I love romance, particularly historical romance, and that’s what I review on my website. Today’s post is a rare exception, as it’s about a non-fiction book by a licensed psychotherapist, and deals with the tragic story of “How Chris Watts went from Family Man to Family Killer.” I have a fascination for true crime stories, and watch many of the shows dealing with the subject, such as Forensic Files, Homicide Hunter, Snapped, and so on. No matter how many of these stories I see, I can’t help but be amazed at human nature, and the things that people do. That’s probably why I enjoy romance so much, a lovely happy ever after to offset the dark and tragic real life stories.
A husband. A father. A killer.
Chris Watts was a family man. Everybody, including his family, believed that. Yet, on August 13, 2018, he murdered Shanann, his pregnant wife, and two young daughters, burying Shanann and their unborn son in a shallow grave and dumping their daughters’ bodies in separate oil tanks.
As terrible as his story is, it is also a warning because, to this day, living behind bars, Watts is still acting out the character traits that made him kill in the first place.
In this, the first and only psychological exploration of the Watts family murders, psychotherapist Lena Derhally has pieced together the crime, the events leading to it, and most of all, her beliefs about the “why,” including the fact that Chris Watts—now a self-described “man of God”—is not in the least remorseful about killing his family.
Using police discovery and other sources, Derhally recreates the night of the murders and the investigation that followed. She explores the childhoods, families of origin, meeting, and early relationship of Shanann and Chris Watts. She also examines Watts’s double life and duplicity regarding his well-publicized affair with a co-worker, who, although she claimed their affair was casual, was searching online for wedding dresses at the time of the murders.
The book includes an in-depth look at community psychopaths, the different subtypes of narcissism, how to prevent this type of violence, and interviews with a neuroscientist, a criminal psychologist, and a journalist in order to determine what in Watts’s twisted makeup allowed him to hide who he really is for so long. Using her knowledge of attachment theory, Imago relationship theory, and psychopathology, Derhally draws a profile of the real Chris Watts and–just as important–she warns readers that he is still a danger today.
Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link: My Daddy is a Hero
If you haven’t heard the story, Chris Watts and his wife Shanann had been together eight years, had two beautiful daughters, Bella and CeCe, and were expecting their third child, a boy. Shanann worked at selling products promoting a healthy lifestyle and had a huge social media presence. Shanann was outgoing and beautiful, and featured her family in her videos, giving the impression of the perfect family living the perfect life. And perhaps it was – until it wasn’t. In 2018, Chris murdered his pregnant wife and their two daughters, initially making a poor attempt to make it appear than Shanann had taken the children and left him.
The majority of MY DADDY IS A HERO, about the first sixty percent, deals with a retelling of the story. While I’ve watched all the documentaries, there is still much detail included in the book that I hadn’t seen before. The author made a thorough review of all the police records, interviews, and other publications which tell this sad story. I felt this fleshing out of all the details, including extended family relationships, as well as input from friends and acquaintances really provided a better picture of the Watts family.
After outlining all the known facts about the case, author Lena Derhally, delves into discussing the different types of mental illnesses / conditions which are common in murderers. Was Chris Watts a psychopath? A sociopath? A narcissist? A combination of these? Or did he just snap? While the author admittedly did not interview Chris Watts personally, she viewed all his video police interviews and news videos to come to her determination, even discussing with other experts to try to make an accurate analysis. Her research was extensive, and it shows.
Lena Derhally has said that her purpose was to try to find if there were any signs foretelling what Chris Watts intended to do, and then, hopefully, averting a future tragedy like this one. MY DADDY IS A HERO is a well researched and compelling book. I think readers who are intrigued by true crime stories will find the first portion especially captivating due to the extensive details of the story. The analysis will appeal more to those who seek motivation and reasoning behind a seemingly baffling crime. The book held my attention and interest all the way through, and I recommend it to those readers who were transfixed, as I was, by this horrific crime. ~Rose
(Note: I believe all of the true crime networks have featured this high profile case, and Lifetime network even aired a movie about it. They share much of the same video footage, but all are well worth watching.)