Between 09:45 and 10:09 on the morning of August 29th, 2018, a Wednesday, Nichol Kessinger sends Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Kevin Koback the following text:
This is in reference to news circulating in the media about Watts possibly being involved with another man [Trent Bolte], and which I was covered in a post the day prior on Shakedown.
Koback answers that yes, he is aware of the news, and asks Kessinger if Watts ever mentioned anything “about that?”
KESSINGER: Not at all. I don’t know if I believe this yet but he fooled me into thinking he was a much different person than he is, so anything is possible.
As an afterthought, Kessinger added that she might have some reinforcing information.
KESSINGER: But I do have some dates for things he said that I think [are] in line with some things that other man [Trent Bolte] claimed. I already had them on my list to talk to you about.
Koback answers with a single word.
And then Koback sends Kessinger a follow-up question with a link to a blog post I authored on Shakedown, dated August 23rd, 2018. This link:
I posted that blog two days after Watts appeared in court for the second time, based on information presented [and later removed/redacted] from the Warrantless Arrest Affidavit.
Since the affidavit explicitly mentioned Watts was actively having an affair with a co-worker, it didn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out who she was. All one had to do was go through the list of female names on the affidavit, exclude those involved in law enforcement, and cross-reference those affiliated with the oil industry. More likely than not the likely candidate would be reasonably attractive and probably, though not necessarily, close to Watts’ age or slightly younger.
In the end there was only one name, one likely candidate that stood out. A certain Nichol Kessinger was one of a handful of names listed as “address pending”. The others included Frank Rzucek Junior, Nickole Utoft Atkinson [spelled incorrectly], Jeremy Lindstrom [spelled incorrectly], Cristina Meacham [spelled incorrectly], Addy Molony [spelled incorrectly] and Sam Paisley. None of these individuals had connections to the oil industry, and half of the women weren’t even resident in Colorado.
There was also another compelling reason why it probably was Kessinger. Because there was almost no evidence of her online. By as early as August 23rd, Kessinger had scrubbed virtually all traces of herself online, but not everything. This photo, for example, came up.
Google cache still had a reference to Kessinger working for Halliburton, a company associated with the oil industry.
And with a little digging, it turned out Kessinger’s father lived in Arvada and was also affiliated with the oil industry.
Arvada, incidentally, is where Kessinger and her father [and her dog] had their very first interview with the FBI at around midday on August 15th, 2018. It was the same day Watts failed his polygraph and by the end of it, he’s partially confessed to the crime.
Kessinger’s response to Koback’s text asking her, “Have you seen this?” and the link to the Shakedown post Is SHE Chris Watts’s Mystery Mistress? was yeah, she had seen it.
KESSINGER: Yeah I saw that. Those people are grasping at straws. That picture is very very old and they don’t have my last few employers or my correct address. Or even my last few addresses for that matter. I’m really doing my best to stay under the radar as long as possible. Do they release more information about his case at his hearing on November 19?
But “those people” weren’t grasping at straws. It turned out it was Kessinger all along, and while the media only disclosed her identity in an “exclusive” published by the Denver Post on November 16, three days before the final sentencing hearing, the real scoop had been published by me almost three months earlier, as early as August 23rd, just ten days after the incident.
In late August, Kessinger was right about one thing. People were grasping at straws because tight control was being managed around the information in this case. Some of the less intuitive argued in the months that followed that Kessinger wasn’t necessarily the mystery mistress, because there wasn’t absolute proof that she worked at Anadarko.
The media remained strangely silent on the matter while going crazy about Trent Bolte as well as another dubious mistress Watts supposedly met on Tinder. In hindsight, both of these charlatans appeared to be either random attempts by individuals to hog the limelight, or someone was purposefully and strategically trying to misdirect attention and speculation away from Kessinger [and Anadarko] in the run up to the trial in November.
Did they succeed?
Who is – or was – the mysterious entity that contrived the plea deal in this case?
Or is there no mystery, Watts – never the sharpest tool in the shed to begin with – knew his goose was cooked, agreed to a plea deal and signed away his life.
Which is it?
This is truly astonishing, without doubt the most astonishing aspect of this entire case. It’s not the crime itself that’s shocking, it’s the decision not to prosecute it. It’s the decision, seemingly by everyone, not even to go to trial – because who cares about answers?
to recap, on Tuesday, August 21st, formal charges were filed in court against Chris Watts. It was his second of what would ultimately be only four court appearances. By Sunday, just three work days after the charges were announced, a plea deal was on the cards. Take a moment to absorb that.
