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

The Suitcase At the Bottom of the Stairs

Shan’ann’s suitcase at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t the same as the suitcases she took to North Carolina.

It was a smaller black case, ideal for a two day trip.



Another maddening aspect of the tsunami of coverage is that there are only fleeting glimpses of the suitcase. You’d think the cops would start at that point, the last known point where Shan’ann left a trace of herself from the trip, but instead they’re everywhere else except looking at the case at the bottom of the stairs.

These are some of the glimpses I’ve been able to grab of it thus far.

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My impression was that the suitcase was left right at the foot of the stairs, but this case has been placed to the side of it, which would have taken two or three steps. Furthermore, Watts has left something of his own right beside it, a blue container, on the side of the case. It’s not clear what it is exactly.

While we’re on the subject of the suitcase, this footage provides some perspective of the motion detectors in the lounge. There appear to be just two, one in the corner by the couches, and another set higher up.

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When one is standing at the foot of the stairs, the small protruding wall blocks the coverage of the upper sensor. Presumably the sensor can detect movement above the first landing on the staircase.Fullscreen capture 20181204 200152Fullscreen capture 20181204 200203Fullscreen capture 20181204 200206

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There’s a strange moment in the footage where the officer asks Watts for information about the doorbell camera. Watts, who has been one great big disappointment in terms of ideas, interest or contributions, suddenly hits his stride. Literally. To explain how well he understands the system, he jogs at the door and shows – demonstrates – to the officer EXACTLY where the range of the doorbell camera extends to.

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There’s also another moment that was of interest to me, and will be of interest to those who have already read the TWO FACE series.  When detective Baumhover and Watts stand below the staircase shooting the breeze, Watts initially appears relaxed, then darts a few glances at his feet and at the floor. If you view the footage carefully, he does this when the detective breaks eye contact and looks away. Nickole Atkinson is also in the room, on his right.

We know Watts’ key tell when he’s nervous is swaying side to side, curling his lower lip and folding his arms. He starts doing that here too.

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When he is initially interrogated, in the kitchen, Watts is standing – from the perspective of the bodycam – between the view of the suitcase [and the stairs]. He’s blocking it, just as he seemed to do in Trinastich’s home when the officer wanted to view the surveillance footage.

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I won’t go into the reasons here, but I believe exactly in this area where Watts is standing, Shan’ann was murdered. She never made it up the stairs, and she never got into bed. There was also no argument, in fact no communication between them after she arrived home. The murder was the only message Watts wanted to send.

But what about the Vivint alerts showing no activity on the main level for over two and a half hours? There’s a well known saying in law, and in true crime, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, or, as I like to put it: the absence of evidence is also evidence.

In the same way Watts was able to hide data on his phone using the Secret Calculator, he knew how to outwit his own home security system. The 01:48 motion alert in the lounge probably came from the overhead sensor, while the one in the corner was neutralized [either digitally turned off, or rendered blind with a piece of paper] until he was finished with his nocturnal work.

Watts was painfully aware of the intricacies of the Vivint system because, while Shan’ann was away, she asked him to repair the dodgy garage sensor.

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Part of his dodgy explanation for Shan’ann leaving was that she left through the garage door. His point being, if she’d left that way, he’d have no way of knowing.

Maybe so, but he’d forgotten about the other sensor spying on his garage: Trisnatich’s.


  1. Syzia

    Didn’t the cadaver dog picked up something in the basement underneath the stairs? Maybe he killed her upstairs by the stairs and hid her body in the basement until the morning… ?

    • Gwen

      I know we all may have different takes on this but I think she was tired, left the suitcase at bottom of stairs, went upstairs and changed, got into bed all the while he pretended to be asleep. Then after she fell asleep I think he pulled the covers over her arms, positioned himself sitting on her with her arms trapped underneath then strangled her. This would explain why he had no marks on him or defensive wounds to his face, arms, neck. She was found wrapped in the bedsheets from master bedroom. I do think however the police need to dive deeper into his girlfriends situation. I think she knew a lot more than she let’s on and had been involved for much longer period! I don’t see her as honest or an innocent party!

