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Could Chris Watts Beat the Charges?

Bella and Celeste’s corpses were submerged in crude oil for four days before authorities recovered them. The cadavers of these two children will implicate either their mother or father in their murders, or possibly neither. If their mother is implicated, Christopher Watts could beat the charges against him based on “justifiable homicide”.

But what if no DNA is found on the girl’s necks, and no contusions? In that case, the law tilts in Chris Watts’ favor. If there’s a lack of evidence in this area, there is also doubt, and arguably reasonable doubt that he didn’t kill his daughters.


ABERDEEN, NC – SEPTEMBER 1: Shanann Watts, 34, her daughters Bella, 4, Celeste, 3, and unborn son Nico are at their final resting place at Bethesda Cemetery after services on September 1, 2018 in Aberdeen, North Carolina. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Curiously, it’s been Chris Watts’ own defense team who’ve asked for DNA swabs to be taken from Bella and Celeste’s necks. That must mean they know [and Chris Watts knows] they won’t find DNA on their necks. This also suggests strangling may not have been the cause of death [although it doesn’t necessarily preclude asphyxiation].

According to CBS:

The motion filed…by Christopher Watts’ attorney, James Merson, asked that DNA swabs be taken from the girls’ necks. The request quotes an expert, Richard Eikelenboom, who believes the oil would not eliminate DNA and said samples can be obtained “after strangulation.” 

Eikelenboom also recommended taking DNA samples from the girls’ hands and the hands and nails of their mother.  Authorities separately announced that the Weld County Coroner’s Office had performed autopsies on Friday [August 17] and confirmed the bodies as 34-year-old Shanann, 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste Watts.

Police have not released any information about how the mother and daughters died. More testing is planned to help determine that.

Although the autopsies were performed on August 17th, it’s not clear whether they were completed by then. Since the bodies were only made available for buried two weeks later on September 1st, it suggests plenty of time was spent examining the three bodies and potentially the fetus as well.  The bodies also had to be transported to North Carolina, so not all of the 14 days were spent doing tissue samples etc.

Still, it appears the corpses presented an unusual challenge to the coroner, and may have presented an enigma, especially if chemicals were being sought that had been altered or perhaps even preserved by the oil. It’s also possible that the oil that held the children in suspension was collected and tested.

In the same article cited above, we’re reminded that Chris Watts had been working at Anadarko since early 2015, iow for almost three years. Was he up for promotion after that length of time?

In June 2015, according to CBS:

Shanann Watts was working in a call center at a children’s hospital at the time, earning about $18 an hour — more for evenings, weekends or extra shifts she sometimes worked. But the family remained caught between a promising future and financial strain from debt and other obligations. 

During her second pregnancy and the Thrive years, did she earn more or less? Were her expenses [including the new Lexus and travel roster] adding more debt, or less?

Now, back to Watts’ defense. Irrespective of the autopsy findings, he will probably claim his right to a fair trial has been “substantially damaged”, and his prospects “wrecked as a result.

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Personally I doubt whether any right-thinking jury will buy anyone damaging Chris Watts’ case more than he damaged itself during his Sermon on the Porch.

The real question is this: If it can be proved, and let’s face it Chris Watts also admitted killing Shan’ann Watts, will a jury be able or allowed to make an inference that he also called his daughters, even if there is no corroborating evidence? If not, then could he conceivably beat not just one charge, but all three charges fielded by the prosecution against him based on reasonable doubt and a lack of evidence?



  1. Meagan

    My best friend was murdered by strangulation by two family members. The detectives told us that DNA found on her of the relatives would not be enough to convict as they were always in the house with her. So DNA or no DNA found on these children is not going to prove anything anyway .
    The detectives probably have lots of evidence pointing towards Chris.

    • nickvdl

      In the Watts case Shan’ann was away for the weekend on a business trip, and prior to that away from home for 6 weeks. So I’m not sure the “always in the house” aspect would apply here. In theory either side could use that as an argument. More likely food in their stomachs will show time of death and thus the murderer.

      • Cheryl

        Interesting—digested food establishing time of death—like Jonbenet and the pineapple. I was also thinking about the likelihood (or not) of Chris’s being convicted in a larger context. I think the interviews on the front porch are damning in terms of his cavalierly lying about his family’s whereabouts while knowing his two daughters are sunk in oil and his wife is in a shallow grave. It certainly undercuts his assertion that he strangled Shan’ann because she killed the children. I know this alone does not make a case, but if I were a prosecutor I would certainly return to the porch interviews again and again to demonstrate that he’s a remorseless liar. I would imagine, too, that the autopsy details will reinforce the remorseless nature of the crimes, especially the children. I’ve often thought about what kind of a person would strangle his own children and then possibly process their bodies to ensure their being dissolved by the oil. I just can’t imagine doing that and then being able to act so calmly. I know there are motivations and you just can’t label someone a monster or a sociopath , but anyone who could do such a thing has an inner void I just can’t fathom.

  2. Pauline

    50% of your stomach contents are emptied 2.5 – 3 hours after ingesting. 4 – 5 hours for total emptying of stomach. 50% emptying of small intestine – 2.5-3 hours, transit through the colon 30-40 hours. When CW took the girls to the birthday party he was probably thinking, enjoy it, it’s your last.

    • nickvdl

      It’s interesting that you say that Pauline – do you remember his comment about “they’re never going to get dessert again”…

  3. Pauline

    Hmmm, I remember that comment. How sinister! That and the doll wrapping. I’m wondering what kind of a cocktail he mixed for them. It would help if I knew when they were seen leaving the party. Several hours after he’s seen barbecuing. Depending on what time of day they returned from the party he could have instructed them to take a nap, but before nap time they had to drink something he gave them. Then he’d have plenty of time between then and when she was supposed to return to check and make sure they were truly “out.”

    • Pauline

      I meant “later” not “after.”

  4. Pauline

    Also I think the other trick up his sleeve was he had to say Sha’nann was “actively strangling CeCe” because just standing over the beds of two little girls wouldn’t tell him what she was doing, such that he had to “fly into a rage.” So he had to show that she was actively doing something. Now if the ME report shows that there was no DNA on their necks belonging to Sha’nann then that also doesn’t help make his case.

  5. Shannon

    I read he told a guy friend, he shouldn’t have said anything in the porch.
    After thought.

  6. Shannon

    Sorry, do you think he might file against his plea deal.
    On the porch.

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