Was the plea deal coerced? The biggest revelation from FAMILY MAN, FAMILY MURDERER

The kindgarten-level of true crime reporting and true crime analysis in Family Man, Family Murder – which aired on Investigation Discovery on Sunday night [June 2nd, 2019]  – was shocking.

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This is a channel that specializes in true crime, so they do know how to do better.  It’s not a case of laziness or recklessness. The episode is meant to be exactly as it is.

Jenn H. left an excellent comment on the review post comparing the speed at which the prosecution put everything in a box and tied it with a neat bow to the documentary doing the same thing.

The documentary is narrated entirely from a prosecutorial perspective. We literally see two prosecutors doing all the heavy lifting and not really anyone else. There are zero witnesses, and virtually nothing new in the episode. No parents are interviewed, nor any of the public defenders. Virtually no new faces, besides those of a few reporters, appear. No prison guards, no friends of Watts or Shan’ann, no co-workers. From beginning to end the word ANADARKO is left out, though Thrive and Le-Vel are mentioned once or twice. It’s really an incredible achievement.

But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s have a look at something that may – may – be revelatory. It’s this:

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It appears to be an email written to Steve Wrenn regarding the most crucial aspect of this case – the plea deal. That the prosecutors would simply hand this snippet of information over is interesting. Perhaps they don’t want to be caught with their pants down, and perhaps like the episode itself [coming out in early June] it’s another attempt to pop the balloon that is the Watts case, and control – that is, suppress – the narrative.

This case had all the ingredients to become the most high-profile trial in America’s true crime history [and still does]. While that’s unlikely now, if this email is genuine and not simply staged along with the other dramatizations [and it might be] then we can see just how quickly the screws were tightened on the Watts case.

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The email is dated August 26th, 2018 at 11:58. The email reads:

To: Steve Wrenn

Subject: Chris Watts

Dear Detective Wrenn

The defendant, Christopher Watts, is willing to agree to waive his right to be indicted and to plead guilty to all charges of first degree murder charges if our office is willing to remove the possibility of the death penalty.

Best

John Walsch

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To be honest I thought the “our” in “our office” was a typo. Shouldn’t it have been “your” office. Of course the public defender and the public prosecutor’s office is theoretically the same legal apparatus. It’s just a little strange, isn’t it?. Imagine Jodi Arias’ lawyer or Casey Anthony’s lawyer contacting the prosecutor and making suggestions for what “our office” might be willing to do?

Since the interview with Wrenn [detective Wrenn?] is held within his office, and the email seems to be pointed out on a laptop or iPad, it’s implied that Wrenn is simply pointing it out.

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Well, why not be more explicit about it?

Many pundits, TCRS included, felt the Watts case was rushed even when the case was basically over by November 19th, barely three months after the incident. But according to this email, the case was over within two weeks.

Had the news of the plea deal been released then, there would have been overwhelming outrage. Justifiably. Wasn’t that why it’s been staged the way it has, to allow the public to calm down and the outrage over the crime to blow over? A year later, has it blown over?

Even the discovery documents were handed over very quickly after the sentencing, and the folks associated with Watts washed their hands off the case. They weren’t going to talk about it again, it was over and done with.  But then a few niggly bits emerged in that massive tranche of mostly meaningless discovery. Like this:

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When the media wanted to verify the date of Kessinger’s search – was it really September 2017 – the district attorney didn’t really want to talk about it. He’d moved on. The case was over as far as he was concerned.

NOVEMBER 28, 2018:

CrimeOnline reached records supervisor Amanda Purcell on Thursday after repeated inquiries made to multiple Colorado law enforcement agencies to confirm the accuracy of an entry in the Phone Data Review included in the discovery documents connected to the Chris Watts murder case, released by the Weld County District Attorney’s office late last month.

Asked if the entry in the Phone Data Review showing that Kessinger, who was involved in an affair with Chris Watts when he murdered his wife Shanann Watts and two young daughters, showing that Kessinger performed an internet search for “Shanann Watts” on her cell phone on September 1, 2017, was typographically correct, Purcell said it was a typo in the report.

Purcell was not able to provide additional clarification about another section of the phone data review that indicates Kessinger searched for Chris and/or Shanann Watts prior to beginning her relationship with Chris Watts in the spring of 2018, and referred our inquiry to the Weld County District Attorney’s office. CrimeOnline will provide further updates when more information is available.

DECEMBER 10, 2018

As the discovery documents and audio of a police interview with Kessinger show, the 30-year-old woman who reportedly met Watts at Anadarko Petroluem, where they both worked at the time, was aware Watts was married but believed he and his wife were headed for certain divorce. She told investigators she was unaware Shanann Watts was pregnant before the missing persons case made the news, and that she didn’t know Shanann’s name until a while after she became involved with Chris Watts.