      • Julia Young

        I never thought of him having her arms bound down such as that. Very good thinking and thank you.

  2. Sylvester

    His “nocturnal work” – love it. In Kaye’s video at the 23:25 point Nickole says “her phone’s here?” At the 27:00 point she backs away from him, clearly distressed, then goes on a little hunting expedition of her own, and notice he’s on the phone but close behind her. Where she goes, he goes. Doesn’t want her investigating anything. Then he nonchalantly goes into the bedroom – as nonchalantly as he expressed “surprise” (same shirt too) at the “oops” pregnancy announcement – and comes back with her wedding ring on the end of his finger. Shows it to Nickole. Throughout all of his movements upstairs he’s watching Nickole, to see where she goes, and what she thinks. When someone mentions she might be down by the pool he denies it – at first – but what a great idea! She might be down by the pool. All day. And without her phone. Between Nickole A., her son Nicholas and Nathan Trisnatich no one is buying his story and it sickens Nickole A. beyond words. In regard to the suitcase, he’s doing the same thing by eyeballing the suitcase as he was upstairs keeping an eye on Nickole. Sneaking glances and making sure no one sees what he knows happened.

  3. Seymour Glass


    I’m not disagreeing Chris murdered Shanaan downstairs, perhaps while she was walking up the steps, and he came up from behind the way cowards do. But how would you account for Shanaan being found in a T-shirt, bra and thong? To me, that says she went upstairs and got dressed in her bed clothes.

    I had the impression she may have fallen asleep on the sofa in the loft area as Chris was sleeping in the basement full-time at this point, and she placed her phone in between the cushions. Once asleep, Chris snuck up on her from behind and she was defenseless.

    This story is so sad. I think about Shanann and her three babies a lot.

    I have some questions.

    1. Did they ever confirm if Chris had an affair with Trent Bolte, or was that all a lie?
    2. Who was the woman who called the Bella’s school after Chris to say “Don’t worry?” Was that Cindy Watts, Chris’ sister or his mistress, Nicole?
    3. It’s been determined that Chris took the picture of the doll covered with white sheet, and texted it to Shanann on Saturday before the murders. 24 hours later, he’s texting workmate that he’ll go out to the oil site on Monday morning, which shows premeditation. So if Chris is showing premeditation on Sunday, how then could the covered doll, as sick as it is, not be premeditation as well, as if sending Shanann a covert message.
    4. Why is law enforcement not looking into NK? She deleted her texts. Her google searches prove she was trolling Shanann in September 2017, almost a year before murders. She’s playing down her relationship as a fling, nothing serious, but she’s looking online for wedding dresses the day before murders. She and Chris are apartment hunting together. She told Chris to pawn their wedding rings. I get the feeling that Chris wasn’t too bright, and was groomed by Momma Watts that he needed a domineering woman. I think Shanann, by contrast, did truly love him, and helped him get in shape. She also was starting to bring in $70K/a year to help with their finances.

    Chris Watts had it all with Shanann and his daughters. He was about to have a son. They could have sold their home, and moved into a nice townhouse for a few years, and save money. The girls could share a room like my two girls. They could have gone to counseling, and maybe Chris would have discovered a lot of his rage issues and wounds came from childhood, and worked that out in time. Nicole should have left him alone as a marry man and a father. She was part of the domino affect, the catalyst, in my opinion.

    Just so sad.

    • nickvdl

      But how would you account for Shanaan being found in a T-shirt, bra and thong? >I’m going to answer this the same way I answered it the last time. The same person who changed Shan’ann’s clothes changed the sheets on the bed. On the 14th, the bed was wearing new blankets. Did Shan’ann come back after the cops arrived on the 13th to make her bed, or did someone else make it?

      The reason to remove the clothing – he could leave fiber, hair or touch DNA traces of his clothing on them, or their clothing on him. It’s also the same reason to remove the pillow cases and throw them in the trash. Though that’s more about muddling information with trash debris [like Casey Anthony did in her car] than destroying evidence. What the cops really need to find are the clothes she wore back from the airport. Where were they? Washed? Gone?

