The Truth About Chris Watts' Mistress Nichol Kessinger

If you've watched the Netflix documentary "American Murder: The Family Next Door," then you're likely acquainted with the disturbing story of Chris and Shanann Watts. After returning home from a business trip in the early hours of August 13, 2018, Shanann and the couple's two daughters, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste, went missing. While Chris initially appeared on television to plead for the safe return of his family, it would later transpire that the husband and father was responsible. And before Chris was arrested for all three murders, it was revealed that he'd been having an affair with a co-worker called Nichol Kessinger.

Through social media posts, news footage, police body cams, and intimate photos, "American Murder: The Family Next Door" pieces together the events that led up to the tragic deaths of Shannan, Celeste, and Bella at the hands of Chris. The documentary also explores Chris's burgeoning relationship with Kessinger, and his potential motives for wanting to "annihilate" his family and start a new life with a woman he barely knew. Here's the truth about Chris Watts' mistress, Nichol Kessinger.

Disclaimer: The details of this case are extremely disturbing. Some readers may find this story upsetting.

Nichol Kessinger's workplace romance

In a revealing interview with The Denver Post in November 2018, Nichol Kessinger discussed her affair with Chris Watts and what happened in the months leading up to the devastating murders of his wife and children. According to Kessinger, she met Chris while working at Anadarko Petroleum, where Chris was a geologist. Per The Denver Post, "One day in the middle of June [2018], he walked into her office to introduce himself. They continued casual conversations. She noticed that Watts did not wear a wedding ring, and Kessinger, who was single, thought he was attractive." Basically, Chris appeared to be a bachelor and made no mention of his wife Shanann, so Kessinger reportedly felt comfortable getting to know him.

During her interview, Kessinger said of Chris, "When he spoke to me, he was very softspoken. He appeared to be a good listener." She revealed that Chris told her he was separated, had two young daughters, and was working through divorce proceedings. Of course, now we know that Chris was lying about his marital status. However, Kessinger told the publication, "I believed him," and she reportedly didn't find out the truth until much, much later.

Nichol Kessinger and Chris Watts' relationship was intense

Nichol Kessinger and Chris Watts started speaking at work in June 2018, and by July 2018, the pair had started a romantic relationship. As reported by People, "Over the summer, Shanann [Watts] took her daughters to North Carolina to spend time with her parents and brother for about six weeks." While Chris joined Shanann and the girls at the end of their vacation, he spent the majority of those six weeks at home in Denver, meaning he had ample opportunity to start an affair with Kessinger.

As reported by The Denver Post, Kessinger and Chris "began a physical relationship in early July [2018] and saw each other four to five times a week ... She told him she wanted to take it slow and he should focus on helping his daughters adjust to the divorce." The couple went on a plethora of dates while Shanann was away, with People reporting that Chris spent the time "going to bars, restaurants, car museums and sand dunes with Kessinger." Per People, District Attorney Michael Rourke revealed that Chris's Google history showed that he'd been "searching the internet for secluded vacation spots" to take his girlfriend while his wife was away.

However, when Chris flew out to North Carolina to join his family at the end of July, "he called to tell her that his divorce was final," another lie. Sadly, Kessinger seemingly believed she had started a new relationship with a single man.

Nichol Kessinger's Google searches revealed a lot

While investigating Chris Watts for the murders of Shanann, Bella, and Celeste Watts, investigators uncovered Google searches that shed light on the affair between Chris and Nichol Kessinger. In documents obtained by People, it was revealed that on July 24, 2018, soon after Kessinger and Chris started dating, "Kessinger Google-searched the phrase 'Man I'm having affair with says he will leave his wife,' suggesting that she knew Chris was, in fact, still married. She subsequently googled the term "marrying your mistress," and according to the publication, "on Aug. 4 at 12:45 a.m., 'for over two hours Kessinger searched Google for wedding dresses." If her internet searches are any indication, after just a few weeks, Kessinger was reportedly thinking about marriage with Chris.