The discovery documents released by the Weld County District Attorney’s office in late November include reports that indicate Kessinger may have been aware of Chris and/or Shanann Watts prior to when she is believed to have met Chris Watts at work.

CrimeOnline made repeated inquiries with the Weld County District Attorney’s office, the Greeley Police Department, and the Frederick Police Department for clarification about multiple entries in the “Phone Data Review,” included in the discovery documents, which show that Kessinger searched for Shanann Watts and Christopher Watts in 2017.

Following a series of email exchanges and phone calls with the Weld County District Attorney’s office regarding the reports, CrimeOnline spoke by phone to Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke on Monday. Rourke said that the reports reflect what was shown in the forensic analysis of Nichol Kessinger’s phone.

“The dates to which you are referring — in 2017 where it appears she Googled or otherwise searched Shannan — was data that came off her phone,” Rourke said.

“It’s not a typographical error in the report. [The detectives] are reporting what was contained in the data from her phone. I don’t know the answer to the question of why or how those dates ended up in her phone.”

Asked if the District Attorney’s office questioned or planned to question Kessinger about data suggesting she was aware of Chris and Shanann Watts for up to a year before the murders, Rourke said that Chris Watts’ guilty plea precluded any need to further probe the results of the forensic analysis of Kessinger’s phone.

Why is Kessinger’s first Google Search for “Shanann Watts” becoming a Shifting Goalpost? [UPDATED]

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But now they’re back. And what they’re talking about is everything we already know, back to front.

The other aspect to note is if the date is right, and the plea deal was offered on August 26th, consider how long the media and public were strung along. The plea deal was only acknowledged in a surprise announcement on November 6th.

And Watts’ parents at the time complained that the deal was coerced, and that they didn’t have access to their son to talk him out of it.

Now, of course, several months later when it’s all done and dusted, Watts has communicated his intention to appeal his conviction. TCRS predicted this outcome way back in November, less than a week after the “shock announcement” of the plea deal.

Chris Watts Plea Deal – things aren’t what they seem!

Chris Watts Will Change his Mind about Pleading Guilty

So what are we really talking about? For starters, an argument could be made that the First Confession was coerced, in the sense that Watts was tricked [and to some extent placed under duress] into making admissions. Personally I have no problem with that, prosecutors have to play certain cards, and use card tricks, with slippery, tricksy criminals.

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But a defense lawyer would have a lot to work with here. Others with less to work with – like Amanda Knox – have had a lot of success arguing coercion. Bear in mind at the time this email was apparently written, Watts had only admitted on tape to murdering his wife. So where did the enthusiasm arise to admit guilt on all charges?

What changed in 12 days?

Who was really pushing for a plea deal?

Who was really pulling the strings?

 

5 Questions to Speculate Over – True Crime Guru Badge [#5]

Normally we’re less interested in opinions than in facts at TCRS.

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The Chris Watts case isn’t a normal case.

There is a place for speculation in true crime, but speculation needs to be informed and anchored in the patterns, personalities and dynamics of a particular case to be meaningful or worthwhile. Typically, speculation needs to be limited.

In a criminal trial, a prosecutor can rap the knuckles of his opposition counsel [or witnesses] by objecting to “speculation”, ditto defense counsel.  For the most part we try to run the same sort of tight ship in true crime. What can be proven? What does the evidence say? What do we know for a fact? Where does it take us?

As a true crime narrator, I try to weigh any speculation down with a host of references, facts and underlying data. Once anchored, we can set the ship adrift and see which way the tide draws it.

The Watts case is an enigma because despite having a tsunami of information, we really don’t seem to have anything concrete – about anything.

The five questions below are meant to check your knowledge, insight and understanding in this case. If you’re able to answer any of these questions instantly, chances are you’ve still not developed the capacity to really think critically and constructively about this case. Good true crime makes us better thinkers, and ultimately, better people.

Incidentally, there are no right or wrong answers to these 5 questions, just varying degrees of being better, or closer to reality [whatever that might be]. So, without further ado, put on your thinking caps and lets get started:

1. Do you think the Rzuceks saw the autopsies? Motivate your answer.

2. Do you think the Watts family saw the autopsies? Motivate your answer.

3. Are the emails between Kessinger and Watts in the Discovery Documents? If so, where?

4. Why did Watts take the plea deal, if what he was getting [life in prison with no parole] was no different than what he would have gotten anyway? Motivate your answer.

5. Were the resources used in this case commensurate to the crime committed? Motivate your answer.

The best responses will be acknowledged, and used in a guest post.

Was Chris Watts’ mother really “misinformed” about the plea deal?

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.

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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?

Watts Sentencing: Live Coverage and Analysis [Updated throughout the day]

Welcome to what appears right now to be the end of the legal road in the Chris Watts case. November 19 is just three months and six days after the tragic murders that rocked the small, thriving Colorado town of Frederick in mid-August.

