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Episode 91: Chris Watts Prison Interview Part 2

Listen to the episode here (warning: poor sound quality).

Episode 90: Chris Watts Prison Interview Part 1

On February 18, 2019, Chris Watts, 33, was visited in Dodge Correctional Institution, Waupun, Wisconsin, by FBI Special Agent Graham Coder, Frederick Police Department Detective Dave Baumhover, and CBI Agent Tammy Lee, who conducted the original polygraph that Watts failed. Watts was amenable to the interview, which lasted for almost five hours.

In response to Special Agent Coder’s questions, Watts talks about the problems in his marriage and his growing feelings for Nichol Kessenger, and gives more details about the crime.   He describes the argument with his wife, Shannan, that led to him straddling her while she was lying in bed, then choking her in a rage. He then explains how he dragged his wife’s body downstairs, loaded her in the back of his truck, and strapped his daughters into their car seats. After driving for 45 minutes, he smothered his two daughters with a blanket and dropped their bodies, separately, into two wells. Watts grows tearful as he recalls the episode.

The FBI agents are genial and chatty. Special Agent Coder is especially gentle and encouraging, repeatedly reminding Watts they’re not out to judge or condemn him, just to understand. “Chris, you care about others deeply, I can tell,” he says. “You worry about others… You made a two minute mistake in an otherwise good life. You’re not a monster.” Coder sounds convincing enough to put Watts at ease and elicit the details he wants to hear. Chris Watts is serving three consecutive life sentences for the murders. This is part one of a two-part interview.

Listen to the episode here (warning: poor sound quality).

Episode 89: Sabrina Limon Trial Testimony

   After eight years together, blonde housewife Sabrina Limon and her railroad worker husband Robert decided to make suburban life in San Bernadino County more exciting. They “opened up” their marriage, joining the local swingers’ scene, hosting raucous parties taking “adult” vacations. Then, while working at Costco offering free samples to shoppers, Sabrina, 38, met Jonathan Hearn, 27, a firefighter with an impressive vocabulary. Hearn was a devout Christian, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing the older woman, and after a torrid affair, the pair fell seriously in love. Believing Robert would never countenance a divorce, Sabrina and Jonathan decided God’s purpose was for them to be together, and, as Hearn said on the stand, “Bob had to go.”

The couple’s first plan involved poisoning Robert with arsenic laced banana pudding. In July 2104, Hearn tested out the poison by feeding a “pretty obnoxious” neighborhood dog a piece of arsenic-spiked salmon. The dog became quiet, but Sabrina lost her nerve. Instead, a month later, Hearn shot Robert at the railroad in Tehachapi, where he worked. Suspicions were raised when Jonathan moved in with the Sabrina shortly thereafter; a police wiretap uncovered the murder. Hearn took a plea deal, testifying against Limon and pleading guilty to manslaughter to avoid a life sentence. He received 25 years and four months in prison. Sabrina Limon was convicted of murder and several other charges, and received a similar sentence.

This episode contains audio from Day 13 of Limon’s trial, which took place in September 2017. Sabrina is on the stand. Even on direct examination, she isn’t a convincing witness. She’s nervous and hesitant; her responses are short and vague, and she has little to offer in her own defense.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 88: James Holmes Psychiatric Interview

Last month, in response to demands from the press, the psychiatric interviews and evaluations of mass murderer James Holmes were released. In 2012, Holmes walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire during a midnight screening of Batman Returns. A dozen people were killed and 58 others wounded.

In this excerpt from 25 hours of interviews, court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. William Reid questions Holmes about his motives and his experiences after his arrest. Holmes is laconic and taciturn, giving nothing away. He doesn’t reveal a motive for the crime.  He seems bored by the questions, and repeats that he feels nothing, and has nothing to say. He expresses no regret, admitting that he replays the shooting in his head from time to time–apparently as a way to stave off boredom.

