Whatever we say about Chris Watts’ version of events, or what he did under the cover of night and on the morning of August 13th, the fact is, by the end of that day, everyone gave him the benefit of the doubt. In spite of everything, the cops, her parents, her friends, his friends, and even Kessinger believed Shan’ann may have taken the kids somewhere to cool off, or as he put it, “decompressing“.
Ultimately, at the end of day one, the cops and everyone else did buy his story.
On Tuesday, however, it was a different story. No one except the Thayers, his parents and a few others still believed him. Even then, he wasn’t arrested.
If you’ve ever watched the British series Sherlock, you’ll have seen how it’s possible to join the dots in an instant, or very quickly. Wasn’t that possible here? Theoretically yes, but it required someone not so much to see into the crime scene at a glance, but to see into the family dynamics at a glance. To the public’s credit, and the medias, when we saw the Sermon on the Porch we knew something was wrong. So did Kessinger. But again, we had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went. TCRS shows how we could have known, and how – if we learn the subtle lessons in this case – we might know next time.
Incidentally a case is playing out right now – the Nora Quoirin “disappearance”/abduction – which is an opportunity to apply precisely these lessons.
We’ll get to the Phone Data Review in a moment, but first, think about that word. Decompressing. It;s an unusual word, isn’t it? When last did you use it? It appears eight times in the discovery. It means “to release pressure”, and it’s more a technical term than one we might associate with people trying to relax or let off steam. It’s also a technique often used in the oil industry, and specifically by operators like Watts. It’s used to bring chemical reactions into a safe spectrum. It’s about safety.
When Watts referred to his wife and children decompressing, through this flowery language he leaks special insight into where they really were, where he knew they were. Gruesome as this sounds, his children inside the gas tanks were decompressing. Their bodies were in a speeded-up process of being converted from tissue into black liquid. Given enough time, that’s what would have happened to them. Shan’ann, too, was decompressing in the soil. Decomposing.
If we take this word into the psychology of the case, it was precisely what Watts felt he needed. He needed to calm things down. He needed to take control. He needed for the fraught, pressurized situation he was in to become more manageable. For that to happen he felt the easy solution was to make his family disappear. His audience was specifically one person, but he also had to make sure their disappearance was basically plausible to everyone else. What he needed to achieve through this was for certain inevitable contingencies to disappear – the fact of the pregnancy, the imminent danger of a gender reveal [which would reveal their marriage was still on track, and confirm to Kessinger if she was watching that he was the father] and the ongoing debt burden.
While almost everyone at the scene felt something was off, they couldn’t quite put their finger on what it was exactly. When the cops arrived, certain things didn’t make sense, but nothing really stood out as seriously wrong either. There was no blood, no sign of a confrontation. The worst “evidence” they found was a stripped bed. Even when the FBI and CBI got involved, although they knew Watts wasn’t being truthful, they couldn’t be sure why, or what he was hiding. Was he hiding the affair or more than that? How much was he hiding? A year later, we still don’t have absolute certainty where any of the crimes happened, or how they happened. Unless we take Watts’ word for it.
A year later, many who have reviewed the case in some detail, remain unconvinced that this was a premeditated crime. The mainstream media seem to have adopted this narrative as well, even if that’s not what the District Attorney said they believed during the sentencing hearing. This is the area that’s worth looking into – how do we find certainty when there are so many layers of information, and so many different versions? How do we decide what information is valid, and what isn’t? It’s a challenge facing society as a whole today. What is truth? Who can we trust?
Ultimately the cops and everyone did buy his story.
Of course by Tuesday morning, when a phalanx of media were gathered on his porch, and then cadaver dogs, it was basically game over. Tuesday was also the day Kessinger started to really doubt Watts, and by Wednesday midday, she wasn’t at work. Two FBI agents were talking to her and her father down in Arvada, while Kessinger’s dog looked on. Within hours of that meeting, Watts “confessed” and was finally arrested just before midnight.
The Phone Data Review dealing with August 13th is immense, about ten pages. When we start to integrate the various versions dealing with specifically this aspect of the timeline – Nickole’s version, her son’s version, Kessinger’s versions, Watts’ coworkers’ versions – not to mention Watts’ own changing versions, well, there’s enough material for a series of books.
Some enterprising souls have published the entire discovery on Amazon, but reading 1960 pages of discovery is mostly about separating the wheat from the chaff. Even once that’s done, what does the wheat actually mean, and how do we make bushels and bread out of it? That’s the trick, isn’t it? Not everyone can do it.