      You say Chris Watts had it all with Shan’ann. You’re not seeing it right. It’s not whether you think he had it all, it’s what he thought. He clearly didn’t think he had it all, and he clearly, desperately, wanted out. He found someone he preferred and he said he’d never felt the way he did about anyone in his life, and he didn’t realize he could feel that way, until he met her. That’s big.

      You say Shan’ann was bringing in $70 K a year. There is more evidence to show she wasn’t than that she was. One big hole in the 1960 page Discovery Documents file is the absence of Shan’ann’s financial statements. When they went bankrupt in 2015, she was the one with no money and virtually no income. In MLM schemes, 99% of participants don’t make any money, they actually lose money. This last fact should be abundantly obvious by now.

      • julinka1981

        More and more I study this case I agree with you Nick.I also picked up that Chris comes from dysfunctional family.His mum is Narcisst and his dad enabler.That’s why he couldn’t even tell the truth to his dad/parents.He didn’t have a close relationship with his parents and as much as I agree with Shannan on how difficult it must have been for her to deal with them,I feel that Shannan at times triggered his childhood memories with parents of being controlled and emotionally abused,Narcisst manipulate,lie and control their kids and often kids carry the baggage and have massive issues they take to their adulthood.Sadly she had her on issues,her OCD and controlling every aspect of household would have been very difficult for him that could grew into resentment over time.

      • Seymour Glass

        Wow…You bring up valid points about Chris changing Shanann’s clothes along with the bed. Very good point about not finding Shanann’s clothes she wore from her trip home from Arizona. I figured it would be in the upstairs hamper. So from your argument, it does indeed look like Shanaan was murdered downstairs. Thanks for the clarification.

        You are also right that it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks. He was not in love with Shanaan, and the girls by extension, and found that in NK, even if temporarily. Lust is a powerful thing.

        My husband and I just celebrated 19 years. I can tell you there is a lot of ebb and flow in marriage, especially the longer you’re married. Your love matures out of the lust stage and moves into a kind of soul-friendship. Intimacy needs to be worked on just like anything else, and sex can be just as amazing as the first year, maybe even better because of the shared history.

        I heard somewhere that Shanaan was making $70K/a year. I bet she could have found herself a legit job, if she so desired. Shanaan was put-together, dressed and presented herself well. She loved people, and would have made an a great sales executive. With the Bella in full-time kindergarten, and CeCe in pre-school, she could have worked.

        Shanaan said the baby was Chris’ idea, that he had to convince her. If true, how do you go from wanting a new baby with your wife in April (conception) to killing her in August?

        Thanks, Nick, for your excellent insight as always.

      • Sylvester

        Nick, there is a youtube video that deals specifically with the laundry issue, as the officers accompany Watts upstairs. It might be one of those “prep” videos for a dog search. They ask if anything has been mixed together and touched by both. Watts goes directly to the laundry basket and picks up a pair of black slacks, pants, whatever you want to call them of Sha’nann’s – probably the pants she was wearing home from the Arizona trip. Of course now he’s touched them. It’s my opinion if he strangled her at the foot of the stairs he would have sat on her or fluids could have leaked out of her body. So, he would want to slip those pants off of her – and clean the carpet area, using cleaning chemicals and vacuuming.

        Also I’ve freeze framed several times the video that see saws back and forth but captures the blue object next to her black carryon luggage. It looks to me to be a backpack, but it would be extremely helpful to see the doorbell camera footage, her last picture at the airport, and also to know where it went from the bottom of the stairs. I see it in no other videos. Her black suitcase has been put upstairs and it’s opened showing everything in it but no where else in the house do I see anything resembling the blue container.

        I do however see his neon orange shirt depicted in the store video, hanging back in his closet.

        • nickvdl

          I can’t find the orange shirt in his closet.

          In one of the videos he’s drinking from a blue bottle. Not sure if that and the blue container are the same, probably not. In the K9 video you left a link to, the suitcase that was at the bottom of the stairs is gone.