The plea offer was sent via email on Sunday, August 26th, at 11:58 [or possibly 11:56] from Watts’ defense lawyer John Walsch to Deputy District Attorney Steve Wrenn.
Just ten days after endless hours vigorously denying that he’d a) had an affair, b) harmed his wife, or c) killed his children, but then d) finally blaming Shan’ann for murdering them instead, Watts was apparently ready to throw in the towel. It had taken him four-and-a-half days not just to have the idea fielded, but to make a decision on it.
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.
Sometimes True Crime Rocket Science isn’t about seeing what no one else is seeing. It’s about seeing what is in plain sight – seeing what everyone is seeing – from the right perspective. Pretty straightforward. But what is “the right perspective”? Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it?
Are you an aficionado of the Chris Watts case? You know pretty much all there is, read all the books, studied all the blogs, watched all the videos, and a year later there’s not really anything new to you at this point? In other words, you might be a guru or rocket scientist? But you could also be a cup that’s already full, and no one can fill a cup that’s already full.
Let’s test how full your Rocket Science cup is on the plea deal score.
Whose idea was the plea deal?
Take a moment to think about that and leave your answer in the comments. Do it now. Then read further, and if you feel moved to do so, leave a second comment.
Let’s run through 8 yes/no questions, but really they’re all about one question:
Whose idea was the plea deal?
Last chance to definitively commit to an answer before we go down the list.
- Yes or no: was the plea deal John Walsch’s idea? [See Exhibit A above, the email offering the plea deal.]
- Yes or no: was the plea deal Chris Watts’ idea?
- Yes or no: was the plea deal Chris Watts’ family’s idea?
- Yes or no: was the plea deal Steve Wrenn’s idea, or anyone else on the prosecution side of the equation?
- Yes or no: was the plea deal the Rzuceks’ idea?
- Yes or no: was the plea deal Nichol Kessinger’s idea, or suggestion?
- Yes or no: was the plea deal to avoid the death penalty?
- Have we missed anyone on this list? What was the purpose of the plea deal, and if the answers to #1-7 are “no” whose idea was it?
Who persuaded Watts to plead, but more importantly, why not take the case to trial if you weren’t Chris Watts?
There’s very little new evidence in Chris Watts case, largely because a lot of people have moved on. While checking the bodycam footage for this particular moment I came across a few additional flags. In any event, this is a question posed by a regular reader and CrimeRocket commenter, Sylvester Alexander:
As Chris is going into his front door, wearing the grey t-shirt he had on when he was summoned home on August 13th by Nickole Atkinson. I’m not sure when this picture was taken but you can clearly see a stuffed animal on the striped outdoor porch couch. We’ve all wondered why the trauma dog alerted to the couch cushion – could this be why? Because there was something on the stuffed animal at some point?
Looking closer, it may be a stuffed animal, or it may not be.
It’s also not a difficult matter to establish the time. The bodycam cameras are set to ZULU or military time. 22:38 ZULU = 16:38. This time should allow those searching across all the bodycam footage to find this particular moment.
There could be an innocent explanation if Sylvester’s right and it is a toy. Nickole’s daughter was literally running around through the crime scene while the cops and Chris Watts were trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
There she is in Ceecee’s room, possibly playing with the toys. If this case went to trial, Watts’ defense would have had a field day allegating massive contamination and compromising of the crime scene, and the Atkinson’s would largely be highlighted as the bad the guy in terms of the defense case.
But it may be that Nickole’s daughter found a toy inside and carried it outside. She may have had to sit for some time outside waiting for her mother and brother to finish what they were doing.
There could also be another explanation – it might be a plastic wrapper from someone’s lunch.
From the bodycam I’ve gone through, the object was not on the outside porch cushion earlier the same afternoon.
Or was it?
It even seems to be visible through the glass table in the bottom left of the ring doorbell camera footage. This indicates the toy wasn’t dropped on the driveway by runaway shadows either. It does appear to have been moved to the right [from the perspective of approaching the front door from the garden] compared to where it was in the image below.