Holmes was a grad student at the time of the shooting. We learn that he expressed hostility towards his campus psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, sending her half-burned dollar bills when she raised her fees and mistakenly wrote the wrong last name on his prescription, but he made no threats and had no history of violence.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and Dr. Reid’s evaluation was intended to help determine whether or not he was competent to stand trial. He was convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 87: O.J. Simpson Parole Hearing

In 2008, former NFL running back O.J. Simpson was convicted on 10 counts of robbery for his role in an armed heist to retrieve some items of his memorabilia that had been put up for sale. In July 2017, after serving nine years of his 33 year sentence, Simpson appeared before the Nevada Parole Board by video link from Lovelock Correctional Institute in Lovelock, Nevada. He was accompanied by his attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, and seemed to be in good spirits.

At 70, Simpson looks healthy and seems to have lost some weight. His voice is deep and resonant. He is not especially remorseful or apologetic–“I’ve done my time,” he repeats– and when asked about the robbery, he goes into unnecessary detail, holding forth for more than 10 minutes. He becomes slightly heated when one of the commissioners presses him on his belief that the memorabilia items were actually his property, but mostly he is relaxed and confident. The Parole Board does confirm that Simpson’s 1994 double murder case, of which he was acquitted, would not be considered to be a factor in their decision.

After their interview with Simpson, the parole board interviewed his daughter Arnelle as well as Bruce Fromong, one of the victims in the case, before deciding that Simpson deserved to be paroled. He was released in October 2017.

Listen to the episode here.


Extra episode: “An Unexplained Death” – Audio Excerpt

A short extra for you: a sample chapter of my new book An Unexplained Death (Henry Holt, 2018), “the true story of an obsessive investigation into a mysterious death at an old hotel, and a gripping meditation on suicide and voyeurism” (read for you by the author). You can get the complete Audiobook on iTunes. An iOS version is available from Apple Books, and the real book can be purchased at Amazon, and elsewhere.

Listen to the first chapter here.

Episode 86: Nichol Kessinger Police Interview

Nichol Kessinger, 30, was hired as a contract employee at Andarko Petroleum in Platteville, Colorado, where she worked in Health and Safety. In either May or June 2017, she met and got to know Chris Watts (see episode 85), who also worked at Andarko. The two began a heavy affair that lasted for ten months. Watts told Kessinger that he and his wife Shannan were separated, and had joint custody of their two daughters. He said he lived in the basement of the family home in Frederick, Colorado, which, according to Watts, the couple were getting ready to sell. Nude photographs of Kessenger taken by Watts were retrieved from his cellphone by investigators.

On August 13, Shanann Watts and the two girls, Bella and Celeste, went missing; Chris denied knowledge of their whereabouts, but after failing a lie detector test and being confronted about the contradictions in his story, Watts finally confessed to murdering his family.

After his confession was made public, Nichol Kessinger came forward to police and told them about her affair with Watts. Police do not believe Kessinger was aware of Watts’ crime. In fact, she was totally duped by him, and seems to have been expecting him to propose. In early August 2013, right before the family went missing, she spent over two hours looking at wedding dresses online.

In most respects, Watts fits the pattern of family annihilators, who are generally white  middle-class males in their thirties; their crimes generally take place in August, before school starts, which may delay detection and investigation. However, unlike Chris Watts, most family annihilators commit suicide after the murders. Ironically, despite his murder conviction, Watts has been receiving love letters, while Kessinger has been the target of public threats, and has been placed temporarily in the witness protection.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 85: Cameron Rogers murder confession

This confession was recorded on Nov. 29, 2016 by Ottawa police homicide investigator Detective Theresa Kelm, the Mary Poppins of police interrogators. Her remarkably gentle, sympathetic and understanding manner is appropriate, since her subject, 22-year-old Cameron Rogers, who suffers from autism, appears edgy and unstable. His conversation is tangential at times; at other times he starts to panic.

