short; this is unusual in that it doesn’t list any family except Cindy Watts and Cindy’s sister, Linda and that there are four grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren, all unidentified.

Obits like this sometimes indicate some degree of family estrangement, but not necessarily so. It contrasts with obituaries from the Rzucek family which are much more loving toward the deceased and contain more extended family names and relationships. (Overall, the Rzucek and Watts families seem contrasted in that the Watts family seems impoverished somehow whereas the Rzuceks appear more connected and loving, but that’s just what is seen from here.)

Gertrud’s documents say that she was stateless. This could be from any number of reasons. I won’t speculate about that here, but her status could have been a decided disadvantage to her in Czechoslovakia. and later, in Germany.


Radisfort is near Trebic where there was a Jewish community of about 300 in the 1930s. (formerly 1500 people lived there in 1890s) The Jewish people living there in the ’30s were taken to the German concentration camps and killed. Only 10 came back to the area after WWII.

Gertrud’s papers show that she and Herman Dalton McLeod married in Landshut, Germany in 1951. Gertrud’s and Herman’s first daughter, Doris L(inda) McLeod was born in Germany; Cindy was born at Fort Bragg, NC.

Herman’s online documents show that he served in the US Army 1943-1963. The U.S. Army maintained facilities in Landshut until 1968. Herman died in 1991, having served 20 years in the US Army.

Gertrud’s physical description on her naturalization application is age 30; weight 136; 5 feet 3 inches tall; hair blonde; eyes blue. (I thought of Cece.)

The family was living in Hodgenville, Kentucky when the naturalization petition was filed. Hodgenville is 25 miles from Fort Knox, the US gold repository. They moved to North Carolina at some point, likely to the Fort Bragg area where Herman McLeod could have been stationed.

That area is where Cindy grew up.

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Landshut, Germany is the location for the Dachau Concentration Camp, opened in 1933 to hold political prisoners. We don’t know at what point Gertrud moved to Landshut. Possibly she was there during the time Dachau operated. She would most certainly have heard the stories of what happened there. Since Herman was in the military by age 22 in 1943, he likely was sent to the European theater of war and could have been part of the US forces that liberated Dachau in 1945, but this is just speculation.

This Wikipedia link about Dachau goes into detail about what happened there 

Since Gertrud lived to 2015, and lived near Chris and his family in North Carolina, he could have had regular contact with her. Did she talk about her experiences in World War II era Czechoslovakia and Germany? Did she tell stories about Dachau? Could she have sparked an interest in Chris in the concentration camps?

I thought of the Stephen King book, Apt Pupil, where a young boy becomes friends with an old man living in America who was once a concentration camp prison guard. The man gradually begins to tell the boy of the atrocities in the camp, and the boy becomes obsessed – asking the man to tell him about the “gooshy stuff”, details of the horrible things that went on in the camp. Eventually, the boy turns to murder as a way to keep his own demons at bay.

Chris’s grandmother may have lived in a town where some of worst crimes against humanity in history occurred and it is possible that she lived there when the camp was operating. There is no way of knowing if Gertrud talked to Chris about this unless someone in the family says she did.


GREELEY CO – NOVEMBER 19: Cindy Watts gets emotional after addressing the court during her son’s sentencing at the Weld County Courthouse on November 19, 2018 in Greeley, Colorado. Christopher Watts was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his pregnant wife, daughters. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

One final thought: Cindy’s background had this connection to mass violence and murder. Ronnie Watts’s family was wounded by violence as well. Ronnie’s direct ancestor was a soldier in America’s greatest killing spree – the Civil War, Confederate side. There are other Civil War soldiers in those family lines. The official numbers for the Civil War dead are in the range of 700,000 total for both sides.

Living people today revere their Civil War soldier ancestors and many Southerners are still angry about the outcome of the war. I see this in my own family. The current rise is neofascism in this country has appropriated symbols of that war and in some cases, they blend the Nazi swastika with the Confederate flag image.

North Carolina was torn apart more than some areas by the war, with the brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor killing amounting to a war within a war. The movie and book, Cold Mountain, is a good depiction of this.

All that said, the Watts family is a closed system. Endless speculation as I have done really doesn’t add much because a direct connection to Chris’s deeds in 2018 is just not there and unlikely to be proven.


