In audio of the Aug. 16 interview released Thursday and obtained by PEOPLE, Nichol Kessinger tells police she believes the Watts’ finances were the biggest factor in his crimes, but said her relationship with Watts might have “accelerated the process.”
She says a lot of people might blame her, believing she was the catalyst for the slayings, but she adds, “I legitimately think his cheese was sliding off his cracker long before he met me,” says Kessinger.
According to nearly 2,000 documents released by Colorado prosecutors earlier this month, Kessinger did a Google Search for “Did people hate Amber Frey?” — referencing the woman who was having an affair with infamous killer Scott Peterson, who murdered his wife, Laci, and their unborn child in 2002.
Kessinger’s internet searches also included queries about a book deal Frey obtained, along with Frey’s net worth, according to the documents.
Kessinger says she never saw Watts — who is now serving multiple life sentences without parole for the murders of wife Shanann, 34, and their daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3 — wearing his wedding ring, and said she was endeared by the fact that he was a father.
“I thought it was cute he was a dad,” Kessinger says, adding that whenever Watts spoke of the girls, he did so excitedly. In time, Watts revealed he was married, but assured Kessinger he was in the midst of separating from Shanann.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
According to Kessinger, nothing Watts did or said raised any red flags with her. She tells police that Watts was “never hostile.” When he spoke about Shanann and his efforts to make their marriage work, “it was never anything aggressive … it was still very kind,” she says.
Watts was arrested on Aug. 15 — two days after the killings.
The day before he was detained, Watts gave an interview to a local news station, pleading for his family’s safe return.
The three bodies were recovered from a remote oil site owned by the petroleum company that employed Watts at the time of the killings. The girls, who’d been smothered by Watts’ bare hands, were found stuffed in oil tanks, while Shanann, who’d been strangled, was buried in a shallow grave.
Kessinger has said she reached out to the police before Watts’ arrest when after seeing reports that Shanann was pregnant, which exposed Watts’ many lies.
In the newly-released audio, she tells police she was in Watts’ home twice over this past summer, while Shanann and the girls were visiting relatives in North Carolina. She recalls seeing a framed picture of the family and says it confused her.
“I took a step back and was like, ‘This man has a gorgeous house, he has beautiful babies, he has a beautiful wife, he has an awesome job, like … why would he want to leave this?'”
Kessinger tells police she thought she had a lot in common with Watts, including their shared interests in fitness and nutrition.
Before Watts was sentenced last week, he pleaded guilty to the three killings. As part of his plea agreement, he avoided the death penalty.
In the audio, Kessinger tells police she deleted all of the “raunchy” texts and pictures she’d exchanged with Watts from her phone because she was now “grossed out by him.”