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

Chris Watts: Don’t Forget About Deeter!

As I left in my car this afternoon to do some grocery shopping, I noticed in my rear-view mirror a neighbor walking his dog. It’s a little dachshund, just like Deeter. I’d been meaning to ask him a few questions about temperament, so I hoped [while shopping] that he’d still be out walking the dog when I got back. Fortunately he was.

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One thing I picked up during research for the first TWO FACE narrative was the neighbor at 2817 Saratoga Trail – 68-year-old Cheryle Hallowell – remarking on the dog’s barking being “different” on the day the family were killed.

2817 is not directly beside 2825, there’s one house in-between. Even so, the neighbor said she could hear the dog barking and what’s more, could tell the pitch of the bark changed too.

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When I approached my neighbor, he had let go of the leash and the dog – Gigi – was moving around a neighbor’s brick wall sniffing various drainage orifices. I asked him – let’s call him Ted – about how he experienced Gigi’s barking.

“How long does it take if you leave the dog outside for him to start barking?”

TED: Well, it’s a her, and we don’t tend to leave her outside. She’s treated like…


TED: That’s the word.

“But if you did leave her outside, how long would it take her to start barking?”

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TED: If she had something to distract her, like this, it would take longer for it to start. But she’d probably start after about ten minutes.

“What about the change in tone? You know when they go from barking, which is already quote loud, to a sort of whining and shrieking?”

TED: Hard to say. We don’t let that happen to her.

“But if you did?”

TED: Half an hour. They’re quite anxious animals.

I told him I’d lived beside another neighbor once who had a dachshund, and they worked during the day. And at some point in the day, every day, you could hear the dog bleating and shrieking from simply being left alone. It got worse and worse as the day wore on and grated the nerves. Not all dogs do this of course, but this one does.

Wikipedia also makes note of the dachshund’s idiosyncratic “separation anxiety”:

They can have a loud bark. Some bark quite a lot and may need training to stop…Dachshunds are known for their devotion and loyalty to their owners…If left alone, many dachshunds will whine until they have companionship. Like many dogs if left alone too frequently, some dachshunds are prone to separation anxiety and may chew objects in the house to relieve stress.

Dachshunds are burrowers by nature and are likely to burrow in blankets and other items around the house, when bored or tired. Their temperament and body language give the impression that they do not know or care about their relatively small size. Like many small hunting dogs, they will challenge a larger dog. Indulged dachshunds may become snappy or extremely obstinate.

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Many dachshunds…growl or bark at [strangers].  Although the dachshund is generally an energetic dog, some are sedate. This dog’s behavior is such that it is not the dog for everyone. A bored, untrained dachshund will become destructive. If raised improperly and not socialized at a young age, dachshunds can become aggressive or fearful.They require a caring, loving owner who understands their need for entertainment and exercise.

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Dachshunds may not be the best pets for small children. Like any dog, dachshunds need a proper introduction at a young age. Well trained dachshunds and well-behaved children usually get along fine. Otherwise, they may be aggressive and bite an unfamiliar child, especially one that moves quickly around them or teases them. However, many dachshunds are very tolerant and loyal to children within their family, but these children should be mindful of the vulnerability of the breed’s back…

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What we get from all that it is:

A. The dachshund’s loud bark is an issue. Deeter’s bark was an issue and we know it was because the neighbor heard it the day of the murders, Monday August 12th.

B. The dachshund’s temperament [its separation anxiety] is an issue. Deeter’s temperament meant he couldn’t be left outside when the crime/cover-up was committed, not even for a short time, and especially not at night, as this would soon awaken/disturb/alert the neighbors.

C. Its loyalty to family members is an issue. If one family member wishes to murder another or several, sequestrating the dog will likely form part of the preplanning. Given the propensity to bark after a short period, it’s not ideal to leave the dog outside, and then be seen [during the commission or cover-up of the crime], awake and opening the door for the animal. Given the loudness of the bark, somewhere has to be found inside the house that is soundproof. Three possibilities in this respect are the basement, the upstairs laundry and the inside of a vehicle parked in the garage.


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Since the neighbor from two doors away heard the dog on the Monday when Shan’ann and the children were considered “missing”, and since by then already the barking had escalated from normal loud barks to anxious hysteria, it’s clear that when Nickole Atkinson arrived, Nickole who was right in front of the door HAD to have heard Deeter barking too.

In an article by the Daily Camera posted on August 15, Madeline St. Amour reports on visiting the Watts residence sometime on Tuesday August 14, but that:

…No one answered the Watts’ door when the Times-Call knocked, although a small dog did come to the door and bark.

Wouldn’t Deeter have done the same when Nickole came round? We know from the latch that Nickole was able to open the door, but only three inches. Could she see Deeter?

We know that when Nickole arrived at the house, Deeter had been left alone [counting from when Chris Watts left the house after 05:27] for at least five hours. That’s more than enough time for a dachshund to experience chronic distress.

“What about the change in tone? You know when they go from barking to whining and shrieking?”

TED: Hard to say. We don’t let that happen to her.

“But if you did?”

TED: Half an hour. They’re quite anxious animals.

What if Deeter couldn’t come to door, but Nickole could hear him loud and clear? Could it be that the dog’s hysterical barking and shrieking inside the house, and perhaps the dog’s inability to get to the front door on Monday was what got Nickole to call the cops as soon as she did?

Was Deeter the first one to raise the alarm?