    • julinka1981

      Also Seymour glass-only evidence of her “earning” is car allowance she has 800 dollars a month.She also makes a post that it has been paid 21 out of 23 times,presumably she hits some sales targets,so not even every month her business pay for it.That’s not a lot of money for a year. She makes few posts 2/3 months prior to murders how she needs to organize house and prep food for Chris-she doesn’t trust him to take care of house and even cook for himself while at she is away.She posts a picture on Facebook about how she is annoyed he didn’t follow instructions about pork roast( he put two pieces of meat instead of two) -those are things that can make someone feel very belittled. Sharing every aspect of your life.

      • Sylvester

        Chris says it’s his idea he’s sleeping in the basement but I would be willing to bet it was hers. She was disturbed that he wouldn’t talk to her and tell her what was going on with him and it’s usually the woman who kicks the man out of the marital bed. More resentment! Also men don’t move on until they have someone to move on to. He had to make sure that was going to be the case before he gave everything up and as it turns out, he wouldn’t have been able to extricate himself financially and get his own place. He was trapped – or so he thought. He was damned if he separated, and damned if he didn’t.

    • Connie Wells Suitor

      I am not trying to defend Nicole Kessinger but rather then being stoic thinking rather then emotional thinking I am certain Chris was more head over hills about Nicole then she was about him. As far as Nicole goes was she morally wrong…anyone can answer yes Chris was married, she knew it, but accepted he was in process of separation. Married men and woman are best avoided in relationships. She also encouraged him to try to work his marriage out for the sake of the kids and how nice Chris had it as are you sure you want to give all this up? In short the police nor do I think in any way she was involved in anything to do with murder. I think that is very evident. She did delete her texts, photos was a knee jerk reaction as if I want nothing to do with this, but quickly went to the police the following day the moment she got a grasp on what was going on. Guilty people do not do that. I believe he murdered her upstairs not downstairs as clearly she was ready for bed. Did she check on the kids? Maybe one would think that but the girls were light sleepers so perhaps she did not in her mind want to wake them up so didn’t go in their bedrooms. Although Chris says he strangled Shanann in Bella’s bed then carried her back in bed I am more leaning he killed her in their own bed. If he killed her in Bella’s bed then spells out to me she checked on the kids, found the kids already dead and he instantly started to strangle Shanann as in Chris saying he heard a commotion upstairs. Some of the bits and pieces of what Chris said may be accurate while other parts of it are out right lies. One has to sort through what was true and what was half truths. As far as someone asking about Trent Boldt and along with the Tinder gal these are just outright lies to insert their-selves in the story for five minutes of claim to fame. Those two are disturbed people with mental issues. Police questioned and did not believe either of their stories. No proof any of that happened. I don’t think Chris had the time to get away to carry on other previous affairs like that either.

      • nickvdl

        I am certain Chris was more head over heels about Nicole then she was about him.>So why was she Googling wedding dresses?

  4. Duttdip

    1. Shanann had no defensive wounds. Nor did Chris. It is unlikely that they had a fistfight. Nor did the autopsy show a UFC style “chokehold” which would be the case if he attacked from behind. So, I am sticking to the bedroom theory.

    2. If that was indeed the case, Chris would have moved the suitcase (albeit with gloves or a paper) to the bedroom to establish credence to his theory.

    3. Chris might have piled the bodies temporarily under the staircase, and transported them in phases. That’s why he could be nervously looking at that spot.

    • nickvdl

      He did move the suitcase up the stairs.

  5. Duttdip

    Additional points against the “murder near staircase” theory:
    4. Had I been Chris, this would be the last place I would do the act. It would be natural (and most likely it did happen) that Shanann would switch on a light as she entered.

    5. Given the fervent nature of Ms. Nicole Atkinson, I wouldn’t even have ruled out she coming inside to help with the luggage or give a “good night” hug.

    6. Finally, the original schedule of her arrival was 10 pm. He would not have planned an attack at 10 pm when she (and the neighborhood) would have been possibly more awake and alert.

  6. Duttdip

    Also, I think there is a reason why the fans were on at full speed in all the rooms.

