Part of the mission of TCRS – in fact a very big part – is figuring shit out before anyone else does. This isn’t easy, and it’s a risky business because in time one can just as easily be proved wrong. But if we’re as smart and as informed as we believe we are [and there are quite a few true crime gurus here, as well as the odd true crime Rocket Scientist], then we have to be brave, step forward and take on the challenge. So let’s do that.
What we know so far about this “second confession”?
- Three of the key investigators and interrogators in this case flew to Wisconsin to [insert the preferred term here] Chris Watts.
- This occurred on February 18th, 2018
- Chris Watts has taken a plea deal, and since November 19th his status on that hasn’t changed.
All of that is stating the obvious, with the key riddle what word to put inside those brackets.
The less obvious but nevertheless logical aspect to this is the timing of it. I noticed the chronology of the meeting corresponds very closely to when HLN broke with exclusive doorbell footage of Shan’ann Watts’ final moments when she arrived home. Did it have something to do with that? Had online chatter finally gotten under the skin of Weld County? Possible. Not likely.
Digging deeper into the chronology, into the basic legal status of this case, we’re aware that even though the criminal trial has reached the end of the road, another legal process is currently underway. And on February 13th we heard that Chris Watts wasn’t going to oppose the civil trial against him.
Just as he did during the interrogation and the sentencing trial, Watts has caved on his own story and given his full-co-operation [apparently]. He’s behaving like a “good criminal”, if there is such a thing. One could almost say he’s being a “dutiful son” just as he was a dutiful husband and father right up until the murders, or just dutiful, except it doesn’t appear Watts’ father is too happy about where things are going. He’s expressed “confusion” just as Watts’ mother did ahead of the plea deal.
But there’s a strange mismatch here. Watts’ parents don’t seem to know what’s going on, or approve of what’s going on, while at the same time Ronnie is getting in some positive PR saying his son his reading the bible and everything is over and done with. I’m sure they wish it was, but the case isn’t over and done with. Far from it.
Clearly, Watts denying killing his own children [and their grandchildren] makes them look less bad, and their son too. So it’s in their interest to “believe” in his innocence, and not be interested in further developments even though at the sentencing hearing, the opposite was said:
Read more on this at this link.
Note that Watts’ parents don’t say they accept that Watts had committed the murders [plural], the unnamed representative says this for them, on their behalf. There also seems to be seeding of the mob by letting them know an explanation might come out at an appropriate time and manner.
Well, this is the appropriate time, and we’ll get to the appropriate manner in a moment.
Of course immediately after the sentencing hearing, what happened? The Rzuceks through their attorney filed their civil suit. On the same day.
Note how the Denver Post article above was published on November 27th, eight days after the wrongful suit was filed. By delaying the announcement someone is trying to muddy the processes underway behind the scenes. Obviously announcing the suit on November 19th would gain maximum traction and provide the public and the media with something to “look forward to” as it were, going into Christmas. But that’s not what this case wants. It doesn’t want attention. Justice yes. Public interest no.
Read more on the filing of the civil suit at this link.
District Attorney Michael Rourke gave interviews throughout the afternoon and evening of November 19th, following the sentencing, and either pleaded ignorance of the status of the Rzucek family, or he was ignorant.
Given the closeness between the DA’s office and the Rzuceks, it seems difficult to believe the DA’s office wouldn’t know about the civil suit, giving the high profile nature of the case and the mere fact that as prosecutors they’re pretty familiar with legal protocols and processes. Even so Rourke assured the public then that “he will never tell us the truth about why…”
There is also the mismatch between Frankie’s response to the news of the second confession and Watts’ father’s response. Frankie appears emotional as is often the case with Frankie on social media, but there is a sense of righteous indignation in his post – see, I told you Shan’ann was INNOCENT.
Shan’ann’s innocence isn’t in dispute, certainly not here at TCRS. So coming back to the riddle, what happened on February 18th at DCI?
Watts wasn’t interviewed. He wasn’t interrogated either. And since his legal status hasn’t changed since the sentencing, or since the interview, it is possible he provided information on the crimes he was accused of committing. And I think he did so through a deposition.
Although Coder, Lee and Baumhover are present, probably there were a number of lawyers present as well. It’s interesting, if it was a deposition, then the way it’s being communicated in the media is as a confession, which is kinda misleading wouldn’t you say? [The Greeley Tribune describes the information as “revealed in an interview to law enforcement…”]
The deposition process may allow the lawyers involved in the civil trial to conclude the legal process almost as a formality, with most of the hard work happening behind closed doors.