Deeter Dieter Watts dog


  1. Pauline

    Has anyone figured out yet what the necessity was for shutting Deeter up in a room, car in the garage, or anywhere else in the house? A dog Deeter’s size wouldn’t have “interfered” during the course of an attack would he have – like bitten Chris’s leg, or tried to get in between Chris and his family. Yet he was howling. So we’re led to believe he was shut in somewhere. It’s possible he wasn’t, that he was just highly agitated that something horrible was going down isn’t it? If the neighbor could hear him two houses down, he could have been howling and barking all over the house couldn’t he have and not necessarily shut behind a door. Just a thought or two.

    • kouldb

      I wouldn’t bet on Deeter not biting Chris if he was hurting the family. I had a dog just like it as a kid. They’re fiercely loyal. Often to one selected person. And they will snap if their beloved human is threatened. Mine did. And Chris would have known if Deeter was like that. The dog could have also got underfoot in the confusion & struggle. So I suspect the dog was either in the basement, the laundry or the garage whilst the murders were carried out. Then let out into the yard whilst Chris drove the bodies to the site of disposal. Which would have been when the dog was heard barking. After 5 hours. It makes sense.

      • nickvdl

        Thanks for your input into dachshund behavior Kouldb. Makes sense that the dog was put out of bounds when the crime was committed.

  2. Suzan

    Good research!

  3. Nick

    You’ve mentioned this before but you seem to be missing the point. The dog wouldn’t bark while Chris was there. And while Chris was there he could manage the dog, feed it etc. A nighttime crime also favors the odds of the dog sleeping on and off even if he is left alone indoors.
    The other aspect is so far no one has mentioned any barking at night (August 12). Clearly if there was barking at night someone would have heard it.

    • kouldb

      Yes it would have if it was distressed. But it was more likely barking in the time Chris took the bodies to the site. About a 5 hours saga by the sound of it. During which time the dog was alone.

  4. Pauline

    What time did the dog start howling? “on the day the family was missing” doesn’t tell me much. And what was entailed in the “wellness check” on the dog? They couldn’t go inside the house or garage, did they peak in the windows and determine the dog was okay? He must have been visible then. That means the police were called twice Aug. 13 – once to check on the dog, and once by Nickole.

  5. Karen

    I noticed as well that no one said Deiter barked on the night of the 12th. I’m thinking Chris put him in the laundry room because I think Deiter would have, at least been whining if he was put in the car in the garage and left alone for a bit. I think Deiter would have been scared during the attack because they are nervous by nature and would have gone to hide. My dachshund would have for sure. My dog hides if we raise our voices or if he thinks were arguing. He’ll run under a bed. Deiter seems to (cower) a little bit when they move too suddenly by him. He’s probably been played with too rough by the girls and he looks, not afraid, but cautious. I think when Nickole went to the door and opened it the three inches that’s when the barking really started and continued.

    • nickvdl

      So you think Deeter started barking at about 12:00 on Monday?

      • Karen

        I think he was probably whining but not barking until Nickole showed up

  6. Pauline

    Here’s a piercing sound of play coming from Deeter from this “Poor Dieter” video

    • Nick

      Great find Pauline. Thanks for sharing. Notice how disassociated the kids are at the end. She keeps asking them to say hi and bye to the camera and they’re just not interested.

  7. Pauline

    Yes, thanks. I’ve noticed how these children play together in general – not well. It always seems like Bella is dad’s favorite, CeCe gets upset easily, and there’s always the “hi and bye” that must be repeated over and over to the social media watchers.

  8. Shannon

    This woman 2 doors down, I don’t believe her. No other neighbors right next door said anything. About barking. Besides dogs bark whenever, if Dieter was barking, people wouldn’t really pay attention. They know there’s a Dog there. Besides this woman said Chris needs to die!

  9. Laura Weiss Linger

    Dieter was positively screaming to the adults who came in the house about what Chris did to his family. He knew, and he was frantic about it, and he was trying so hard to tell them what he knew.

  10. petecowell1

    Hope Dieter is OK now. Dogs love their owner more than themselves. Only have to see them waiting outside a store for their owner. They sit looking for them and when they see them, they’re so happy

  11. Sass

    Ok Nick. I have been on your site for some time now and I have to say that even though I don’t agree with everything you discuss on this blog this entry is brilliant. As much of a dog lover that I am I would have never had the idea of asking a dog owner about a specific breed’s temperament in relation to a murder or other crimes it may have witnessed or been around. And as little as it may seem those questions can actually give a lot of important information. Dieter’s whole schedule would have been off, the smells probably had him upset, and the noises probably made him anxious. If he was placed in the basement for long periods of times he would have been distraught and the murder of one of his owners would have probably traumatized him either temporarily or permanently. The poor thing must have been so stressed out. Kudos, Nick.

  12. Anne

    A little reassurance about dachshunds.
    He probably would have turned on CW if he saw the girls attacked.
    When he was stuck in the robe, he would have backed out of it soon enough. Dachshunds can walk backward. They are really smart, like about as smart as a bright preschooler.

  13. Anne

    More dachshund behavior. My late mother kept all makeup in the refrigerator. Exhausted, late one night, she drank from a large cologne bottle, and fainted on the spot, falling to the floor.
    My doxie went berserk, barking in a strange tone.
    My parents bed room was upstairs, and my dog didn’t know how to climb stairs.
    In time, my dad came downstairs, and my mom was helped.
    My point is, doxies are aware of everything about their people.

  14. Anne

    More dachshund behavior. My mother kept all makeup in the refrigerator.
    One hot summer night, my mother accidentally drank from a bottle of cologne. She fainted, landing on the floor.
    My doxie went berserk, running around, and barking in a strange tone.

    My parents bedroom was upstairs, and my doxie did not know how to climb stairs. The barking brought my dad down, and he got my mother help. I saw the dog alternate between licking my mom’s face, then barking and running around more.
    My point is; dachshunds are aware of their people, no matter when!

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