True Crime Analysis, Breakthroughs, Insights & Discussions Hosted by Bestselling Author Nick van der Leek

Why did Chris Watts change the time of the argument from 5am to 4am?

Murder suspects go the extra mile to hide myriad details around their diabolical deeds. When they make voluntary disclosures, what are we to make of them?

An example of one of these disclosures is the fine-tuning of Chris Watts’ timeline, moving his “emotional discussion” with Shan’ann from 05:00 backwards in time by a full hour to 04:00.

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If your answer is that he shifted the timeline because he realized he needed more time, think again. Why wouldn’t +-27 minutes be enough time to carry two little girls to his car, and then Shan’ann, and drive off?

In theory it could take 20-30 minutes to have their conversation and commit the murders, 2 minutes to move the car into position and 5 minutes to load his victims. If all three victims were murdered in short succession of one another, why the need for an extra hour?

The point to this question isn’t the shifting of the timelines at all, but why he started with 05:00 to begin with? In addition to this, Chris Watts’ disclosure wasn’t completely voluntary either. A murder suspect must hang his hat on a particular version of events, so when he was asked when was the last time you saw Shan’ann, he had to have a version!

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But why start with 5?

We find the answer not by projecting ourselves or our thoughts onto this case, but by interrogating and intuiting Chris Watts’ thoughts. The first aspect he has to deal with is plausible deniability. Shan’ann arrives home late at night and ends up dead early in the morning. The question then becomes – where were you and what were you doing the whole time?

If Chris Watts pushes their conversation out to 05:00, then what he’s suggesting is that he and she were harmlessly and innocently both asleep, at least between 02:00 and 05:00. Three hours isn’t much, but it’s better than being awake for that period and doing…well…who knows what, and having to explain what he was doing for three whole hours in the dead of night.

Also, the shorter the space of time the shorter the “violence” of the argument.

For the same reason, Chris Watts wouldn’t want to concede that the argument with Shan’ann occurred at 04:00 if he didn’t have to. Between 02:00 and 04:00 is just two hours. But in this version, well, now there’s a suggestion that maybe they didn’t go sleep at all. Maybe one or both of them were awake throughout all those critical hours?

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The changing of his story also had to do with information coming through from other sources. So for example, he didn’t leave at 05:15 as he initially claimed, but more than 12 minutes later after 05:27. In this sense his “volunteering” of information isn’t quite as voluntary as it seems.

So at the same time that he’s pushing the timeline back to 04:00, he’s also pushing his departure time back by at least twelve minutes.  He may have done the latter to make his late departure on August 13th not seem quite so late and beyond the norm after all. In other words, the emotional conversation was what delayed him, not the murder, cover-up and loading of bodies.

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Once the surveillance footage is integrated into his version [in terms of Shan’ann and the kids never leaving the house alive], then he must integrate that aspect into his departure.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s 05:00 or 04:00 though, neither time is correct, but the change to 04:00 does volunteer that in Chris Watts’ mind, various events needed time to play out. According to Chris Watts it took three minutes shy of 100 minutes [60 + 37] for the three murders to happen.

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In TWO FACE I make the case why the crime at Saratoga Trail took three hours to play out at least, but possibly – probably? – twice as long or even longer.*


*If the duration of the crime scene at Saratoga Trail was six hours from beginning to end, and the crime ended with his departure at 05:27, then it started at 23:27. If nine hours, then the murders began on August 12th from approximately 21:00 onward. If twelve hours, then the murders started at around 18:00, presumably close to the time Chris Watts was barbecuing on his balcony.


  1. Marie

    What’s interesting is, right, these are timelines that he’s crafted to fit his stories. So, we look at his original tale that there was an emotional “conversation” that took place for 15mins-20mins right in the morning when he’s about to leave for work. Let’s follow the breadcrumbs to why this may make sense for him. In the beginning he is attempting to create the appearance that “I wasn’t there, we left on an emotional note, but things were civil” leading everyone (hopefully in his mind) to assume she left with the kids because of this conversation. Now, first off, he was trying to push the suspicion off of himself, so I imagine he was trying to limit the amount of wake time together. Though, who would ever believe a conversation about separating after 6 years of marriage with two children and another on the way, would end in 20 minutes on good terms?

  2. Marie

    Yes, we know that’s not true now, but that’s what he wanted everyone to believe. I think the back peddling took place because he changed his story to blame Shan’ann, thinking the argument would have needed to start earlier to allow time to escalate to the point of rage and murder (in this new story on her part and then on his). And, who comes back from a week trip after a delayed flight, sleeps for 2 hrs and then gets woken up (or wakes up) for a talk about separating? If there was any emotional conversation at all, and that’s a big “if”, it didn’t happen at 4am. I doubt anyone was ever sleeping. Because, let’s assume there was a conversation at 4am (which is doubtful)…

  3. Marie

    …if she started it knowing about the affair there is no way she slept for 2 hours after returning home. And, if he started the conversation (at 4am like he says and things escalated) why would anyone wake someone up after 2hrs of sleep to tell them they want a divorce? Which leads me immediately to believe it’s all just totally fabricated.

  4. Pauline

    I’d be interested to know, and of course I’ll never know, if his dad helped him come up with his new and improved story.

  5. Pauline

    Nick, I hope you help us with some other questions in the next book or on-going discussions. 1. Where do you think the girls were killed (bed, basement, elsewhere) 2. If you believe they were sedated first 3. If they were killed in separate locations (looks to me like CeCe’s crib is in the bedroom where Bella slept) 4. If he loaded them in the truck before Sha’nann arrived home and 5. How long that took and 6. If he killed the girls around 18:00 (6 p.m.) what was he doing from the time he completed that task and 2 a.m. – watching a little television? taking a nap? Also around 6 p.m. they would not have been getting ready for bed which leads me to think he could have sedated them first, or killed them someplace other than their beds. The autopsies will let us know if they had drugs in their systems.

    • nickvdl

      Good questions Pauline. My latest post broaches the topic somewhat. I do believe they were sedated. It remains to be seen whether the autopsies confirm this. It’s also unclear if they were sedated, what impact submersion for several days in oil would have on the chemicals in their system. One can also see how the oil’s role may be to muddy the evidence of chemicals placed inside their bodies, causing their deaths. The length of time it took to find and recover the children also suggests – to my mind – something happened to the children that didn’t happen to their mother. One might say they received “special” treatment. All of this is a hunch.

  6. Debi Robbins

    6 to 630pm was the girls usual bedtime

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