The young man tells Kelm that he was cutting up a melon in the kitchen when he decided to kill his parents. He had no reason for doing so, he admits, other than the fact that they made him enroll in a college program he didn’t like, and required him to do jobs around the house. After retrieving a home-made “stick” (actually a sword) from the garage, he attacked his mother, Merrill Gleddie Rogers, in the back of her head, then the face.  Then, using a kitchen knife, he stabbed her in the neck and the back. Her screams brought his father, Dave, running into the kitchen, and Rogers stabbed him in the back with the knife,  puncturing a lung. He died quickly, from loss of blood; his mother, on the other hand, took “all night” to die. Rogers retreated to his bedroom, unable to watch.

The next day, he stuffed his father’s body into a large suitcase, covered his mother’s body with a tarp, then dumped them in a two-foot opening between the backyard shed and the fence. He then stayed inside the house for a week, cleaning up, and telling visitors that his parents were both in bed with the flu. Eventually, he tried to enter the U.S., but had no visa and was sent back to Canada. Returning home, he called police and confessed to the murders.

On November 24, 2018, Rogers was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder (a plea deal). He will serve two concurrent life sentences, with no chance of parole for 20 years.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 84: Stacey Castor Trial Testimony

This episode contains audio from the 2009 trial of Stacey Castor, 41, for the murder of her husband David, 48, in Onondaga County, New York State. In the face of cross examination by prosecutor Bill Fitzpatrick, Mrs. Castor remains calm and collected on the stand, and her testimony is meticulous in its detail–both of which may have counted against her in the minds of the jury.

Mrs. Castor claims that David, her second husband, had been despondent over health and business worries, and after a long and heated argument, he locked himself in the marital bedroom, drank whiskey for hours, then killed himself by drinking automotive antifreeze, which has no smell and a sweet taste, allowing it to be mixed undetected into beverages like coffee or iced tea.

Mrs. Castor’s first husband, Michael Wallace, died in 2000, also under suspicious circumstances. Police investigators, who smelt a rat, spent two years collecting evidence against her. In 2007, when the widow realized the net was closing in, she panicked, and wrote a “suicide note” on her computer in which her daughter Ashley “confesses” to poisoning both her father and stepfather. Mrs. Castor then invited Ashley, 20, to “get drunk” with her, and over the course of the evening, attempted to poison her daughter with crushed pills mixed with vodka, orange juice, and Sprite.

The jury found Stacey Castor guilty of the second-degree murder of David, and guilty of the attempted second-degree murder of Ashley. In June 2016, Castor was found dead of a heart attack in her prison cell.

Episode 83: Chris Watts FBI Interview

In the early morning of August 13, 2018, Christopher Lee Watts, 33, murdered his pregnant wife Shanann Watts, 34, and their daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, in their home in Frederick, Colorado. Christopher and Shannann Watts had been married for six years and lived in a five-bedroom home in Frederick, Colorado, purchased in 2013.  Chris Watts was employed by Anadarko Petroleum, while Shanann was an independent representative for a marketing company. The couple had recently been experiencing some financial difficulties, and had declared bankruptcy in 2015.

Chris Watts was arrested late on August 15, 2018. According to the arrest affidavit, he failed a polygraph test and subsequently confessed to murdering Shanann. Watts asked to speak to his father before making the confession. According to the affidavit, Watts was having an affair and claimed to have asked for a separation from his wife. During the investigation, Watts first tried to claim that Shanann had strangled the children in response to his request for separation; in a fit of rage, he said, he then strangled his wife, and then transported the three bodies to an oil site where he worked.

The bodies of Watts’ family were located by the authorities on the property of Watts’s former employer on August 16. Watts had been fired from his job on August 15, the day of his arrest. The children’s bodies were found in oil tanks, while the body of Shanann was buried in a shallow grave nearby.

At the time of her death, she was fifteen weeks pregnant. Watts pleaded guilty on November 6, 2018, to multiple counts of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to five life sentences, three to be served consecutively and two to be served concurrently.

Listen to the episode here.