Today the legal journey is expected to conclude with Judge Kopcow officially accepting Chris Watts’ guilty plea [on all charges]. In exchange Chris Watts will be spared the death penalty and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Irrespective of the legal outcome in this case, an entire family has been completely destroyed through the events that played out sometime between August 12 and 13 this year. According to the District Attorney, they have – and are satisfied with – a “partial motive” to this crime. This “partial motive” will be revealed in court today by Michael Rourke.

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BRIEF BACKGROUND

There’s more to it than this, of course. On November 16 the Greeley Tribune spelled some of the shenanigans out:

1. Chris Watts’ parents do not want him to accept the plea deal and have claimed they’ve been denied access to their son, and that the plea deal was/is coerced. If that’s true, the plea deal is invalid. The District Attorney has not responded to these allegations, but the Rzuceks have through an anonymous legal representative.

2. According to the Tribune:

…on Monday [November 12], the court received an email from a “K Almand,” an assumed representative for Cindy and Ronnie Watts. In the letter to Judge Kopcow, Almand claims the Colorado Public Defenders Office, which is defending Watts, has denied Cindy and Ronnie access to their son.

Cindy, Ronnie and an unnamed sister finally gained access to Watts for 30 minutes each the night before the sentencing hearing, Almand claims. Cindy asked her son if a plea deal is what he wanted.

“Do not ask him that or we will shut this (expletive) down now,” said an unnamed attorney before Watts could respond, according to Almand’s letter.

Almand said that type of “bullying” has been common in the Watts family’s dealings with the public defender’s office.

“It is the opinion of Mr. Watts’ family that he has been coerced, has been denied his constitutional rights and more — all in an attempt to quickly close this case,” Almand wrote. “They want to have a new attorney speak to Chris, on their behalf, to determine if this is a true confession or one that is based on inhumane treatment at the hands of the Public Defenders Office of Weld County.”

Almand closed the letter by saying Cindy Watts wanted to speak to Judge Kopcow about her son’s case and possible mistreatment. Kopcow issued an order saying he was barred from having any conversations about the case outside of the courtroom.

3. The autopsy reports regarding the remains of Shan’ann Watts [34], Bella Watts [4] and Celeste Watts [3] have not been released prior to sentencing. These reports, completed on October 2will be released after sentencing according to the District Attorney. This release of the autopsy reports will likely neutralize a civil hearing on the matter that was originally scheduled for December 21. The District Attorney’s original position on the autopsy reports was unusual in that it was claimed their release “could taint witnesses, make it difficult to seat an impartial jury and the victim’s cause of death would be critical evidence at trial”. If Rourke felt the autopsy evidence was so sensitive, then why did the defense feel they had no case to plead? Why did they make/accept the plea deal?

4. A raft of publications including the Tribune claimed in a court motion on October 12th that the withholding of the autopsy reports from public scrutiny could “cause substantial injury to the public interest.”


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NOVEMBER 19

Welcome to a bitterly cold day in Greeley, Colorado. Minimum temperatures today were  17°F [-9°C] at 06:00 and may climb to a crisp 46 °F [7°C]  by the time the press conference is scheduled at 13:00.

The day will start mostly sunny in the early morning, and remain bright and sunny throughout, a typical early winter’s day in Colorado with a slight breeze blowing over the snow-covered prairie.

This is a big change from the weekend, which saw a big cold front roll in and dump snow and drizzle over the mountains and plains surrounding Denver. On Thanksgiving Thursday, another cold front is due to move in and change the regions weather, for the worse.

It’s 05:55, one hour until sunrise. Sunrise on August 13 was at 06:08, 42 minutes earlier than today. At this time three months ago Chris Watts was on the road, driving to CERVI 319.
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In ten minutes the sun will rise over the sandstone courthouse in Greeley, Colorado. Did you know Greeley was the setting for Pulitzer prize-winning historical fiction author James A. Michener’s Centennial. Michener studied in Greeley, and was so inspired by the setting and the history of the region, he used it as the backdrop for his bestseller, which was also made into a miniseries in the seventies.

The scene in front of the Weld County Centennial Center. Notice the spattering of snow in the background.

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In the morning news, two large fires are under investigation, including one that started as an explosion in Aurora. The Aurora fire included reports of a gas leak days prior, and conflicting reports on whether the gas company notified residents in advance via email.

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Other news making the headlines – the weather on the run up to Thanksgiving on Thursday, Black Friday sales, a shocking report on flu vaccinations, rezoning plans, a new name for a baseball team, a new Disney on ice show, getting water supply from a distant mine to Aurora, a new Marijuana store opening in Longmont [Longmont is a town close to Frederick where Chris Watts and Shan’ann worked at a Ford dealership], how to prevent peanut allergies, a surge in porch piracy, Denver-based Furniture Row Racing finishing second at the NASCAR championship, Christmas tree-cutting tips, a Christmas countdown, what teens want for Christmas according to a recent survey and lower gas prices.