Read the True Crime Rocket Science analysis of the discovery documents and video footage. DRILLING THROUGH DISCOVERY is the best rated and best reviewed books in the TWO FACE series…
Over the weekend, a weekend that was supposed to be spent celebrating a gender reveal, before changing that to a romantic marriage-saving break in Aspen, instead a candlelight vigil was held outside 2825 Saratoga Trail. This vigil was held to remember Shan’ann, Bella and Ceecee, whose bodies had been recovered at an Anadarko well site earlier in the week. They had been missing since Monday morning.
Hundreds gathered on the lawn of the big brown house as the sun was setting on Saturday afternoon.
Whatever Watts’ plans for his mistress, he spent his weekend in jail, while Nichol Kessinger enjoyed her final weekend of anonymity. No one knew then that Watts even had a mistress.
By Monday, when the warrantless arrest affidavit revealed as much, her goose was cooked. [She would have a few additional days grace before her name began to blitz through social media].
Weld County and Watts’ defense counsel also worked feverishly over the weekend. By Monday they had prepared 63 motions between them.
It should be noted when Watts appeared in court [this would be his second of a total of only four appearances], he denied killing his children, but was charged with their murders regardless. This must have seemed like a cruel blow to Watts, who may have believed – until a certain point – that Coder and Lee had believed his lies.
In any event, the arrest affidavit and the charges made it clear what the authorities actually believed. Briefly, they accused Watts of the premeditated murder [acting after deliberation] of his wife and children, and accused him of committing all three crimes at his home before transporting their bodies to the oil site. The affidavit suggested that the crimes were committed in one or several of the bedrooms upstairs.
Once the preliminary hearing was concluded on Tuesday morning, in the Division 5 court, the Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke introduced himself to the media and held a brief press conference. Shan’ann’s father, who’s grief was written over his face throughout the hearing, made a short statement to the media as well, reading from a small scrap of yellow paper [possibly taken from a legal pad].
By the end of the day the Chris Watts case was the highest-profile true crime case in America, and the community believed a criminal trial [possibly involving a death penalty] was a foregone conclusion. Shan’ann’s younger brother’s angry rants on social media also seemed to confirm the likelihood of a criminal trial as a foregone conclusion.
18CR2003 The People of the State of Colorado v. Christopher Lee Watts – Courts.State.co.us
Warrantless Arrest Affidavit – Courts.State.co.us
The final entry in the 50 page Phone Data Review is this one, on August 19th.
Do people hate Nichol Kessinger?
If the answer to these questions are different, why are they different?
Amber Frey emerged as a hero in the Scott Peterson trial. She played a key role in his arrest and an even more prominent role in his conviction. Many of the circumstances of the Watts case are similar to the Peterson case. Laci Peterson was 8 months pregnant, Scott Peterson was cheating on her with Amber, there were serious financial problems and Scott and Laci were also seen by the community and their families as the perfect couple.
The personalities of Laci and Shan’ann and Scott and Chris are also broadly similar. The wives seemed to be in charge of their husbands, wearing the pants and holding the purse strings in the marriage. The husbands were handsome, not particularly successful in the career sense, and somewhat introverted. There’s even the notion of stealing the murdered wife’s jewelry and pawning it for much-needed pocket-money in both cases.
Nichol Kessinger’s statements played a key role in the ultimate arrest and arguably, swift prosecution of Watts. Had she supported him to the end, even through a trial, things could have been very different.
It’s certainly possible that his version that Shan’ann murdered the children could have succeeded in a criminal court if he’d had her support and backing. The fact that Kessinger went to the police as soon as she did is the reason that never happened.
It should also be pointed out Kessinger went to the police within two days of finding out about the family’s disappearance. It’s not clear when Amber Frey went to the police, some reports say she went too the cops on December 30th, which was six days after Laci’s disappearance.
But we do know the circumstances were different because Laci’s parents and friends maintained their faith in Scott’s innocence while the Rzuceks and Shan’ann’s friends did not. So in Amber’s case, the police didn’t want it immediately known when they knew about Amber. This also allowed Amber to secretly record many conversations with Scott for three weeks after Laci’s disappearance.
This is another big difference in the two mistresses. Kessinger broke off her relationship almost immediately while Amber Frey didn’t. Amber finally came forward publicly on January 17th, around 4 weeks after Laci’s disappearance.
The public have since praised Amber for double-crossing Scott despite her – a single mother – having an affair. Amber also knew Scott was married but assumed he was separated, or that his wife was dead, it’s not clear which.
Read the Rocket Science trilogy on the Scott Peterson case at this link.
The Murder of Laci Peterson – Dr. Oz