Kentucky, Naturalization Records, 1906-1991
The National Archives at Atlanta; Atlanta, Georgia; Petitions for Naturalization, compiled 1906 – 1978;
NAI: 1275754; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21

Wikipedia articles about Dachau, Landshut, and Trebic

27 thoughts on “The Wounds of Violence and War – Cindy McLeod Watts Genealogy [Prepared by a TCRS Reader/Researcher]

  1. Endless speculation as I have done really doesn’t add much because a direct connection to Chris’s deeds in 2018 is just not there and unlikely to be proven.

    Then why post this. I doubt thru generations, and the world at that time. That this has Any bearing on Chris Watts, and the murders.
    Why not do a background check on the Rzucek family?


    • Shannon I’ve just been following the latest evidence in the Kelsey Berreth case [some coverage of that on the main page of CrimeRocket if you’re interested]. Even though no body was found, the mountain of forensic data, including a single cadaver alert, is astonishing.

      That case puts into perspective how much we don’t know about in this case. We don’t know where this crime happened, or when, or even why.

      In one sense you’re right, speculation doesn’t add much. But in the Watts case, given the magnitude of the crime and magnitude of what we don’t know about it, we have to speculate.

      The above data is valuable for me not so much in terms of accuracy, but because it stimulates us to think about other areas. If you’ve read any of my books you’d know I’ve already made links to war – not so much in terms of the families but as part of the fabric of American history, and particularly the history of Colorado, and Weld County [the setting for James A Michener’s Centennial].

      It’s important in true crime to know what’s relevant and what isn’t. The good true crime researcher [and narrator] can tell the difference. Good true crime does, however, bring the evidence from a wide funnel down to a central point, a focal point. That’s what I think you’re getting at, and ultimately, that’s what we want to do. With no trial we have limited means to get to know who these people really are. Not as much as we would want to, at any rate.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Terrible about Kelsey Berreth. I hope they will find her body. I’m following that case also. But not commenting.
        Just the Watts Case.
        Wonder what’s in the Rzucek family history.
        I’ve even said Speculation, but just that far back.
        Look at mass, serial killers, mostly childhood, mother problems. But rest of family doing ok.
        Didn’t mean to question your post.
        Thank you……xxoo


      • Shannon but the Watts family inadvertently raised a family annihilator, the Rzuceks didn’t. Why would we be trying to dissect and understand the Rzuceks?
        I see throughout these posts that your comments and stance is very negatively pointed at Shan’ann. Significantly More so than Chris. Curious to know Why is that?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, considering I’ve never seen any of your posts. I really don’t have to explain my comments to anyone. I would say about 90% of my comments are what I believe or are facts. They are my thoughts.
          Being a woman, been to hell and back….to earth….lol.
          What Chris did, is not right, but then is any murder right.
          I’m curious as to why Shanann turned out the way she did. I’m assuming it has to do with her upbringing….yes / no?
          I don’t like her, I would not have her as a friend, because I would tell her, your wrong…about many things in her life, her marriage.
          I’m a pretty upfront honest person. I take no shit from anyone. Anyone who knows me, knows this about me. I treat others as to how I want to be treated….fairness and respect and trust. But I will always help the underdog. Which I think was Chris.
          I can’t delve into why, I don’t like her. Maybe because of her true life videos.
          We never see a victim, this close up.
          Had I not seen the Videos, my thoughts might be different.
          Everyone goes on and on about Chris’s background, what about hers.
          Why not.


      • @NVDL:

        The part about Watts’ grandmother is extremely important and relevant on an empirical level. It’s not mere speculation.

        As I state in my comment below, reasearch published in 2015 suggests that trauma is passed down to children, grandchildren, and on through DNA. The illustrious Carl G Jung had already intuited this in the 1930s; hence, his theory of ancestral archetypes passing their memories down to their descendants.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. ***”Chris’s grandmother may have lived in a town where some of worst crimes against humanity in history occurred and it is possible that she lived there when the camp was operating. There is no way of knowing if Gertrud talked to Chris about this unless someone in the family says she did.”***