Chris Dekker defense attorney: “I wasn’t surprised…I think Michael Rourke deserves quite a lot of praise. He was smart and brave, and acquiesced to their [the families’] desires.”

David Beller defense attorney: “The speed at which this deal was reached…is extremely unusual…”

Rachael Gibbs from Nags Head, North Carolina said she also spotted a rainbow this morning.

What to expect from today’s sentencing hearing in a nutshell:

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Megan Lopez has tweeted a couple of photos about the media presence outside court. Wish we could see more pictures of the court building. Just a wide shot to get a sense of the whole area.

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Meghan Lopez says she’ll be tweeting from outside court because no tweeting is allowed inside court. Seems excessive and extreme, doesn’t it?

LIVELINK:

So from beginning to end the sentencing hearing lasted less than 45 minutes. A total of about six people spoke, including Cindy Watts, a representative on behalf of Ronnie Watts, Frank Rzucek, Michael Rourke reading Frankie Rzucek’s statement, Sandi Rzucek, a brief 15 second statement by Chris Watts’ legal representative, and then a delineation of the evidence by the District Attorney, which lasted about ten minutes.

Throughout the proceedings Watts drummed his foot on the floor, and appeared to struggle to contain his emotions. He breathed heavily, but made no sound, and repeatedly curled his lip and bit it. At one point, while his father was speaking I believe, a single tear streamed down his cheek.

At the end, when Judge Kopcow asked him if he wished to say anything, Watts answered softly, “No sir.” His legal representative spoke briefly on his behalf, saying that he was “truly sorry”.

What was unreal was the mismatch between the crime the District Attorney and the Judge were describing, a vicious, calculated, monstrous act, and the demeanor of the defendant. Passive. Voiceless. Trying his best to be emotionless, as if a lack of emotion under these circumstances was some sort of virtue.

When he rose and walked out of the packed court, Watts looked down, not making eye contact with anyone. Not his mother. Not his father.

Welcome to a living hell.


Will Nichol Kessinger testify?

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Press Conference [Updates coming soon]

Weld County District Attorney, Coroner, Cops Host 37-minute News Conference after Chris Watts Sentencing

Autopsy Reports

Shan’ann, Bella and Celeste Watts 25 Page Autopsy Report

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Analysis of Monday’s Hearing 

There were a few things that were downright weird about the hearing. No actual witnesses testified, only family members, and although each statement was emotional and tugged at the heartstrings, it did precious little to advance the narrative of the Watts case.

Rourke did that himself in a ten-minute or so summary, in which he provided a few [very few] insights into the case. He mentioned Bella biting her tongue and fighting for her life, a tuft of her hair snagged on the side of the thief hatch, and scratch marks on her buttocks incurred when she was forced into the tank.

What was more interesting in the sentencing hearing wasn’t what was mentioned, but what was left out. Nothing about time of death whatsoever. No one close to the Watts family in Colorado testified for or against him. The Thayers didn’t appear to be in court, neither did Nickole Utoft or Nichol Kessinger.

In fact the families appeared to be ushered into court via a private entrance, and ushered out privately too. It was all conducted with seamless precision. The crowds roared afterwards, justice is served!


More: Chris Watts has been sentenced, it’s all over and justice is served – but does the DA’s motive wash?

Chris Watts: Here’s what to expect from today’s Sentencing Hearing

Whether it’s a British or American court, the format in a sentencing hearing is pretty much stock standard. In broad strokes, the sentencing hearing is really a conversation about aggravating and mitigating factors [and in that order], and whether there are any substantial and compelling factors that cause a court to deviate one way or the other in sentencing. Should the sentence be more severe or should the court use its discretion and be lenient. But there’s more to it than just a tug-of-war between aggravation and mitigation.

Here’s what else to expect from today’s sentencing hearing at 10:00 [some have reported a 10:30 start] in the Weld County Court, in Greeley Colorado.