As we deal with the review I’m going to be skipping through a few of the questions I’ve addressed in the books. So let’s get started.
1. ANADARKO WERE THE FIRST TO KNOW
In the TWO FACE series one of the questions I posed was the sort of thing you simply won’t find in the media or on YouTube. It’s the question about how Anadarko might have reacted when they realized one of their employees had a “domestic situation”. They knew the police had been called to the Watts home too. They knew he had left the well site to attend to an emergency with his family. They knew enough to tell Watts not to come into work the next day. I won’t deal with that aspect of the narrative here, but we ought to take cognizance of the fact that a corporate MegaMachine has its own intelligence and security operations, just as law enforcement has the FBI, CBI and the cops. And if Anadarko had its own intelligence, they probably knew what Watts [and Kessinger] had been up to before anyone else did.
The fact that two Anadarko employees engaged in illicit activities using Anadarko equipment and infrastructure, was [and remains] of significant public interest. It presents a clear and present safety issue. In any event, at the time of writing, Aadarko has just been purchased by Oxydental Petroleum in a $38 billion deal. Merger talks were in the offing for Anadarko this time last year, and several months before that. At the same time the Watts case went radio silent, so did merger talks. Shortly after the Second Confession in February, the whole process was greenlighted and on August 8th, the merger was finally completed. The last thing Anadarko, or the entire oil and gas industry could afford was a high-profile trial, one that would necessarily want to highlight the safety of their operations. It was something Weld County couldn’t afford either, when most of its income comes from this sector.
2. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE T-SHIRT SHAN’ANN WAS WEARING WHEN SHE ARRIVED AT THE DOOR?
If it’s difficult to keep track of Shan’ann and the girls, and Chris Watts, on the morning of the murders, it’s not as difficult keeping track of what they were wearing. In Shan’ann’s case, she arrived at home tired after her delayed flight, at 01:48, dressed in jeans, a grey t-shirt [with the word LOVE emblazoned across the front in pink], a black sweater, and brown sandals.
Shan’ann was holding her suitcase in her right hand, and her phone in the other. Her handbag also weighed down her left arm. It looks as if she was either communicating on the phone, or using the phone to access the home security system. It may be that she intended to use her phone to illuminate her path through the darkened house, assuming everyone was asleep. She would not have wanted to awaken the children.
Shan’ann entered the door, the latch was not on, closed it, and kicked off her sandals. Whatever she did next was likely a carbon copy of what they did when they arrived back from North Carolina a few days earlier. It’s hard to imagine Shan’ann would have left her suitcase under the stairs, and yet, that’s where they were found later that day.
If we imagine Shan’ann walking up the stairs, in the same way she approached the front door, imagine how vulnerable she would be to sneak attack from behind. Her right hand and arm is weighed down with a heavy bag. Her left is hold a phone, and the arm is also weighed down by another, lighter bag. But notice how exposed her neck area is. If she was attacked from behind, and brought to ground quickly, her arms could quickly be pinned down because of the bags she was holding.
When Shan’ann’s body was finally recovered she was wearing this light grey t-shirt [see below]. We can’t be sure if the underwear she was wearing then was changed. If it wasn’t changed it likely contained excrement traces. If the underwear was tested, and if it was soiled, it could exclude the possibility that the couple had sexual relations that night.
The initial response to many of those who saw the doorbell footage was that this proved Shan’ann arrived home and “had time to change”. To them this proved that Shan’ann had gone upstairs, gone into the bedroom, and gone to bed. It also suggested what Watts had said was true all along, that the two had encountered one another and probably had a conversation.
Anyone who thought that had completely missed the type of person Watts was, and Shan’ann as well. I won’t deal with the psychology here, although I think the #yearagotodayCW timeline speaks for itself. Watts didn’t want to talk to Shan’ann, and he wasn’t about to reveal his affair. He knew if he did it would be Nut Gate all over again, but this time with a scorched Earth around him. He’d probably lose the kids, the house, and Kessinger. As for Shan’ann, there’s no way she would return from the trip and simply get into bed either in the clothes she was wearing, or still wearing make-up. That’s not what she did when they returned from North Carolina either.
In any event, in a scenario where Watts attacked Shan’ann, he would also have time to change her clothing, and this would be important because in a tussle, whatever he was wearing would leave traces on whatever she was wearing. This is why the jeans are removed, and the shirt.
