Chris Watts and Scott Peterson: The terrifying similarities in two murder cases that captivated America
Experts believe both Chris Watts and Scott Peterson did the interviews because they had inflated egos and were convinced they would get away with their crimes
A day before Chris Watts was accused of murdering his pregnant wife and two young daughters, the Colorado man stood outside the family home and begged for their safe return on a local TV channel after they had gone 'missing' a day earlier. While many were shocked that he would go on TV to essentially lie about everything, according to investigative experts, Chris's behavior is not shocking at all.
A criminal analyst and forensic investigator unconnected to the case, Dale Yeager, said: "He has an incredibly large ego. He was very convincing in front of the camera, which means he really comes off as sociopathic. That doesn’t mean he is mentally ill, just that he has a personality defect."
He also told PEOPLE about how this case and the case of Scott Peterson were similar in fashion. Peterson's case became famous because he murdered his pregnant wife and then gave interviews to the press. Yaeger said: "He’s Scott Peterson, just less charismatic."
Raw video: On Tuesday Chris Watts pleaded for the safe return of his pregnant wife Shannan and their two children. Last night he was arrested for their murders. c/o @DenverChannel pic.twitter.com/BAfwUcXI7Z— Billy Jensen (@Billyjensen) August 16, 2018
Peterson, a former fertilizer salesman who is on death row at present in the San Quentin State Prison, had reported his wife as missing from their home in Modesto on December 24, 2002. Laci had been seven-and-a-half months pregnant with their son, Connor, at the time and the due date was expected on February 10, 2003. The exact date and the case of Laci's death are still not known. When a seemingly devastated Peterson reported his wife as missing on Christmas Eve, the entire country was enraptured by the case.
Jon Buehler and Allen Brocchini, the lead investigators in the case, spoke to Peterson the day that he had made the missing persons report. He had told them that he was out on his boat at the Berkeley Marina in Richmond because he went fishing. This was 90 miles away from the family home. The investigators immediately began a search but had to admit that they found the man's behavior a bit odd.
Buelher told ABC News: "I suspected Scott when I first met him. Didn't mean he did it, but I was a little bit thrown off by his calm, cool demeanor and his lack of questioning... He wasn't, 'Will you call me back? Can I have one of your cards? What are you guys doing now?'"
The prosecutors presented the affair that Peterson had with Amber Frey as well as financial issues as the motives for the grisly murder. They also said that he had killed Laci and his unborn child because of increasing debt as well as the need to be single once more. Dr. Keith Ablow, a forensic psychiatrist and the author of 'Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson', said in an interview with Inside Edition: "In every case I have looked at, they all make sense – it may be a terrible kind of sense but the narrative makes sense – that the birth of that child represented a kind of death, an impending death for the man."
Peterson was convicted of the first-degree murder of his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, and the second-degree murder of their unborn child, in Modesto, California, in 2004. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2005. The case is currently on appeal at the Supreme Court of California.
In the case of the Watts family, Chris had appeared on camera for KMGH, a local TV station, outside the family home on August 14.
Speaking of his wife and two daughters, Chris said: "If somebody has her and they’re not safe, I want them back now. That’s what is in my head. If they’re safe right now, they’re going to come back. But if they’re not safe right now, that’s the not-knowing part. Last night I had every light in the house on, I was hoping that I would just get ran over by the kids just running in and barrel-rushing me, but it didn’t happen. And it was just a traumatic night trying to be here." Chris was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder one night later.
Shanann's body was found on August 16 on the property of the oil company where Chris worked as an operator. The authorities also found the bodies of their two young daughters not very far away from their mother. Recent reports suggested that the children were strangled to death. Chris is in prison and is expected to return to the court next week to be charged formally.
Philip Stinson, a criminologist who is unconnected to the case, analyzed the footage from the interviews Chris has given to point out discrepancies in the character he portrayed to the reporters. He has a simple explanation: "He just played the role of the devastated husband, concerned for his wife and his two daughters."
He also said that this might have come at a price: "[Chris] was acting the way he thought he should be perceived and the police were paying very close attention. I think when he started talking to the media, the authorities at that point would have been paying very close attention to what he was saying, in context to what he may have said to them."
Yeager said that he believes Chris probably thought he would be able to get away with his alleged crimes because his ego is so inflated. He said: "His ability to lie is very clear. He is a manipulator. And for manipulators, their ego is so high, they see the people that are holding them back as objects they can dispose of. From that interview, you can tell he has convinced himself this is good for him and it’s very Machiavellian in that regard."
The experts believe that financial and marital issues may have had some part in the gruesome murders but they also said that this was speculation based on analysis of similar cases.