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

Understanding the Vivint Technology System installed at 2825 Saratoga Trail

What does it mean that there was no activity on the main floor of the Watts home between 01:48 and 04:23? It means no one was on the main floor during that interval. Right?

Fullscreen capture 20181203 072659

When Shan’ann opened the door to her home at 01:48, did she set off the exterior sensor or the interior motion sensors? Remember she entered, kicked off her shoes, moved to the the bottom of the staircase and apparently left her suitcase there. Her purse was also found on the kitchen island. When did it get there?

When a house is armed, setting off motion sensors sets off an alarm, something she wouldn’t want to do – it would awaken the children [assuming they were still alive], and her husband, not to mention the whole neighborhood.

There is a way to set the exterior alarms while having the motion sensors inside disabled – so they don’t go off alerting to the people who live there. There’s also a way to disarm all the sensors so none of them go off. Exterior alarms will nevertheless send alerts to let the user know which doors or windows are open.

Fullscreen capture 20181203 070224

The system also cannot arm until these exterior sensors that are alerting have been closed/locked.

Remember, motion sensors are designed to alert to people breaking in and moving inside when the people who live there aren’t home. That’s when the alarm is set to Armed Away.

Fullscreen capture 20181203 063445

how to not set off your motion detector

What does it mean that there was no activity on the main floor of the Watts home between 01:48 and 04:23? Does it mean no one was on the main floor during that interval, or does it mean it was disarmed while the crime and cover-up was being committed?

If you wanted to commit murder in your home, and it was premeditated, would you do it with the motion sensors enabled or disabled? Would you commit a premeditated murder while your home security system was activated?

Fullscreen capture 20181203 072951

Fullscreen capture 20181203 073756Fullscreen capture 20181203 073342Fullscreen capture 20181203 073501Fullscreen capture 20181203 073713

From Vivint blog:

Weekday mornings can be rough sometimes—preparing for the day, getting the kids ready for school, hurrying out the door to beat rush-hour traffic—and it is easy to forget that you armed your system the night before. Before you leave for the day, make sure to check the color of the home button on your panel to see if you need to stop and disarm your system. Here’s what each color on the panel means:

Red light: When your system is armed, the home button on your panel will turn red. There are two different arming types:

  • Away: Every sensor in your home, including motion detectors will be activated. Any movement or opening doors and windows will trigger an alarm.
  • Stay: All sensors are activated except for motion detectors or interior doors. This allows you to move freely around your home but will trigger an alarm if any exterior doors, windows, or glass break sensors are triggered.

Green light: If the home button on your panel is green, your system is disarmed. You are able to leave your home without triggering an alarm, and your system is ready to arm.

More: Getting to know the Watts Home as a Crime Scene: #1 Original Floor Plans #2 Upstairs Landing, #3 The Balcony, #4 Revisiting the Windows


  1. Sylvester

    This may be neither here nor there but I know someone who has a control panel next to her garage home security system. When someone enters the front door there is a key pad lock that is similar to the Watts home. When the four digit code is entered it disarms the house. Then when leaving the middle button padlock key is pressed and the house is rearmed. Of course when she comes in via the garage door she disarms from the control panel. I disarm from the front door. So it’s possible here that Sha’nann disarmed the system herself when she punched in the numbered key pad upon entry into her house.

    But if the Vivint security system for the inside of the house is designed to not set off alarms but to detect motion I’ll explain here. “Some employ active sensors, others use passive sensors. With an active sensor when there is an interference caused by a person or moving object, the sensor sends a signal.” (likely to Watt’s phone). You want a wide range so that walls and ceilings are ideal spots inside the home for motion sensors but I would assume that yes, there were dead spots where motion would not be detected. Of course he would have played with his equipment beforehand and known what areas would not detect motion based on where the sensors were placed, or she disarmed all of it by entering the door, or he disarmed after she entered from his phone, or lastly, motion sensors were not covered by the area in which he struck.

    If he disarmed the motion detectors or rather disabled them the moment he could see her arrive and stand inside the doorway I would think his device would show with a time stamp, or he simply knew what areas downstairs would not be captured in the range of a sensor.