If this seems far-fetched, Jodi Arias did the same thing with Travis Alexander. She placed him in his shower and washed traces of herself from his dead body. In the Amanda Knox case, the victim Meredith Kercher’s body was re-positioned, and her clothing removing after the fact [her bra was splattered with blood, indicating that she was wearing it when murdered.] JonBenet Ramsey’s clothing was also changed. In the Scott Peterson case, Peterson also did the laundry and cleaned the house shortly after his pregnant wife “disappeared”.
We know that Watts did the children’s laundry on Monday night, and also had fresh sheets on the main bed. He also made both the children’s beds, something Shan’ann normally did.
All of this is really a distraction from the key question. What happened to the shirt Shan’ann was wearing when she arrived home?
3. WHY WERE THE CHILDREN NOT WEARING SHOES?
For those who believe the children were murdered at the well site, isn’t it strange Watts didn’t bother to dress either of the girls. Wouldn’t they need shoes if they were going to be outdoors? If premeditation isn’t a factor in a murder, premeditation is necessary if one intends for someone – especially children – to be taken care of. One premeditates their care in terms of dressing them, and feeding them. Watts did neither.
4. HE JUST SNAPPED.
Chris Watts didn’t snap. There was a long period of anxiety and tension which drove him to “fix” the situation in his mind, and plan how it would play out afterwards. Before he killed his family he already knew where their graves would be, when and how he would get rid of their bodies.
The mainstream media, and perhaps the majority of people following this case, believe he did snap. Why? Because that’s what he told us.
We all know what it feels like when we’re pushed to a breaking point and then we unexpectedly snap. We’re dislocated. We’re unsure. That’s not what happened here. There’s no symptom of residual emotion from Watts. When we snap it’s an emotion we regret, and when we have regret there is genuine grief. We may be confused about why we acted the way we did.
When something is premeditated, there’s no confusion. Watts doesn’t appear confused. He’s already resigned to an outcome emotionally, but so he’s forced to justify himself. While he’s doing it, he plays the role not only of someone who doesn’t know how something happened, but he’s pretending not to feel justified about why we did what we did.
Someone who has just snapped does so out anger or fear. Those emotions don’t disappear afterwards. The one thing someone is not afterwards is cool, and unemotional. But that’s just who Watts was before and after.
At 07:55, Watts is at the well site having just buried the bodies of his wife and two children. He tells a colleague:
“I got it handled. Thanks though.”
Just an hour after murdering Shan’ann, Watts interactions with his work mates is 100% casual, and 100% normal. It’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to look like just another perfectly average work day. This makes sense if it was premeditated. If it wasn’t premeditated, we’d expect erratic feedback or no feedback from Watts. We’d expect excuses and distracting language. Instead, he’s steady and in control. This is more terrifying and sketches a portrait of greater evil than a man who was simply pushed to breaking point, and snapped. It means Watts has been lying to everyone.
5. PRESSURE RELEASE VALVE [PRV]
You won’t find any information in the Phone Data Review about Watts stirring the tanks at CERVI 319. You won’t find information in the Phone Data Review that Watts typically sent messages via Group Me to alert the whole team when he was out in the field. That day, his coworker Melissa Parrish wasn’t alerted.
You won’t find any information in the review about his coworker Melissa Parrish arriving on site and seeing Watts holding a shovel, digging a hole beside the tanks that according to her was “approximately a foot wide and six to eight inches deep…”
The hole Watts was digging wasn’t Shan’ann’s grave, but the fact that he was carrying a shovel seemed plausible given what he was doing. Parrish didn’t think Watts looked tired or different in any way.
He told her at the site that he’d been to a Rockies game and described the game. He also told her he’d gotten a babysitter to look after his kids.
The one thing that stood out to Parrish was when Watts stirred the tanks, using the Pressure Release Valve [PRV]. According to page 357 of the Discovery Documents:
During the course of repairing the equipment [at CERVI 319], Watts released the pressure release valve which caused some oil to spit out. Parrish had observed Watts to be meticulous with cleanliness, but on this occasion, he did not clean the spill.
Why would someone meticulous with cleanliness clean up the crime scene in his home, but at the well site, leave things messy? One reason is the process of forcing the bodies of his children through the thief hatch would certainly cause clothing fibers, skin traces and DNA to dislodge. We know Ceecee’s hair was found on the edge of the east hatch. The pressure release was done purposefully to blast away evidence, not only of them, but of him as well.