Lending more weight to the idea that Kessinger knew that Chris wasn't separated from his wife, People reported that law enforcement "found hours-worth of searches for 'Shanann Watts' and, after the murders, a search using the phrase 'can cops trace text messages'" on Kessinger's phone. Meanwhile, People also noted that Chris' search history revealed that he googled, "When to say I love you for the first time in a new relationship," on July 25, proving that the relationship with his mistress was moving fast.

A date with Nichol Kessinger changed everything

Shanann Watts returned from a business trip to Arizona in the early hours of August 13, 2018, the same day she would disappear. While Shanann was away for work, Chris Watts decided to take Nichol Kessinger on a date to The Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill in Erie, Colorado, on August 11. According to the Frederick Police Department [page 1919 of discovery], Shanann grew suspicious when Chris spent over $60 on their joint account. She looked up "Lazy Dog Menu" that same day, trying to find out if he'd purchased one or two meals at the establishment. But from Kessinger's point of view, the transaction was important to her relationship with Chris.

According to the Associated Press, Kessinger reportedly revealed to police, "Watts used a credit card to pay for the meal. She took that as a positive sign in their relationship because Watts usually paid for items with gift cards, a practice she took as an attempt by Watts to conceal his activities from his wife." It would seem that Chris made a decision to no longer conceal his affair from his wife, Shanann, which Kessinger believed to be a positive step in their relationship. Sadly, though, just two days later, Chris killed Shanann, and Kessinger was reportedly in total shock about the tragic events. She told The Denver Post, "When I read the news, I found out he was still married and his wife was 15 weeks pregnant."

Nichol Kessinger is attempting to start a new life

The Denver Post revealed that Nichol Kessinger reached out to investigators prior to Chris Watts' arrest so that she could cooperate in their investigation. The Daily Mail reportedly acquired a recording of Kessinger's interview with police, in which she said, "My name is about to be, like, slandered... I don't know how long it's gonna take to heal. But I would not be surprised if it's gonna be hard to go out in public sometimes for a couple of years." She continued, "It's like, you know, I'm gonna wake up every day and know that like this mom and her unborn child and these two little girls are not around anymore and it breaks my heart."

The Daily Mail has alleged that Kessinger has gone into hiding since Chris' arrest for the murders of his wife and two children, and might even be in witness protection, although this is unconfirmed. The tabloid also suggested that she'd moved to a new state and had a new job, all in an attempt to start a new life out of the spotlight. In October 2018, the Daily Mail also reported that Kessinger had applied to change her name in Jefferson County, Colorado, presumably to try and escape any association to Chris Watts' devastating actions.

Is Nichol Kessinger still in contact with Chris Watts?

In a similar fashion to how Amber Frey, the main informant in the Laci Peterson case, was maligned by the public and the press, so too has Nichol Kessinger. While web sleuths have run the gamut with speculation as to how aware Kessinger was about Chris Watts' marital status, it's clear she did cooperate with the police. (Additionally, per official documentation, Colorado authorities never named Kessinger a person of interest or suspect during their investigation.) 

Despite her cooperation, the ongoing press — mostly negative — seemingly drove Kessinger into hiding. And no matter how hard she might try to stay out of the limelight, she keeps getting dragged back in. Case in point: A new bombshell claim about her and Watts post-sentencing has surfaced, making spectators suspicious all over again. 

As the Daily Mail reported in March 2021, a former inmate of Watts, David Carter, claimed to the tabloid that the convicted killer and Kessinger had been in regular correspondence, beginning in September 2020. Carter, who has since been released from the Wisconsin correctional facility where Watts is currently incarcerated, claimed Watts said he was contacted by Kessinger in order to "clear some things up," despite the fact that Kessinger has been in hiding and reportedly has changed her name. Carter also claimed prison officials found out about the supposed correspondence, but they declined to comment. Either way, it's obvious interest in the case isn't going anywhere.