    • nickvdl

      All excellent points. So let’s hear you theory on where, when and how the crime happened.

      • Duttdip

        I really don’t know. All of us can guess at best.. Before I get into the how, let me start with the why.

        Chris had developed the antipathy over the last few months. The problem was that he was a reclusive, introvert, submissive character who would say he agreed with Shanann, but accumulated wrath inside. In the pregnancy video and the porch video, he demonstrated adequately that he can say something and think something else. Two events added fuel to the fire. 1) The peanut incident with Chris’s family. He kept saying “I support you..” where as in reality, he opposed. 2) Miss Nichole Kessinger. Mentally, he was ready to bump Shanann off. But murdering her alone would land him definitely in prison (kids could not have done it), and he would be in a bigger mess with child support, etc. So, he needed a story that involved the kids. His major mistake was that he played the “disappearance” story instead of using the “Shanann did it story” straightaway, most likely because a 911 call followed by the “Shanann did it” story would have brought the forensic experts into the equation straightaway.

        I really do not know. I have some observations though:

        a. The 2 hour 12 minutes between 21:09 and 23:21 when CW apparently “passed out on the couch” is of particular interest for me. This could be when the children got killed or (more likely) the time when the preparation took place.

        b. I can’t believe that a 15 week pregnant woman can go to sleep at 2 am and have a conversation at 4 am. I travel a lot for business and even as a man without any chance of pregnancy :-), I would have dropped dead in half an hour. As organized as she was, I would expect her to set an alarm for 8:30 am or so in her phone (worth checking).

        3. The phone found underneath the couch is of specific interest to me. Was it accidental? Did CW know about it? Then why didn’t CW take it with him and dump it in the oil tank? Who shut it down? If “accidental”, how did it fall off? She was not wearing anything with pockets, so it must have dropped from someone’s hand.

        • nickvdl

          See, you’re very quick to debunk a theory, but then you don’t have one of your own. If you don’t have a theory to replace one, either a better one or just an alternative, then it shows you haven’t really thought about the case in the sense of original thinking. All you’re doing is undermining someone else who you don’t know either.

      • Duttdip

        I have not debunked a theory. All theories (rather hypotheses, because there is no hard evidence) are on the table. All I have said is that based on information at hand, I am more inclined to think that it happened upstairs (and “undermining” is a very strong word for any mutually respectful disagreement on social media). And as I have explained, one of my ways of approaching it is by replaying the criminal mind. There is no compelling reason to do it as soon as she arrives (when there are hours in hand), unless of course the kids are dead by then (and hence the significance of that 2 hours and 12 minutes).

        • nickvdl

          There is no compelling reason to do it as soon as she arrives (when there are hours in hand), unless of course the kids are dead by then (and hence the significance of that 2 hours and 12 minutes).>>>Actually there is, if you want to catch someone by surprise, and she was caught by surprise.

          As soon as you don’t do it immediately, she knows where you are and then you have to wait until they lose consciousness in order to catch her unawares. Even in his scenario, she’s awake when he strangles her, because they’ve just had an argument.

          If the kids are dead when she arrives, all the more reason to kill her immediately.

      • Duttdip

        >>If the kids are dead when she arrives, all the more reason to kill her immediately.
        Agreed. As stated earlier. It is possibly a no-brainer if it can be established that kids were killed earlier. Though, the way Shanann was paranoid about not disturbing the girls’ sleep with sounds of the garage door, she would possibly choose not to peep into the girls’ room.

        >>Actually there is, if you want to catch someone by surprise, and she was caught by surprise
        That’s true with ANY murder. But it is difficult to fathom that he managed to numb her without any fightback. Especially with the staircase to hold against.

        A fact supporting the “murder at staircase” hypothesis was her non-participation in the group chat at 02:01 am (did the status show as “Available”–curious. Or was the phone shutdown by then).

        PS: Her Arizona trip dress was indeed located later. It is a black hoodie and a pair of jeans shorts.