6. WHY DID NICKOLE ATKINSON FEEL ENTITLED TO GO INSIDE THE WATTS HOME?
When I started researching the Watts case, it seemed odd and out of place that Nickole went to so much trouble for her friend that morning. She texted, she went to the house, knocked on the door, called out. She even maneuvered her vehicle closer to the garage so her son could jump onto the trunk and peer through the windows. She went to the clinic to find out if Shan’ann had pitched up there. She drove back, tried to open the door, her son ran around to the back garden, then she called the cops. Many may say she was simply a good friend, or that she knew what Shan’ann was going through, and so had reason to worry. It’s part of the answer.
One of my first theories was that Nickole was going to go car shopping with Shan’ann that day. I actually contacted Nickole on Facebook and asked if she’d gotten the new car and she said she hadn’t. Remember, in San Diego in late June, Shan’ann had announced on Facebook that Nickole had won her car bonus beside the swimming pool.
Nickole said at the time if her husband had his way they’d get a Tesla. Nickole also complained of her car being damaged in a hailstorm. Since Shan’ann had been away for six weeks straight, that Monday was her first day back on the job. Possibly in the car on the way home they made arrangements to get the new ride.
But after further research, another explanation seemed more plausible. Nickole had babysat Deeter the previous week with her son, and as a result, had had the run of the house. On Monday when Shan’ann didn’t answer, Nickole assumed she would simply go over, enter the security code and go inside. Ironically if this had happened, if the door hadn’t been latched, Watts may have won himself a defense loophole – that she had contaminated/compromised the crime scene. Nickole could even have been portrayed – or framed – as a suspect.
7. WHAT WATTS SAID TO NICKOLE – ACCORDING TO NICKOLE
The 72-page interview with Nickole Atkinson is oddly not part of the original discovery. In it, Nickole provides interesting insight into what Watts told her right in the beginning, and how and why she started to smell a rat.
Nickole was up early, driving through Longmont looking at a house on behalf of Cassie Rosenberg. Cassie and her husband were about to move to Colorado, and were meaning to purchase a home nearby. Prior to that there was talk that they might live with the Watts family until they found a sweet deal for themselves. Obviously, this wouldn’t have suited Watts’ affair.
Below is a basic summary of what Nickole told CBI agent Greg Zentner:
Um, I called him at 12:27. And I called him twice. He didn’t answer, and then I called again. And then that – I mean, we had that conversation, and he was… She was on a play date. And I was, like – but I was, like, “Okay. But, like, if they’re on a play date, how’d she get them there?” Cause they’re both in car seats.
“I don’t know.” He’s, like, “I’m busy, and I’m at work.” He’s, like – and, because I was messing with the door, I set off the alarm system. So they called him at work, and he’s, like, “Are you messing with the door?” I said, “Yeah, I tried to get in your house, ‘cause I’m worried about your wife.” And he was, like, “She’s,” he’s, like, “She’s on a play date, (Nicky). I don’t know what to tell you. I’m at work.” He’s, like, “I’ll try and contact her.” And he hung up.
More than likely Vivint didn’t contact Watts at work, he simply received an automatic alert. In other words, even from Work Watts could basically monitor the situation at home remotely. Conversely, one could argue, by burying and disposing of the bodies where he did, he also had some sort of remote control over the grave site.
So then I went and locked the front door, and my son was messin’ with the garage door, and I told him to stop it. And he set the alarm off again, and then (Chris) called again and said, “Are you still at my house?” And I told him, “No,” ‘cause we were leaving, but, um, we left. Because I’m like, “Okay. Well, let’s go see if she went to her doctor’s appointment.” ‘Cause I was trying to, like – like, maybe – I don’t know. Maybe she did go on a playdate. Who knows? Um, so I drove to the doctor’s office, ‘cause I doctor there, too. I know they’re not supposed to give out personal – and they didn’t give out personal information. Like, I – I’m a CNA. I know the whole HIPAA laws and all of that. I just alked up to him and I said, “I know you’re not supposed to tell me this. I get it. I don’t need other information. I just need to know if Shannan Watts showed up for her doctor’s appointment?” And the lady looked at me and I was, like, “Please? I just need to know if I need to be concerned, and if she didn’t show up for that appointment, I know I need to be concerned.” And she told me she didn’t show up for the appointment.
So then, after I left the doctor’s office, I was, like, “Okay. Something’s seriously wrong.” So – ‘cause I’d been in contact with (Cassie) and (Christina) all morning, ‘cause these are people that would normally talk to her every day.
Um, I called them. I’m like, “What do I do? (Chris) said she’s with a friend.” And they both were, like, “Go back to the house and call the cops.” So then I did. I drove back to the house, and I called (Chris) again. I said, “I’m going back” – well, I texted Shannan again. Um, I don’t mean to jump around.