    As I’ve stated before, it’s been found that trauma is passed down through generations via DNA: Although this was discovered through research in 2015, Carl Jung was suggesting this in the 1930s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have also heard of this and I have seen this research presented at a medical conference in Europe a couple of years ago (its main focus was on personality traits being inherited). I find Cindy Watt’s mother to have had a very interesting life. In my own family, my grandparents were Scottish and they and their siblings all fought in WW2. They emigrated to Canada in the 1950’s but brought many of their habits and stories with them. Even though I was born in Canada, I grew up with a vast knowledge of “the war”, It became almost as real to me as my own memories, it was still such a part of our lives. Certain strange habits (my Great-Aunt hiding under the kitchen table during thunderstorms because she worked in London factories during the bombings, my Nana refusing to ever drive a car in Canada because she drove an ambulance in war torn London etc etc) were completely understood in my family always “because of the war”. They were very careful with butter and eggs their whole lives (becoming visibly distressed if an egg broke) because these were rationed to each family during the war. My grandpa recently passed away at the age of 98 (he was born in 1920); two years ago my son asked him to speak to his history class about WW2. I though he would be thrilled, as he was very talkative in his nursing home. However, he surprised me, he became very quiet and declined the invitation because he said: “ I don’t like to talk about that”. This was approximately 72 years after the war ended, but for my grandfather it could have been yesterday. For those that lived through those times, I don’t think it ever left them. I know that time in history, even though it was long before my birth, remains very alive to me. I would imagine that if Chris was in contact with his grandmother, he would have grown up with the same familiarity and stories that I did. I cannot imagine what memories and emotions Gertrud carried with her throughout her life. I will say that my Scottish family were an unsentimental and tough bunch; they taught me a lot about resilience, survival and just plain ‘toughing it out’ and moving forward no matter what.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Always enjoy your comments KerryA, and love that you’re from Scotland. I wrote a fantasy epic based in part on the history and geography of Scotland, so spent a lot of time – years actually – studying your country’s history.


      • Thanks Nick and CBH, My grandfather just passed in December and remained fiercely independent, stubborn and mentally sharp until the end. Our outings the last few years were mainly to his bank to have his books updated and check on his accounts\investments\bonds. This invariably led to a scenario where he banged his cane on the ground, argued the interest rates and had me translate his still thick Scottish accent ( usual phrases were: “I’m not daft”, ” that wasnee our agreement ” and “tell them I’m not altogether stupid”). He was a remarkable man and I miss him terribly, it felt good to talk about him. I will be in Scotland this summer to spread some of his ashes at his childhood home in the Kyles of Bute as per his wishes. Incidentally Nick, if you ever decide to do a lecture series\book tour, please let us know!! I travel frequently and would absolutely take a detour to hear you discuss some of the fascinating crimes you have researched and covered.

        Liked by 1 person

    • If that were true, ALL of us would be traumatized. There are few people whose families haven’t experienced wars or upheavals-especially Americans of European descent, given the past century of that continents history. While Jung’s theory is an interesting one, I wouldn’t put much stock in it; one also has to remember that not all of those who experienced trauma that severe even told their descendents about it. Many preferred to say nothing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I wouldn’t put much stock in it>>>You’re free not to.

        I’ve done a fair bit of research and the military history of North Carolina is an important cultural artifact in this case. Whatever your feelings about it, Fort Bragg in North Carolina is the largest military installation in the world. It employs a lot of people and significantly shapes the mindset of the locals in a particular way. Fort Bragg is less than 10 miles from where Watts grew up as a boy, and where his parents still live today in Vass Road, Spring Lake.

        Colorado also has a deep military history, which I allude to in detail in my books. Watts’ commute to the wells in the Roggen area goes through Fort Lupton, which is 11 miles due East of the Watts home on Saratoga Trail. Although Fort Lupton isn’t an active military outpost, it is a historical artifact of one, and one Watts regularly passed through. If anything, just the street sign on the highway while driving had to elicit thoughts of home, and pulled some of that subconscious psychological history to the surface.

        There are also links to be made between predatory military systems and organizations and corporations, such as oil companies.

        As much as some may be dismissive of this line of inquiry, what it does is provide a window into the question everyone is asking and no one is able to answer. Why? It does so by cutting to the heart of the man Watts is, or wants to be, and a lot of this is based on his sense [not yours] of cultural identification. Watts has an unusually strong need to be well-regarded. To belong to his society. He has this in common with many young men who choose to fight wars on behalf of their country in the name of duty or a fulfilling a particular role. Some men climb mountains to address this need. Unfortunately heroism exacts a toll. Someone must die, or some aspect of life risked or lost in order for the transaction to go through.

        This militarism is also reflected in our materialism and consumerism. It’s a transactional approach to the world, and in an extreme form it leads to mendacity and murder.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is fascinating – something that caught my eye was that young Gertrud was “stateless”:

    “Gertrud’s documents say that she was stateless. This could be from any number of reasons. I won’t speculate about that here, but her status could have been a decided disadvantage to her in Czechoslovakia. and later, in Germany.”

