Kessinger told the cops of their affair after news broke that his family had disappeared. He had lied to her that he was getting a divorce.
Trigger warning: This report has graphic details of violence that readers may find disturbing
After Chris Watts confessed to killing his wife and children in cold blood, he revealed that he had done it in the hope of getting a "fresh start" in life with his mistress, Nichol Kessinger. Watts and Kessinger were in an extra-marital affair for a while before Watts decided to kill his wife of six years, Shanann, and his daughters, Bella and Celeste, aged four and three in 2018. It later emerged that it was Kessinger, Watts' girlfriend, who gave the cops crucial information that helped indict him. A new Netflix documentary on the case titled American Murder: The Family Next Door shows footage from the case and follows the story from Watts' denial to his eventual confession.
Kessinger had met Watts at work — Anadarko Petroleum Corporation — where they were both employed. On the day after his family's disappearance, Watts messaged her that his family was “gone." He reportedly told Kessinger that Shanann had taken the girls to a play date and had not returned, reported Denver Post. Kessinger had gone to the cops before Watts was arrested and told investigators of their relationship. She told the authorities that he had deceived her by claiming that he and his wife were getting a divorce and also hid the fact that Shanann was pregnant with his third child.
Watts had reportedly given his wife a potent pain killer Oxycodone to end her pregnancy. Kessinger said she had no inkling that Watts had planned to murder his family to be with her. Kessinger reportedly learned of the crimes from social media. He was formally charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body.
Kessinger told authorities that they weren't that serious with the relationship and only just met. Data recovered from her phone suggested otherwise. She had spent close to two hours looking at wedding dresses and allegedly made internet searches about "marrying your mistress." The deleted data on her phone also showed she had made online searches for the names Shanann Watts and Chris Watts in 2017, and on other occasions, prior to the dates she and Watts claimed their affair had begun.
Kessinger went under the radar after Watts was sent to prison for his crimes. She's a geologist and works as a field engineer. CrimeOnline reports that she's allegedly dating a fellow geologist, Jim Gutoski, and allegedly told the CBI agents to back off from him, according to an audio of the interview. "Leave Jim alone. Leave Jim alone. Jim doesn’t need to be wrapped up in this," as per the interview audio seen by CrimeOnline. According to the Daily Mail , Kessinger had been put under the witness protection program by the American government on account of the hatred directed towards her.
Despite the public opinion of Kessinger, which had often villainized her, she proved important to Watts' conviction. Authorities have maintained that she was crucial in cornering and indicting Chris Watts. "Nichol Kessinger turned out to have information that I can best describe as being a bombshell," said Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke in a 2019 televised interview for Investigation Discovery's documentary special Family Man, Family Murderer: An ID Murder Mystery.
"I just wanted to help," said Kessinger. "With a pregnant woman and two children missing, I was going to do anything that I could."
COVER IMAGE SOURCE: Frederick Police Department