The fact that Shan’ann had been telling her buddies throughout about her concerns with her husband is one reason they were all alerted as soon as they were. It’s likely that Watts asked, or even instructed Shan’ann not to talk to others about their private affairs, and as far as he was aware, she wasn’t doing this on Facebook, and their families weren’t aware. Watts figured he may have some room to play with. Well, not nearly as much as he imagined.
At 12:47. I text Shan’ann. I said, “I’ve been to your house. You won’t open the door. Your alarm’s set. Your shoes are sitting inside. Your car’s home. I’m very concerned about you right now. I need you to text me or call. I just want to know you’re okay. If you don’t want to talk to nobody, you don’t want to be around anybody, I get it. It’s fine. I just need to know you’re okay.” And she didn’t respond.
I talked to (Cassie) and she said that she had talked to (Chris) and he was supposed to be at his house, and be there in 30 minutes. And I was, like, “Well, I’m on my way back.” So I called, uh, (Chris) at 12:41. I did talk to him at 1:31, because he wasn’t home yet, and he should’ve been there if it was only gonna take him 30 minutes. So – and by that time, I called the – um, I called the Frederick Police Department at 1:31, ‘cause I called (Chris) at 1:00- or 1:31, I called (Chris) and said, “(Chris), where are you? You said you were gonna be here in 30 minutes.” He’s, like, “I’m on my way. I’m on – on 70. I’m 45 minutes out.” I
said, “Well, I’m calling the police.” (Unintelligible) check. And I honestly couldn’t tell you at that point what he said or didn’t say.
Even in terms of dealing with his wife’s murder, Watts wanted to avoid a confrontation, and waited until the last possible moment to head home. He finally arrived after 14:00, and when he did, he quickly shook hands with Officer Coonrod before scooting off through the garage. He just didn’t want to face the cops, or Nickole.
8. SPEAKING TO THE REALTOR ON THE WAY BACK TO THE CRIME SCENE
TCRS has come up with a term that, as far as I know, is unique to true crime. I call it “post-meditation”. It’s basically the same as premeditation, but it involves all the same strategic thinking that happens after the incident. Postmeditation is only relevant if it can “hold hands” with the psychology of the incident, and what was playing out prior to it. So the sale of the house fits into that.
We see intricately woven through Watts journey back home, his mind is on selling the house and looking for a new one. It’s as if he’s on the clock, but not the crime clock, he’s on a relationship clock – with Kessinger. He wants to get this sorted – for her. On the way home Watts disposes of his own clothing and probably the kids blankets. Perhaps Shan’ann’s shirt, as well. This is at 6507 Black Mesa.
At 13:14 Watts tells the realtor he’s looking for a 3-car garage. And indeed, he does drive via 6508 Black Mesa on the way to his rendezvous with the cops.
9. THERE ARE OTHER ISSUES TO ADDRESS, SUCH AS HOW MANY PAIRS OF SHOES/BOOTS DID WATTS CHANGE INTO ON AUGUST 13TH?
I’m not going to go into this area, it’s dealt with in detail in the last narrative of the series. But Watts can clearly be seen not wearing boots when he first emerged on the driveway. And there’s an important reason for this too.
10: WHY DIDN’T WATTS REMEMBER THE USERNAME TO CHASE BANK?
It’s highly unlikely Watts didn’t have access to his bank account. More likely is that he didn’t want the cops to know just how critically compromised their finances were, nor did he want Kessinger to find out. If they did know, it would speak to motive.
A stickier question is whether Watts knew the password to Shan’ann’s phone.
But coming back to the money aspect: the true state of the Watts finances, and especially Shan’ann’s true income, remains a critical hole in what we know about this family.
Worth noting in terms of money and motive, Monday was the day Primrose took payment when children were enrolled for the week. So if there was any day for the kids to miss school, if money was on Watts’ mind, it was Monday. Tuesday was the day Shan’ann was paid by Le-Vel.
That’s ten, that’s enough. Take note, Monday ends the same way Sunday ended, with a long phone call between Watts and Kessinger. Once again another phone call [also 50 minutes] between Watts and Kessinger is missing [see second last red arrow from the bottom in the image below]. Isn’t it odd that this incoming call to Watts was retrieved from the phone logs, but the 111 minute call from Watts to Kessinger was not?
In any event, the day ends with almost everyone giving Watts the benefit of the doubt.
To read the most definitive series of narratives on the Chris Watts case, purchase the book series.