    Could she have been Gypsy? If so, living in the area of a Nazi death camp, knowing that the Reich sent Gypsies to its death camps, well, she’d have had to adopt a closed-mouthed approach just to survive, I imagine.


  4. I am following nvdl ‘ s work for a couple of years since he started on The Amanda Knox case and I really don’t mean to offend anybody, but this needs a little correction.
    The distance between the German cities of Landshut and Dachau is approximately 70 km.
    The Dachau Camp was located in the city of Dachau near Munich,hence the name. I don’t really see the connection here , sorry.
    But traumatic experiences for this generation ( she was born in 1925 ) are very common in the times of world war 2.
    Just a thougt: the name Gertrude Schoettner might indicate a member of the German minority in Czechoslovakia at that time,and all the cruelties and atrocities in the war for people on all sides surely made traumatic experiences very likely.


    • Hi Nina, thanks for your input.

      I traveled to Munich once. Spent a few days there and stayed with a friend. I remember between going skiing I went to see one tourist attraction [that’s what it is today], and it turned out to be Dachau. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t see the relevance. Some people can live in a place or visit a place and be completely unaffected by certain aspects of it. Others are affected. Sometimes we’re affected in a myriad of ways we don’t know about.

      We go through life thinking the way things are now are the way they always were, and sort of assume always will be. We go through life thinking we know about what’s happening, when there is no way we can possible know. Places exist where people live out their lives not uttering a word of English, and not caring about many of the constructs that occupy us each day. But that’s how strong and selective our bias and reasoning is. We the think the world that exists as it does now does so with our consensus. It doesn’t.

      In a few years there will likely be no more petrol-driven vehicles. A few years ago that was inconceivable. In a few years the climate of this planet will continue to worsen. A few years ago the idea of climate change was that it was an overblown, theoretical hoax.

      In every true crime case a defense lawyer will do his utmost to fragment the evidence, and break each piece down. The idea is to destroy patterns, relationships and links. It’s to isolate evidence and invalidate it. It’s an extension of the criminal himself concealing, covering up and destroying evidence. The premise then is to say that what happened was a random event by a random stranger for no reason. It is the job of a true crime narrator – my job – to connect dots, tie things together, find the backstory and history, and geography, and science, and logic, and behavior patterns, and psychology, and personality, and see how all these things feed into the ecosystem of the crime. Invariably when I write about true crime I look for connections. Sometimes it seems as if everything is connected.

      So history is just one part of that, whether it is cultural history, family history, the history of a single lifetime, or the history leading into, at, and after the crime [pre-present and post-mediation].

      As I say, not everyone is interested in the history aspect. I am. I think it’s arguably the most fascinating aspect, and often one of the most underestimated. Who are we, after all, besides who we were? A crime is a kind of cultural appropriation of a particular social circumstance, and it has its roots not only in history, but in the most ancient and primitive part of us – the human being as a hunter, opportunist and predator. Or if you like, the cave man.


    • The Dachau Camps consisted of about 100 different sub camps, spread out over a large area.

      The sub camp at Landshut had about 30 other sub camps within an approximately 50 mile radius.

      The quotes below are from a web site, Landshut Slave Camp

      “The Jews were in a bad state of health. In those few months, many of them died
      because of diseases and exhaustion.” (Emslander, page 12)”Baracks with walls, thin like paper, a sort of dog huts, through whose the wind whistled and in whose the coldness entered directly. Heaters were there, but it was not allowed to use them…Food they got only one three-pound bread for 15 men a day, one pound margarine for 34 men; in the morning and evening you got a cup of coffee, at midday a thin water soup.The prisoners did not get meat, at least sometimes stinking horses meat on which they got a bad stomach.Sometimes they got black pudding for 500 men – for ten days 22 and a half pound……
      …..many many of them were very sick…..they could not get medical treatment, because the
      two camp doctors, prisoners themselves, had neither material nor medicine….”
      (Isar Post, Nr. 16. 8 March 1946- interview-report with Simon Klapstein)

      If Gertrud Schoettner also lived in Radisfort, Czechslovakia, near Trebic, in the time of the concentration camps, she would also have been about 130 miles from one of the Dachau subcamps at Mauthausen.