  7. Sylvester

    Here is video called K9 Part 1 where her pants are in the laundry, which Watts picks up and shows the officer

    • nickvdl

      Thanks Sylvester. I think the sleeping in the basement was his idea. It was to provide credence to his scenario that a separation was on the cards [and supposedly had been for some time]. He says on camera that he’d been sleeping in the basement for two days, which suggests he started on Friday [the day Shan’ann left for Arizona]. As such, I don’t think even she knew about it. I don’t recall seeing her mentioning it but I could be wrong.

  8. Sylvester

    He tells the officers he was sleeping in the basement when they got back from NC, which would only be for a few nights before she flew off to Arizona. Then of course he would move back upstairs because he says, the baby monitor is upstairs and he’s in charge of watching the kids that weekend. But yes, no where does it say she tells anyone he was sleeping in the basement that I know of. Not sure who she could confide in over that fact – very humiliating for her.

    • nickvdl

      I don’t think she knew or she was supposed to know. I think he moved there on the Friday’s before the murders. This is also why there’s so much lunacy regarding the notion that he murdered her in her bed. The whole point was not to be in her bed or bedroom. That idea – him killing her out of revenge – came from Agent Tammy Lee and Grahm Coder. It wasn’t his original version of the crime.

    • Connie Wells Suitor

      I reviewed the near 2000 pages of documents a couple of times at least. I believe in it I had read a text from Shanann to one of her close marketing friends (escapes me who) that when she returned home from NC she was looking forward to a planned get away weekend with Chris the following weekend. She mentions Chris kissed her goodnight stating something like he loved her before he went downstairs to go to bed. So once he arrived at NC he was no longer sleeping with Shanann in NC and so returning home he must had sold her on the idea he was sleeping downstairs. Shanann by this time was likely clinging to the small hope their marriage could be saved that just the fact he kissed her, said I love you and he would go on a getaway weekend was a big deal step in the right direction no matter how small a step it was. What I further learned was the neighbor with the camera advised to police is Chris and Shanann had terrible arguments and screaming matches next door which none of Shananns friends or family were privy to or had knowledge of.

  9. Sylvester

    I’m definitely on board that she was taken soon after she entered the house. Little Deeter is not a tracking dog or a cadaver dog but I noticed something in the video above. He’s barking at the officers in the kitchen and then when one of them goes into the livingroom. Then he runs over to the stair steps and goes up a few rungs and just even with the suitcase and blue case he rests. As if to say here, here is where he did this. Deeter is afterall, Sha’nann’s dog, not Chris’s. Nichole Brown Simpson’s Akita Kato ran through her blood and down the street until he found someone out for a walk, then took them back to her body. An ordinary dog out for a walk found Laci’s corpse and Chandra Levy’s bones. Dogs have extraordinary olfactory senses and are extremely loyal to their owners.

    Also if you take a look at the master bathroom on the 13th not one thing is out of place or indicative of someone coming upstairs, using the bathroom, brushing their teeth, removing makeup, washing their face. The handtowels are not wrinkled or creased. I don’t think she made it upstairs at all. Or that he was waiting in their bed for her. Too many variables mucking up his plan if he allowed her to go upstairs.

    • nickvdl

      Very good point and good observation. I’ll post a few more photos of your video showing the bottom of the stair area. Did you notice one of the wrought iron designs at the very bottom appears to be broken open, unlike all the others. Also, there does appear to be darker marks at the bottom of the stairs on the carpet, and slightly to the side. Signs of cleaning perhaps, also perhaps a sign of struggle on the floor.

      • Sylvester

        Oh good! I saw the darker area on the carpet at the base of the stairs too. Absolutely I saw that and wondered about it. For two people who take their shoes off at the door, and he’s always wearing socks on the carpet – why such a large dirty area. That’s suspicious. Now I”ll take a close look at the wrought iron design.

  10. nickvdl

    @Duttdip “That’s true with ANY murder.” So I’ve written and/or researched in detail more than a dozen murders. Oscar Pistorius, Amanda Knox, JonBenet Ramsey, OJ, Henri van Breda, Jason Rohde, WM3, Adam Lanza, the Boston Bombers etc. Almost none of the murder victims [excluding some of the victims of the mass shooters/bombers] were caught by complete surprise. Almost all of the murder victims had defensive wounds.