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  1. The sentencing hearing has been set for two hours, starting at 10:00 and finishing before 13:00 with possibly a recess halfway through. A press conference will be held afterwards at 13:00 with the Weld County District Attorney’s Office. The proceeding will be held in a larger court than the previous hearings already held in this case. This is in order to accommodate both the defendant’s and the victim’s loved one’s, family and friends, multiple witnesses representing each side as well as the media [who have been permitted expanded media coverage]. It has already been announced that the court proceedings have been moved from division 17 to the larger division 16, and that “overflow” facilities will be made available to extended family, the media the public. Follow the live feed at this link.
  2. images (1)It’s also likely to be held in the newer complex, rather than the old pillared building.
  3. There will be no jury present.
  4. Judge Kopcow will consider the evidence in the case, and hear the prosecutor [Michael Rourke] and his submissions on whether Chris Watts has had any priors. According to his mother he has [or had] a single traffic fine for speeding.
  5. There will also be evidence led on whether Watts was the primary offender in this case, or whether he had an accessory. This is a potential stumbling block if Watts decides to change his mind. His initial version was that the victim was an accessory, though not in the usual sense of the word.
  6. The serious nature of the crime in terms of the respective victims will be outlined. The autopsy evidence may be referenced here to reinforce the injuries and suffering of all three victims, and possibly Niko as well.
  7. In line with this, the prosecutor will specify if there was any unusual cruelty involved in the commission of the various acts. In this respect he may refer to contusions, defensive wounds as well as the heartless disposal of all the remains.
  8. The prosecutor will probably make a case for premeditation. Once again, this may involve referencing specific evidence, and if available, the autopsies my show a significant span of time separating the time of death between one victim and the others. If the autopsy results cannot be relied on in this sense, it’s possible other data might, including evidence such as microscopic human tissue and/or cadaver traces [and odor] left at the scene. Premeditation obviously goes to the calculated, cold-bloodedness of a crime.
  9. The court will consider whether the defendant destroyed evidence, whether he took the court [and/or law enforcement] into his confidence, or whether he attempted to misdirect, mislead or cover-up his crime in some way.
  10. The court will consider whether or not the defendant expressed any genuine remorse.

In the Jodi Arias trial, when Judge K. Stephens announced her judgment on the sentence, Jodi’s mother petitioned on her behalf, and Jodi petitioned at some length for herself.  A lot of baby pictures were presented to curry sympathy, and these were actually on-screen when the Judge pronounced sentence.

Judge Stephens was clear in noting Jodi’s “expressed remorse” which, given the sentence [life without parole] shows the Judge didn’t believe it was genuine or a mitigating factor, whatsoever, especially given the cruelty of the Arias’ act against the victim in that case, Travis Alexander.

In terms of Aggravation:

Expect a lot of emotion in this aspect of the trial. Family members, both parents, and Shan’ann’s brother will make statements about the emotional, financial, psychological and spiritual impact of the murders on each of them personally. Shan’ann’s health issues [lupus, fibromyalgia and her pregnancy] may be raised as an aggravating issue in the sense that her compromised condition made her more vulnerable

There may be an attempt to show Chris Watts’ lack of remorse or honesty toward’s the victim’s family following the crime.

Nickole Atkinson will possibly be called to testify in aggravation, including about Watts’ lack of remorse at the scene. Ditto one or both of the Thayers. However given the time constraint, and thus far no motions have been led indicating they will be testifying, this seems unlikely at the present time.

The fact that Chris Watts accused the victim of committing a crime he committed will be seen as aggravating in the extreme.

It’s probable that Nichole Kessinger will testify in aggravation, bolstering the notion that Watts deceived her and deceived everyone. If Kessinger does testify it’s also possible she will be cross-examined by the defense.

State law enforcement and officials, including the CBI and FBI may be called to testify very briefly about how they were able to nail Watts down as quickly as they did. This may involve dog handlers, the detective-on-scene and possibly the county coroner as well.

Again, given the short nature of the hearing, it’s more likely that only the District Attorney and the aggrieved parents will be called to address the court. 

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In terms of Mitigation:

Since only two hours have been set down for the proceedings, it’s unlikely the mitigation will go on for much longer than one hour.

Chris Watts appears to have female state appointed defense lawyers. If that remains the case, we’ll see them in action [so to speak] for the first time. If there is a withdrawal of the guilty plea, we could see a motion fielded in court for new defense counsel.

The Judge will consider the health issues – if any, and possibly including any psychological syndromes, disorders or impairments – of the defendant.

The Judge will consider the defendant’s access to support from family and members of the community.

Members of his family will likely step forward and provide character evidence, arguing why the defendant doesn’t “deserve” a particular sentence, or why he does deserve leniency.  This aspect is likely to be emotional and controversial as well. It’s possible one of the Watts clan will raise the specter that Shan’ann was an “abusive” spouse.

The defendant’s childhood background and family history may also be considered.

Given the short nature of the hearing, it’s more likely that Watts’ legal representative and his parents will be the only one’s called to address the court.

The Defendant May Make a Statement

Chris Watts, like Jodi Arias prior to her sentencing, may elect to read a brief statement to the court. It may involve an apology, a demonstration of remorse through words, actions, gestures or commitments. It may also involve a plea for mercy and/or forgiveness.

Scrapping the Plea Deal?

There is also a significant possibility that Chris Watts may elect to withdraw his guilty plea. Although he may or may not do so on November 19th, he could also change his plea during December when the media circus will have shifted gears and moved on.

It seems likely that no matter what happens on the 19th, the case [and the aftermath] is far from over, and far from any kind of satisfactory closure for anyone, including the Rzuceks.

Chris Watts Will Change his Mind about Pleading Guilty

Chris Watts will change his mind about pleading guilty. He’ll either do it over the weekend, or at the sentencing hearing on Monday, or he’ll lodge an appeal shortly after. How do we know he will? Because he’s changed his mind before.