  2. Sylvester

    just re read an email from a friend, same friend, who has had three break ins. She now has motion detectors scattered throughout the house as of two weeks ago, that is sensitive to humans, not cats she said. Next time I’m there I’ll take a look where they are. I saw one inside the door jam of the back patio door. Her house is 2700 square feet – massive in my opinion. It would make sense to put motion sensors upstairs and down but she has no basement. I would think when she’s in her own home she would deactivate the motion sensors. Why have a record of your own motions? And I think it’s a separate thing from the security alarm system. And as you said above in the documents, “a livingroom motion sensor was reported” – so the question remains, what is their range? Over to the foot of the stairs? the kitchen? or not. If you can look at the pictures again closely, see if you can spot the motion sensors.

  3. Nick

    Great feedback, thanks Sylvester.

    In a troubleshooter Vivint say a faulty motion sensor can be tested by placing a piece of paper over it for 3 days and then seeing if it alerts to anything (it shouldn’t). This suggests something as simple as a piece of paper stuck over the eye can defeat this system. And that would leave no digital artefacts.

  4. Maura

    They had a problem with the garage door sensor so Chris called the company. While on the phone with Vivint, he could have made sure he understood how to disable or partially turn off sensors since he was planning murder. The last thing he wanted was the alarm to go off during or after the murders.

    The only sensor he kept on was the one when Shannan entered the living room. My guess is he shut off the others until after 4:00 am when he said he woke up for work. There WAS activity on the 1st floor between 1:48 am, Shannan’s arrival and 4:23 am, but Chris did not want it recorded of course.

  5. Sylvester

    Everyone has such good points! I went to the source today, a close friend of the lady who recently had the motion detectors installed. He’s at her house constantly so he knows how the system works. He said when someone comes to the front door, and they know the door code, it not only disarms the house alarm, it also disables the motion sensors. Same thing when she comes through the garage door and disarms the system from the touch screen mounted just inside the side garage door. He said she has the Vivint security system. But he thinks the front doorbell camera is always displayed. Everything was recently done over since there have been multiple break ins – so now not only are the sliding patio doors wired to the house alarm system but she had motion sensors installed. So apparently using the front door keypad or the side garage door touch screen, disarms and disables everything. Perhaps Sha’nann disabled the motion sensors when she entered. When the investigators say “no motion detected” on the first floor they also don’t say any motion detected anywhere else.

  6. Diana

    Sylvester – So following what you’re saying about your friends Vivint system, are you saying when someone enters the home that when they enter the code the system AUTOMATICALLY disarmed the motion detector? Or is than an option they can keep engaged once they’re inside? Let me also put my questions another way – Did the motion detector AUTOMATICALLY disarm when Shan’ann arrived at 1:48? Or did the motion detector specifically need disarmed once Shan’ann came inside? If the motion detector was disarmed at 1:48 then detected motion again at 4:23, would that mean someone turned that function back on then? I’m just feeling that Chris was too stupid to bother with turning off a motion detector. Of course that would mean Shan’ann was either killed upstairs or in the basement imo. Then Chris would’ve started the rest of his handy work at 4:23 when the main floor motion detector showed movement again.

  7. jadenarcissius

    Regardless of whether the home security system is armed, or not, the interior motion sensors will absolutely document all movement that is made within the sensors zones. Meaning that while the system is NOT armed all motion is documented, but no alarm will sound. The home owner, and the company(along with anyone else who has access to the system) will be able to see all of this documentation. For instance right now my home alarm is NOT armed, yet I can either look on my home security panel, or on my mobile app, and see any/all movement within my home(all movement that occurs within the zones of my interior motion detectors).
    So, regardless of whether the system was armed or not is irrelevant, the documentation of all movement within the zones of the interior motion detectors is documented.

  8. AJ

    People are now stating that the Vivint main panel is constantly recording video & listening. a) do all systems have cameras on the main panel AND…. like a laptop camera, wouldn’t it need to be ‘activated’ to record (otherwise be some huge invasion of privacy?) Just wondering, doesn’t sound right to me & was wanting to ask those above who have the system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *