If Chris Watts and Nichol Kessinger were lovebirds waiting in the wings on Sunday night, and even Monday night, by Wednesday it was all over. Not only weren’t they talking to each other, and likely haven’t since, both were on a mission to extinguish all digital traces of the other, Kessinger in particular.
The advantage of a narrative that’s broken down into a series, and each book into parts, and parts into chapters, and chapters systematically going through all the versions and perspectives, is it’s the only way to thoroughly account for everything. A television documentary is woefully too short to do due diligence to these details, and God – and the devil – reside exactly here: in the details. Even documentary series like the Paradise Lost trilogy [West Memphis Three], the Making a Murderer series [comprising twenty hour-long episodes] and recently The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann series [eight parts] can’t do the sort of painstaking analysis that a finely crafted narrative can. Documentaries have their place of course. A picture, and a simple soundbite from a guilty suspect, can say a thousand words, and in true crime, often several thousand words of court transcripts.
To illustrate what I mean, consider the tattered remains of the Phone Data Review. Just 5 timestamps. It doesn’t seem like much is really happening, does it? Even if we sit in on all seven hours of Watts with Agent Tammy Lee and the FBI, we’re likely to get bored and bleary eyed pretty quickly. Skip to the highlights right?
What surprised me even as a seasoned true crime investigator, as I analyzed and transcribed these tapes in TWO FACE RAPE OF CASSANDRA and TWO FACE DRILLING THROUGH DISCOVERY, was the strategic mindfuckery the interrogators were using on Watts. It’s not Rocket Science. You sit him down and get him talking. You keep him there, but don’t make him feel like he’s being kept there against his will. While he’s sitting there, you have someone taking notes, recording details, setting up a list of additional questions. You’re already pulling phone records and getting intel from his employers, friends and other witnesses. You collate and cross reference that data. You have at least two people taking turns, questioning him, wearing him down. One steps out, takes a break, gets more intel, steps back in. It looks like one against one, one criminal mind versus one law enforcement mind at a time, but it’s not. That’s an illusion. It’s one mind stuck in a cubicle while a machine is working behind the scenes.
Very quickly a profile set up and a dossier decided upon by a team of cops, prosecutors and agents – on how to go after this guy, and this case. If it all seems rather dull in that little interview room, well, it’s because it’s supposed to look that way.
Part of the magic that’s not to easy to brew is how law enforcement needs to be face to face with the suspect. How long do you let him talk? What boundaries do you set? At what point do you stop playing his friend and Mr. Nice Guy and start interrupting him [and thus raising his own alarm bells], and saying, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense?” This is a dance law enforcement need to do with criminals and they’re experienced at it, but it takes a while to find the right rhymn. And while they’re finding out who he is, he’s finding out what they know [and what he can get away with].
Even the Discovery Documents don’t reveal what law enforcement thought of the situation at the time. It simply records, glosses over, their superficial first drafts of intelligence gathering. We only get a sense of their insight in the affidavit, during sentencing and on the few occasions when the District Attorney addressed the media, and even then they’ve kept their cards close to their chests.
By going systematically through the actual timeline, minute by minute, hour after hour, we start to piece together how the cops got Watts to where he needed to go. We also see that while Watts was being interrogated, so was Kessinger. Let’s start with her.
We won’t go into much detail here, just touching on the broad strokes. At around 14:00 Kessinger and her father met with two FBI Agents and to discuss the nature of her affair with her co-worker. The meeting took place in Arvada.
Also worth bearing in mind as an overarching context:
The amount of resources dedicated to this case almost instantly was dizzying. [Behind the scenes, Anadarko was likely doing the same, battening down the hatches].
Now, getting back to Kessinger, it should be noted that the very last image of Kessinger moved to Watt’s Secret Calculator app was transferred on Tuesday morning at 09:29. The deleting of text messages off Kessinger’s phone started [as far as we know] on Tuesday afternoon at 17:00.
By Tuesday afternoon, Watts’ Sermon on the Porch had aired, Kessinger had seen it, everyone had seen it, and after work that day Kessinger got rid of a lot of evidence on her phone. On the one hand one could argue it was obstruction of justice, on the other, Kessinger was just taking her of herself. Which was it? Bear in mind when Kessinger started deleting her messages Watts hadn’t been charged with anything yet.
There’s a final aspect to mention that I didn’t really deal with in yesterday’s analysis. We see Kessinger very actively Googling and deleting her search history throughout Tuesday. What this shows is Kessinger was pretty capable and sophisticated at navigating the online space – just as many of us are. It also suggests if she wanted information [say, on Watts’ wife], she could get it, and she knew where and how to get it. If we see Kessinger very quickly appraising herself of the news online after the fact, doesn’t this suggest she was also just as capable of snooping on Shan’ann before the fact?
Now let’s gloss through the interrogation with Watts.
Imagine the mindbending mindfuckery loaded into this scenario.
It might seem straightforward. Just don’t take the lie-detector test, right? It’s not that straightforward. If Watts lets on that he’s reluctant, or resistant or anxious to take the test, he knows this will immediately cast suspicion on him. He’s trying to avoid that. True to type, he’s trying to play it cool and fly casual.
Had Watts been of sound mind, and taken legal advice, he could easily have stalled and said he’s prepared to do the lie detector, but wants to focus on his family first, and if the police suspect him, he thinks he should get a lawyer.
The other side of the equation is Watts’ brazen arrogance. Just as he committed the crime imagining he could get away with it with a sneak here and a sly move there [just as he had gotten away with the affair for 5.5 weeks], he thought he might get away with the polygraph.
But Tammy Lee outfoxed him here as well. The polygraph went on for hours. Some of it was really mindmelting stuff. Imagine being in his position. You’re guilty, pretending not to be. Lying, pretending to tell the truth. Now the polygrapher, pre-test, tells you:
“Okay I want you to purposely lie now. I just want to get a reading on that.”
So what does he do? How does he think about that?
It wasn’t just a ten minute test either, and in carefully controlled instances where suspects have legal representation, these examinations are kept as brief as possible. It does take a prescribed period to get what is known as a “baseline”, and from there the lie detector is conducted, often with just three questions to “test” against these baseline measurements.
The FBI are typically extremely rigorous when conducting these kinds of tests, which is why lawyers, like the Ramsey lawyers, wanted their clients tested casually in a much more limited setting.
More: Ramseys Decline to Take Polygraph – The Washington Post
RAMSEYS TRY, TRY AGAIN AND PASS LIE TEST – New York Post
Polygraph results released – Boulder Daily Camera
Ramseys Say They Passed Polygraph Test – LA Times
The third question asked was:
Are you lying about the last time you saw Shan’ann?
Watts answered “No”, to all three. He lied in all three answers.
A polygraph test is often [but not always] inadmissible in court. It’s not sufficient to prove the guilt of a suspect in court, but it’s an excellent way to gauge just how “off baseline” a stranger might be in terms of a particular case and set of circumstances.
During the Sermon on the Porch the world saw what a terrible liar Watts was. The polygraph test confirmed the same. Shan’ann said the same herself:
He has no game.
He was starting to think he did, which is why he committed the crimes to begin with. He wanted to be a new guy with a new game.
For those who still think Watts is a heartless psychopath, true psychopaths can pass polygraphs. Not all of them will necessarily pass a test, but some can and do. Why? Because they don’t register emotions the way most of us do. Just because Watts looks like he’s showing emotion, it doesn’t mean he’s not feeling it – that’s it’s not registering – underneath. That’s an introvert for you. But don’t confuse introversion for psychopathy. It might look similar in some ways, but the wiring is different.
It’s also a different argument to say whether Watts had no remorse for what he did. Probably he did have some remorse, far less than we’d expect. But in a premeditated murder he’s obvious made up his mind what he wants, and it’s taken him a few days or weeks to prepare himself emotionally. This affect right here is the result of weeks of emotional and mental gearing.
It’s probably not true that when Watts walked into the room on Wednesday morning that “he knew he wasn’t walking out”. By going step-by-step through the interrogation as I do in RAPE OF CASSANDRA, he clearly backs himself for hours. Probably there was a point during the interrogation when he suspected his goose was cooked. Even then he imagined the cops weren’t going to let him go, but in that scenario it was still Shan’ann taking the rap for half of what had happened. He’d still left himself with a loophole.
Before the end of the day Watts writes on a printout where the three bodies of his family are lying, and a search warrant is urgently issued to go and recover them.
To get the full story, the only definitive narrative on the Watts case, read the TWO FACE series, available exclusively on Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.