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He changed the time of the crime from waking up at 05:00 to waking up at 04:00, he changed the emotional conversation to one in which there were tears and rage, and he’s gone from shrugging off the murders initially as a missing person’s case, then accusing Shan’ann of killing the children and finally to confessing that it was him.

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One could take it further, and show Watts’ ambivalence to his work as a mechanic, prompting him to ditch that line of work for the oil industry in January 2015. Probably he was ambivalent about Le-Vel and Thrive as well, just as he was about his marriage  and the pregnancy in the final weeks. He was actively engaged in an affair [or affairs] while married, which provides the psychological DNA for a man capable of tolerating a contradiction and conflictedness in his life for an extended period, before taking decisive action. It’s also possible he is “ambivalent” sexually.

Chris Watts’ mother Cindy has just compared Bella Watts to her father, calling her [him] conservative, cautious and shy. This plea deal, this early, echoes all those traits.

Chris Watts is capable of dedicated resilience and resolve. He can put his head down, do what he’s told and do the right thing. He can be dutiful and diligent, but he’s also capable of throwing in the towel [and picking it up again] on his story. Whatever happens on Monday, this case is far from over.

If Bella and Celeste’s Bodies were Dismembered or Processed then a Plea Deal – if you’re Chris Watts – starts to make sense

Chris Watts has maintained from the start that he had nothing to do with the deaths of his daughters. Shan’ann killed them, he claimed in his confession. Even to his parents he apparently maintained this psychological distance, telling them “after what she did” there was no way he was going to bury the three of them together.

If Chris Watts killed and dismembered – or chemically processed – the remains of his children, then we can see how this case going to court could play out very badly for him.  The dismemberment theory isn’t wild conjecture by any means; we’ve just seen the same scene [a missing person’s case become a premeditated murder case with missing dismembered remains] playing out in international media while the Watts case was in legal limbo.

Taking on the defense perspective [I realize many are allergic to even hypothesizing this, but at TCRS we explore all possibilities], if Watts is able to win some credit with a potential jury it may be through portraying Shan’ann as an obsessive, compulsive, controlling, abusive partner.

So he might win some sympathy with a jury. On the other hand, if he liquidated his own children it’s difficult to see there being a stitch of compassion for him, especially given the fact that he murdered his wife while she was pregnant as well.

Anything can happen at trial, of course. The Casey Anthony case proved that a slam-dunk case can be undone with a rigorous defense, especially if and when the parents come to the party. The Anthony’s managed to create “doubt” on two important aspects at trial that otherwise seemed certain. Remember the “odor of death” in the car becoming the odor of pizza? Remember the repeated Google searches for Chloroform that Cindy Anthony said she performed [even though she was at work at the time]? It was enough to create doubt in the jury’s mind, if no one else’s.

The two big difference between the Watts case and the Casey Anthony case are:

  1. Casey Anthony never confessed to anything. Not while being interrogated, not to her parents, not to the media, not at trial. Never. Casey Anthony was offered a plea deal and incredibly, refused to take it. Thus far Chris Watts has done all those things that Casey Anthony didn’t do.
  2. Caylee Anthony’s remains took around six months to recover by law enforcement. By the time an autopsy was conducted, the little girl’s remains were entirely skeletonized. This favored the defense case because it couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt [in the jury’s mind] that Caylee was murdered, or even how she was murdered. Was she given an overdose of chloroform or Xanax? If she was, the evidence [as the jury saw it] wasn’t sufficient.  In the Watts case the girl’s remains were located almost immediately, though crucially, it took four days to recover them even after authorities knew where they were.

We assume that the four days of recovery simply involved the time it took to drain the almost full tanks, but I believe that’s a mistake. Theoretically, if the bodies had been dumped intact from above through the thief hatch, they could have been fished out just as easily.

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Again, if the oil tanks were almost full, and the bodies were suspended whole inside, all one needed to do was stir the tanks slightly, or reach in with a noose, rope or lasso wrapped in plastic to prevent fiber contamination [CERVI 319 is situated on a cattle ranch] or a blunt curved object like a Bo Peep staff. And that’s if bodies don’t float naturally to the surface. Would they in the case of crude oil is the key question?

And if cadavers do float, wouldn’t Watts have wanted to prevent that from happening? If it was a premeditated murder, wouldn’t part of the thinking have involved preventing the bodies from becoming easily visible to a passing glance inside the tanks through the opened thief hatch?

Were they intact but anchored?

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In any event, it seems the District Attorney has withheld the autopsy reports for two reasons. One, to allow the hysteria around the case to die down. And two, to use it as a bargaining chip [potentially] with the defendant. To hold the reports in his hand, to tell him “we know exactly what you did to your children” and to offer him the opportunity to go to prison quietly, without disgracing himself or his family any further at a very public trial.