    So this is a very unique murder. We don’t know whether Laci Peterson had defensive wounds, but I imagine the way she was killed corresponds to the way Shan’ann was murdered.

    “But it is difficult to fathom that he managed to numb her without any fightback. Especially with the staircase to hold against.”>That’s because you haven’t thought about it or imagined it. The Anastasia King case is an excellent reference case in this regard. In fact the staircase with the gate closed at the top is a perfect area to prevent escape in the event he botched the initial grab. As soon as she stood at the bottom of the stairs, there was nowhere for her to go but up. She couldn’t go to either side. And she’s pregnant. He’s lighter on his feet and he has the advantage of being behind her, and she can’t see what he’s doing. All of this is explained in detail in the TWO FACE books.

    • Duttdip

      I am not trying to refute your theory. As I said, absence from the group chat at 02:01 strongly supports this. Maybe the declined transaction at 2:30 was done deliberately by CW to establish his story (it is so easy to get a transaction declined by putting in a wrong expiration date).

      However, where I do not agree is that this was the ONLY way to catch her by surprise. Especially, when there was a possibility of her switching on the lights. Personally, I never enter a house or a hotel room without turning on the nearest light. Not because I am scared of a murderer being there, but it has become a natural reflex action.

      • nickvdl

        It’s great that you would always turn on the lights. But you’re not Shan’ann, and she had two light sleepers in the house. Maybe you wouldn’t mind waking up two toddlers at 2 in the morning after a long flight, and then having to settle them down again. I think she did.

    • Duttdip

      None of us are Shanann- so there is a 0.5 probability that she would or would not switch on the lights. In fact, it also does not matter what Shanann actually did. What matters in this context is what Chris thought she would do,
      The local police and FBI (who were at ground zero) categorically stated that they are not sure of the details on the HOW and WHEN of the crime.

      • nickvdl

        I have some advice for you. You seem to think that having a theory is a mortal sin, and that trying to figure out what really happened in an unsolved case is either pointless, useless or that I’m not qualified to do so.

        All extremely valid points, but if you believe in them so much what are you doing here? Go and read the police reports since they are the Holy Grail. Why waste your time on an amateur site with amateur analysis and amateur ideas? Please, be my guest and go somewhere else where you can find the sort of intelligent analysis that sits well with you.

        What you seem to miss is the people who were at ground zero DON’T FUCKING KNOW what happened. That’s why we’re here to try to figure it out. The District Attorney DOESN’T FUCKING KNOW when, where, in what order, or how the crimes were committed. He doesn’t know why either. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

        Your response seems to be “if they don’t know, how the fuck can you know? Who the fuck are you, and who do you think are trying to find answers when you weren’t there?” It’s an excellent argument and thus an excellent reason for you to get your true crime fix somewhere else.

      • Duttdip

        >>. You seem to think that having a theory is a mortal sin
        No I don’t. Even someone suggesting that aliens killed them has the right to express. Since you have written a book, you are vested in a theory. Fortunately or unfortunately, I do not have any such obligation or affiliation to any theory. I am a neutral, dispassionate, objective reader.

        >>What you seem to miss is the people who were at ground zero DON’T FUCKING KNOW what happened.
        Possibly, they don’t. But to suggest that they did not observe obvious giveaways like a broken staircase rail or a discolored carpet sounds a bit audacious. All said and done, they have a locational advantage over remote researchers. Maybe they asked Nicole Atkinson about the broken staircase, and she said it was like that last week (our last snapshot was the Mother’s Day pic). Maybe there were counter-observations to these observations. There must have been a thousand things that were said and done, but not documented in the 1960 page document.

        >>Why waste your time on an amateur site with amateur analysis and amateur ideas
        I came to this site because I like amateur research. One of the best amateur researches I read was by Dave Wagner on the OJ Simpson case. You can find it here:
        Though I still think OJ was culpable, I loved how Dave Wagner ran detailed experiments and reconstructions to establish his theory. You will find the minutest timings and measurements in his work. Without those backings, a theory is just a hypothesis.

