Chris Watts had to be up early on July 31st, a Tuesday morning, to catch his 05:00 flight with Southwest Airlines [WN 656] from Denver International Airport to Raleigh, North Carolina. It wouldn’t be a direct flight either. He flew via Atlanta. Including the stopover, he’d be at airports, in transit and in the air for around five hours, plenty of time to get some shut eye, or to contemplate his lot in life.
Since Watts had the use of the Lexus [something he elected to do either out of ignorance or in spite of Shan’ann’s wishes], he spent the night at Kessinger’s, and close to 03:00 drove direct from her place to the airport.
Kessinger’s apartment was on the way to the airport anyway, five minutes closer than driving from Frederick. Once again, the dodgy garage sensor not going off that morning came in real handy. It provided him with yet another alibi.
Kessinger’s home was 15.7 miles south of the Watts residence.
The fact that Watts took a photo of the parking sign suggests that Shan’ann did want Watts to take the car to the airport. They could all use it when they flew back. The setup at Denver parking is such that rates vary from $120 a day, to #33 a day, $25 a day, $16 a day and $8 a day.
Watts chose the second cheapest option, which triggered a fuming response from Shan’ann. We’ll deal with that in more detail in a moment.
We can clearly see Watts’ headspace even early on a Tuesday morning. While he’s trying to follow his wife’s orders, he’s also trying to hide away evidence of his mistress. At 04:08 he hurriedly transfers around 50 images to the Secret Calculator.
Once done with that it’s back to keeping the peace with Shan’ann. At 04:46 he lets her know he’s boarding and tells her he loves her. This is Watts trying to manipulate her with terms of endearment. But it doesn’t work.
The instructions Shan’ann sends to him at 04:53 for how to schedule a ride with Uber suggests Shan’ann didn’t authorize her husband to use the car, and didn’t want him to use airport parking whatsoever. We know even on her short trip to Arizona, Shan’ann caught a ride with Nickole, and possibly shared the parking fee.
Regardless whether Watts was in the wrong, or whether Shan’ann was justified in being stung by another unnecessary expense, Watts rendezvous with his wife was off to a pretty sobering start. Where he’d been footloose and fancy free surfing the sand dunes and romping with his girlfriend over the weekend, now he was reduced to photographing parking signs and being reprimanded for “not listening”.
If Watts took and sent the parking photo on his own initiative, then we see signs of a more Machiavellian nature. Then the “cheap parking” image is a distraction from the real reason he wanted the car – so he could transit at Kessinger’s place for a final few hours before catching his flight.
Watts continued to give Shan’ann regular updates. This too was in stark contrast to his behavior over the weekend, and in fact over the past several weeks. Shan’ann continued to give orders.
When he arrives, she’s to let him know so she can record the girls’ reactions. [It doesn’t matter that he hates being in these videos, and that all of them end up being posted on social media].
But Watts tries to be as casual and forthcoming as he possibly can. He tells her:
He’s using the affectionate term often to imply that there’s absolutely nothing amiss from his side of the relationship, even though there are serious problems. Watts just doesn’t want a confrontation.
But there is a confrontation – of sorts. Watts has to face his children on camera, and sure enough, it doesn’t go well.
“When Chris Watts caught up to her, Bella was screaming at the top of her lungs…” [Discovery Documents, page 681]
If Shan’ann’s father’s account is accurate, then the reunion had to be filmed twice. Why would Bella be terrified of her father, or be acting in a strange way towards him? One possibility is that the little girl may have overheard her mother talking with her father on the phone, and possibly crying or appearing distressed afterwards. Another possibility is that Shan’ann may have implied to Bella that Watts’ mother had tried to kill her sister, or almost killed her. Either way, having spent 5 weeks [at this point] only in the care of her mother, it’s possible her emotional bond with her father had been refashioned into a kind of terror. Ironically, this “intuition” was correct, but it may also be that if Watts felt his girls had turned against them in some significant way, he may have seen their lives as “taken” by Shan’ann, and “lost” to him.
In any event it’s probably a mistake to ask whether Watts’ behavior caused his children to feel alienated, or the other way round. It was likely a bit of both.
If the video clip below is the second take of the reunion at the airport, we notice a few things weird about it.
- Neither of the children seem to have any kind of obvious limp or injury to their ankles of feet. [Shan’ann also says, “Don’t run” over the sound of an airport alarm.]
- Watts appears awkward, and despite his Boos and loves yous over text, makes little effort to even greet or acknowledge Shan’ann on camera. [If he does, and Shan’ann posts is, and Kessinger sees it, he’ll have to answer to her too].
- Sure enough, Shan’ann posts the fake reunion online, which is how and why we’re able to see it today.
- Shan’ann recording the reunion and sharing it online was her way of caging her husband, by continually portraying him against his will in the role of a loving father, and husband, but really, trying to coerce him into staying in the marriage. She knew as well as he did that things weren’t going well in their marriage, and with their family in general.
- Finally, Watts hugs and kisses Shan’ann [off-camera], but the way he does this sets off the alarm bells for Shan’ann. [A few days later she is still commenting on how she practically had to ask him for a kiss at the airport].
Bear in mind, Watts’ official version [and apparently the accepted version] is that on the morning of the murders, he had sex with Shan’ann and then they had a conversation where they discussed getting rid of the house. Even then, even in this fictional spiel, Watts didn’t see himself admitting to the affair. He couldn’t.
It’s important to emphasize Watts’ use of terms of endearments to soothe his wife while his feelings for her and how he acts towards her aren’t affectionate either. It’s also worth noting that Shan’ann is also guilty of the same two-faced approach, scornful in her messages and instructions, but the perfect all-is-well mother on social media.
On July 31st he got into a shitload of trouble over a parking disagreement. Imagine what would have happened if he asked his pregnant wife for a divorce while he was having an affair, and while she was still in nuclear meltdown with his parents over nuts in ice cream.
This dilemma would be on his mind for the next week, while his wife and children milled around him, and while his mistress sent him regular images of herself in various states of undress.