Watts pleaded guilty

If Chris Watts WAS coerced, he should rescind the plea deal – but will he?

What is it with these families and chewing gum? Frank Rzucek chewed gum while addressing a press conference in Greeley, following Chris Watts’ second appearance in court. During her FaceTime interview with Fox31’s Keagan Harsha, Cindy Watts is also chewing gum while telling Harsha how much she loves her son “no matter what”.

Do these people realize how casual they look and sound when this is a triple murder involving their own children and grandchildren?

At 1:22 in the clip below, Cindy Watts says, “Yes, I-I-I wanna talk to him, we haven’t been able to talk to him…” If it’s true that Watts’ parents haven’t been allowed to talk to their son, then that and the ongoing solitary confinement could be seen as a form of duress, a legal circumstance that speaks to the “voluntariness” of a legal settlement.

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In order for a legal document to be valid, all parties must enter into it freely. If there is coercion, or allegations of coercion, these can cast a serious legal shadow over the legality of a case. Any agreement that is coerced is null and void.

We’ve seen this play out over and over again in true crime, for example in the Amanda Knox case where she said she was coerced into making statements, and by Brendan Dassey, who claimed while he wasn’t physically coerced or threatened, he was tricked into doing so.

To date Cindy Watts has been quoted by the Denver Post, The Daily Beast and the Times-Call saying: “I know he confessed, but he was railroaded into it.” It’s fascinating that the District Attorney hasn’t responded directly to these allegations thus far. Playing for time?

The Denver Post has provided some legal analysis on this point:

Denver attorney H. Michael Steinberg said that if Christopher Watts wishes to withdraw his guilty plea, it is possible the judge would consider that before his sentencing, which is scheduled for Monday. But he would have to offer a better explanation than just the fact that he changed his mind. One possibly valid reason would be that Christopher Watts has not received a psychological evaluation, Steinberg said.

“That would be a significant issue. This case is so high profile the judge may want to make sure everything was done appropriately,” Steinberg said.

Indeed. The case simply needs to follow due process. If in retrospect that’s found not to be the case, and if Watts appeals, he could argue he was placed under duress, was depressed or in despair and wasn’t able – or given the opportunity – to make a properly informed decision.

If the plea deal is an effort to avoid a court case but ends up precipitating one, then the plea deal makes no sense, does it? Then a criminal trial is the logical legal end result to resolve this  very high-profile and very serious crime.

According to the Times-Call:

Cynthia Watts said she and her husband repeatedly tried to speak with their son alone, but his attorneys wouldn’t let them. On one occasion, when she said, “Chris, you did not do this. Don’t confess,” she said her son’s attorneys ended the conversation immediately. “They stonewalled him. My son deserved to be defended,” Cynthia Watts said.

She said her son’s attorneys told her, “We just want to save his life.” But Cynthia Watts said her son deserves much more than that. “This is outrageous to me.” Cynthia Watts described her son as someone who never lost his temper and always did what his wife asked of him, “running, not walking.”

“How does he go from a decent person to a killer?” she asked. “If he won’t fight for his daggone self, I will.”

On the other hand, if Chris Watts maintains he was treated fairly, was of sound mind, and his decision to plea is entirely voluntary, then the plea and the sentence stands.

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Chris Watts: Analysis of “Rzucek Statement”

Today the Rzucek family responded to statements made by Chris Watts’ mother…except, well…they didn’t respond. Someone else responded  on their behalf. This was clear both in the language and tone of the response.

If you think that’s a farfetched comment, check out Frank Rzucek reading from his own prepared statement. Listen to the way he speaks and how he uses words.

When today’s statement came out, many probably read the statement at face value, gave it a passing glance and went on with their day. Rocket Science doesn’t let such nuggets slip by so easily, however.

According to the Denver Channel:

On Tuesday, Shanann Watts’ parents, Frank and Sandra Rzucek, responded to the statements made by Cindy Watts in comments released by the law firm representing them.

Strangely “the law firm representing them” isn’t identified. We know who represented them at the press conference to announce the plea deal though, it was none other than Michael Rourke, Weld County’s District Attorney.  So have the Rzucek’s retained legal counsel besides the state prosecutor? If so, how are they able to afford it on a carpenter’s salary?

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More likely, in my view, “the law firm representing them” is a garbage comment meant to replace the words “District Attorney”. And what does mean: Frank and Sandra Rzucek, responded to the statements made by Cindy Watts in comments released by the law firm representing them. Does it mean Frank and Sandra both gave their input and a law firm typed it out? Does it mean they made comments and a law firm took dictation, made a transcript, scribbling down each word? And did both Frank and Sandra comment? If so, who said what?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument the DA’s office released this statement “on behalf of” the Rzuceks [but in reality, on behalf of their own interests in shutting down this case]. What is it they’re saying about the current state of legal limbo?