In the Ramsey case, which also never went to trial, there were also numerous depositions of John Ramsey and his wife Patsy.
We also saw OJ Simpson deposed prior to his civil trial, although he went on to testify at his civil trial, with disastrous results.
More: Why the Civil Case Against O.J. Simpson Would Never Be Enough – Vanity Fair
The intention here appears to be to shutdown media coverage or public interest by having Watts not appear in court, and stirring up enormous public interest all over again. This way, that scenario is mitigated. Clearly a civil case concluded against Watts in this manner is not enough, but we await the details of Watts’ testimony on March 7 with interest nonetheless.
I want to thank one of the commenters here – William – for his contribution to the ideas expressed in this post.
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.
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.
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
At 01:32 in the video below, Shan’ann absently tells her husband, “She wants more marshmallows.” Watts immediately responds and exits out of the background. The whole video is worth watching, if only to get a sense of how Watts is basically there but not there. He tries initially to contribute, but ultimately is excluded from the video, even though the two children are often addressed directly. Watts is never addressed. He’s never asked:
“Hey Chris, what do you think?”
Instead he’s often addressed in the third person, as if he’s not actually there.
At 5:02 Shan’ann turns the camera onto Bella and says, “You’re cuter than daddy. We’ll just have you…talk to the crowd.”
Cindy Watts has thus far been dismissed as little more than “the monster’s mother”. In some of the few interviews she’s given, she’s said she didn’t like the way Shan’ann spoke of him to her, and possibly didn’t like the way she spoke to him.
At 03:48 in the raw video of Cindy Watts, she says:
Christopher was…[shakes her head with agitation] always seemed anxious. And he…er…when she needed something, I mean he would run. He wouldn’t walk, he would run. He would get it. He just always seemed to right there…a-at her beck and call.
REPORTER: Did that seem odd to you?
Very odd. It was very odd. He just seemed nervous.
Has Cindy highlighted something here that was a real issue for her son, or are her comments unreliable exaggerations?
Page 58 of the Discovery Documents highlights an insight from someone who actually lived with the Watts family for two months in 2017. That’s a lot of inside access. Cristina Meacham refers to Watts getting aggravated while hanging a picture by Shan’ann’s input. She also mentions Watts feeling Shan’ann was often putting the kids first, ahead of him.
In the video cited above, that appears to be the case, doesn’t it – the children brought forward while he is pushed to the background.
Does Cindy look happy?
This image was taken at Watts’ family home in Vass Road, on the outskirts of Spring Lake.
At 01:27 in the clip below, while Cindy Watts is making her statement beside the wooden lectern in court [under the chaperoneship of Denver attorney Jean Powers], she abruptly turns to Watts who is sitting behind her.
“We love you, and we [turns, sobs] forgive you son.”
But he doesn’t look up at her.
Does he blame Cindy for Shan’ann’s July 9th meltdown and for fomenting the early breakdown in their relationship?
After a week-long blitz during which Chris Watts’ parents appeared on a spectrum of American media criticizing the plea deal and undermining the investigation, when they appeared in court Monday with an anonymous “representative” they appeared to have had a sudden change of heart.
The representative, speaking on their behalf, indicated that they’d been misinformed.
Interestingly, Ronnie Watts, like his son, never spoke at the hearing. He did speak to his son indirectly though, through the slick representative dressed in black standing beside them. While Chris Watts stared in front of him, not making eye contact but appearing emotional, the woman read his father’s words:
“We still don’t have all the answers and I hope one day you can help us. You are here today accepting responsibility but I want to tell you this now: I love you. Nothing will ever change that. And I want you to find peace and today is your first step. Chris, I forgive you, and your sister forgives you, and we will never abandon you.”
His sister didn’t seem to be in court, and declarations of clemency at a sentencing trial seem – to me – out of place. How do you forgive someone when they still haven’t told you what they did, or why? Obviously Chris Watts can’t fully confess, because even he can’t forgive himself for what he did.
While the designee – representative, whatever – read his father’s statement, Watts bobbed silently in the background, as if a child himself, trying to contain his emotions by rocking, by trying to soothe unvoiced and unvoicable torments.
But his mother did speak. She spoke genuinely and with compassion, and it seemed her words may have reached even deeper into the heart of stone sitting behind her. And yet, even his mother said to him, “We [still] love you…maybe you can’t believe it either.”
Below is the full original interview with Cindy Watts a week before the sentencing hearing. She makes an interesting point about the plea deal in it. Was she really misinformed? If so, how did that happen – how could it – three months after the murders?