      Cut and paste is from the subscription site, Fold3. com:

      At the Mauthausen Concentration Camp prisoners were literally worked to death. Unlike the death camps in Poland, where huge gas chambers killed thousands a day, Mauthausen killed prisoners through hard labor and torture. Mauthausen was the only Category Three concentration camp, meaning the prisoners sent there were meant to be exterminated, and exterminated through work. When the camp opened in August 1938, the prisoners were assigned to work in the granite quarries and to build the actual camp. Inmates worked in the quarries and armament factories with their bare hands, and the SS guards would kill those who fell behind or got worn out. For the prisoners who escaped when the camp was liberated, many had faced arduous labor, torture, and starvation in the most physically brutal concentration camp of the Nazi regime. (End of quote.)

      Everybody is different, but it is incomprehensible that anyone could deny that Gertrud Schoettner, the grandmother of a family annihilator who grew up living minutes from her, would not have been deeply and permanently affected by the death and terror that existed all around her when she was a young woman. She lived in Czechoslovakia, Germany and possibly other locations in the region during the era when millions of people were being ripped from their cities, towns, villages and farms and hauled to concentration camps — a society literally torn to shreds all around her — how could she have escaped the trauma, even though she found her way to America years later.

      Chris Watts was molded by *someone* or many *someones* who may have been severely traumatized themselves.


  5. I find it interesting when lying came about. Centuries ago we hunted for survival. Eat, and avoid being eaten. Now we’re hungry we go to the store and buy our food. We’re cold we turn up the heat. Then we developed a mind, which was not just concerned with staying alive and eating but with social survival. We started to think. Our thoughts led us to believe our survival was at risk. Social survival and our identities. Our minds became oriented around domination – to avoid being dominated. Right/Wrong. Lying is a tactic and strategy of perceived survival. We perceive a threat so we lie to preserve ourselves. It’s a perceived threat. But the lying stays in place as a survival tactic.


    • It’s a worthwhile question. It was there right from the beginning. When a predator hunts, it hides itself. The better it hides itself, the better its chances of success. Same applies to its prey. And there was a very long time in human history when we were reduced to thousands of tribes, and rivalries. Those who won won the game of thrones, those who lost lost their lives.


    • “Lying is a tactic and strategy of perceived survival. We perceive a threat so we lie to preserve ourselves. It’s a perceived threat. But the lying stays in place as a survival tactic.”

      For small children, that threat is very real – they are faced with someone several times their size who has already established an environment where they will be physically and emotionally abused for doing things wrong. Even though making mistakes is the only way we truly learn. The child, when faced with a brutal adult bully who can’t be escaped, who might very well try to *kill* the child at some point, learns that, if s/he can only lie effectively enough, s/he might escape a beating. Telling the truth will guarantee a beating. The beating was never fair, anyway – physical assault is never proportional to the infraction. And then there’s the Christianity ready to apply the guilt and shame even if the parent doesn’t see through the lie. The child is effectively trapped. It IS a matter of survival.

      When raised in such a toxic, abusive, dysfunctional environment, children learn that lying is what they have to do to survive, especially if they’ve done something wrong. Better to NEVER tell the truth than to tell the truth and be beaten for it! Parents often regard children who lie all the time as “wicked” or “bad”, and they’re never willing to admit that they themselves forced the children to develop in this way.

      This incompetent, irresponsible, abusive parenting leaves an outsized fear of admitting being wrong, even when the now-adult rationally knows that no one in his/her environment can bully and brutalize him/her any more. That fear remains firmly lodged in the person’s subconscious (thanks, Mom and/or Dad) and that trauma continues to inform that person’s behavior.


      • My late husband grew up in an environment similar to what you described, Ralph. He said that traveling Pentecostal preachers would come to town for a week long revival when he was a young boy. They would shout the scripture, “spare the rod and spoil the child!”. His mother would brandish the belt or peach tree limb af home frequently during those times. He grew up antagonistic to all organized religions.


  6. I had a friend years ago who was a Marine who flew 27 missions in World War 2. He told me if you fly 27 missions you’re usually dead. He told me when the Germans went underground to manufacture their planes we almost lost. We didn’t know where they were. Oh those clever Germans! He said you didn’t have options whether you joined up or not, if you were able to fight you went. He was 15 when he went but lied and said he was 17. He said every able bodied man wanted to get into the war. He told me it was the most exhilarating time of his life (looking back several years ago as an 87 year old man – he died three years ago). He told me they would head out, fly bombing missions, then go back to the officer’s club and drink. That was a way to numb what he was sent to do, which is drop bombs from above and not know exactly who you hit.


    • I think it was Kierkegaard who said in the absence of war, the only other way for men to prove their heroism is in sport. The hero impulse is a very real part of who we are, and let’s face it, just as it builds one individual it extinguishes another, and often tides of others.


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