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Shan’ann Watts was a faithful wife [versus Chris Watts was an unfaithful husband, nice one]

The rest of the first paragraph is sentiment. One could theoretically accuse Chris Watts of the same thing – gentle parenting, being a loving father and a good soul.

The real mindfuckery begins in the second paragraph:

Everyone who knew Shan’ann knows this [present tense] to be true.

The allegation in this comment is that those who criticize Shan’ann didn’t know her very well, and are liars. In other words, it’s an attempt by “the law firm” to demonize the Watts family. It’s not done directly though, they’re just getting those mind engines to start turning so that when they do do so directly, the right people can hit the ground running with it, and run with it.

In the 3rd paragraph there is an “attempt” to defend their son [not in court, just at home, at the end of a long holiday]. In reality, this was the first time the Watts family had broken their silence in the three months since the murders took place in mid-August. Think about that. That’s a long time to say nothing while all about you are having their say. The Rzuceks were in court and gave initial statements to the press, the Watts family never did, until now. Aren’t they allowed to express their opinion?

They felt the need to make vicious, grotesque and utterly false statements about Shan’ann…

Really? Vicious? What’s vicious about Chris Watts’ mother describing their marriage, their relationship as ‘hard’?

It was a very hard relationship,” said Cindy Watts, Chris’ mother. “It was a very hard 

Grotesque? Is it grotesque to suggest  Shan’ann was abusive and they felt she isolated Chris from his family in the time they were together when Shan’ann’s boss at Longmont Ford said effectively the same thing to The Daily Beast in an article titled ‘Everyone Liked Him’: Did Colorado Dad Chris Watts Lead a Double Life?:

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It’s a little hypocritical isn’t it, to be interrogating allegations of Chris Watts’ double life, from his affairs to his alleged bisexuality, but it’s grotesque, vicious foul when his parents suggest there was another side to Shan’ann that no one knows about.

What if what they say is true? If it is, it goes to the legal defense [potentially, not necessarily] of mitigation, meaning if the “abuse” he suffered was serious enough, a jury might grand him a lesser sentence. It may also go even further, to a legal defense of justifiable homicide. This was the legal defense Oscar Pistorius used, and Jodi Arias tried to use. Pistorius did well with his, until it blew up. Jodi Arias – well, we know what happened to her, but the abuse narrative her defense emphasized at trial had the impact of changing the mind of a single juror. So an abuse narrative in a criminal trial isn’t irrelevant. The question is, if it’s an authentic part of the actual dynamics, how relevant is it? What was the scale and scope of it?

“The law firm” repeats the word “lie” twice, and twice repeats an allegation of the Watts family making “utterly false statements”. It’s the legal jargon way of screaming the accusation as loud as possible in public that your adversary is”fucking lying”.

The final sentence of that paragraph, as I’ve demonstrated, is in itself inaccurate. The statements made the Watts family could indeed alter the outcome of a trial, and could indeed have an impact on how Shan’ann is seen not only as a person, but in a legal sense. Knowing more about the other side to the story could very well alter the “truth” [as the anonymous law firm has it] about the crimes committed.

So much for the truth, we don’t even know what’s in the autopsy reports, a public document that is invariably made public, but not in this case. So much for the truth, that at trial, the media weren’t granted the right to extended coverage when the District Attorney knew ahead of time that a plea deal was on the cards. So much for the truth, when the plea hearing – which many are saying is rushed and controversial for various reasons – was timed to coincide with the Mid-Term Elections, when media resources and attention spans would be stretched thin.

Shan’ann’s memory and reputation deserves to be protected. And her family is fully prepared to do so.

That’s stating the obvious. Obvious Shan’ann’s dignity deserves to be protected. If anything, a criminal trial honors and recognizes her life, and makes an effort to actually find out who she was and what happened to her.

Her family’s “full preparedness” to protect her reputation suggests they will take legal action and spare no expense to defend false accusations. Wow, so you’d go the route of defamation suits but not have a criminal trial to find out what happened, and why your own flesh-and-blood multiplied by four was murdered? Of course, none of this is the Rzuceks talking, it’s all the “anonymous law firm” representing their interests from the shadows.

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I have no doubt that their intention is to protect reputations, and that they are fully prepared to do so, I just don’t think they give a crap about Shan’ann’s reputation.

Also, and I’m sorry if the legal folk involved take this the wrong way, but why is there not a single peep about a very, very serious allegation being made here. The Watts family are saying their son was coerced into making a deal. They’re saying they’re feeling shut out, that they’re not being heard and that they’re not being allowed to communicate openly with their son without being shut down.

These are INCREDIBLY serious charges, and they seriously undermine the legal efficacy of the plea deal. Is the plea deal even valid? Of course, the “law firm representing the family” are dead silent on this issue, which is strange. They’re  a LAW FIRM, aren’t they?

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