        • nickvdl

          I’ve written 3 books on OJ, so I’m familiar with the Dave Wagner site, and yes he did do great research. Anyone who spends a huge amount of time focusing on one thing, – in true crime on one case – tends to become an expert relative to others. It doesn’t mean they know everything, or that they’re right about everything, but it probably means they have a little more insight than average.

          If you do the math, almost 250 blog posts have been posted here since mid-October, so let’s say 250 posts in 60 days, that’s an average of 4 posts every day, for 60 straight days. Over the same period 2 books were written, and falling slightly out of the period, between late August and mid-October, another +- 80 posts were loaded on, and during that space a book was also written. A fourth book is being researched and written right now.

          If after all that time you haven’t started gravitating towards a theory, an idea, then you have no business in true crime. Obviously when you deal with truck loads of information every day, and systematically, it should start pointing you in a direction, and if you’re on the right path, more information will come forth that will support, reinforce and fine-tune that assessment.

          So yes, it’s all just speculative, theoretical and hypothetical, but it’s informed speculation, it’s fact-based theory grounded in evidence and testimony and it’s a research-based hypothesis.

          You as a reader are allowed to be neutral, and you’re allowed to be “blowing in the wind”. I’m not. I go where the evidence takes me, and in that sense, I don’t have a horse in the race. I do take exception to “readers” coming here and remaining ignorant, or making a cogent argument based on a few stories they’ve stumbled across here and there, or a comment someone made that they strongly agreed with. That’s not research, it’s not original thought, and it’s not really fair that that sort of “evidence” is held in any kind of priority. With time, concentration and effort comes knowledge, insight and understanding.

      • Duttdip

        It will be useful to present all the observations supporting the “staircase theory” in one single place. Also, suggest challenging the thesis with counter-observations. Example: If the damage to the wrought iron was caused by a scuffle, why is there no bruise on the parties involved? Where are the blood stains/DNA /fingerprints on the staircase railing? Brushing aside such counter-observations as an “exceptional case” will weaken the thesis. That CW was looking at the floor there is an interesting factoid, but not a proof.

        You are not obligated to convince every reader like me. But, I can assure you that I am all ears.

        • nickvdl

          The books are for the theories and putting the research to bed, and each book builds on the last. This blog is little more than an archive. I do virtually none of the important stuff like motive, family dynamics, psychology, how the crime was executed, what actually happened or any of the heavy lifting here. If you’re serious about gaining new information and explanations, buy a book, otherwise hang around here for all the free stuff.

          As you say, I’m not obligated nor do I feel obligated.

  11. Marie

    The best photo of the iron stairs without damage is the photo of Cece at the bottom of it, from mother’s day

    • nickvdl

      Marie do you mind sourcing it for us and pasting the link the here?

  12. Marie

    I will gladly try Nick. I am technically challenged, but I did find the photo on this site. Cece had a tantrum and Shannan had posted it and said how mother’s day wasn’t complete without a meltdown. It’s a perfect photo of the exact position you had circled.

  13. mars

    It’s improbable that she died anywhere else than laying down on a bed or a sofa. Since there isn’t any bruising besides (internally) on her neck. If she was standing or kneeling . The only possibility in that area. There would have been impact bruising. She was asleep or REALLY relaxed. Makes sense that he probably gave her some wine (carpet stain), hence the BAC( ? ) (alcohol )levels from pathology report.
    I too find it amazing that the black suitcase and that area were overlooked, and that they didn’t use gloves from the start.Over here in Britain, I am almost certain that they would have used at this stage.
    In hindsight the investigation was slightly shoddy on many areas. (Including the suggestion that Shenn’an killed the girls, during the investigation).
    It did the job and they corrected well the mistakes they did though.
    At best, they where lucky that Watts was interrupted in the after work cover up, and the fact that he is a bit dumb. My query is the time table after the killings. Did he dig the hole before.? A bit tight to dig the hole, bury her, throw the girls bodies in the tanks and mend the lick in that timetable.

    • Duttdip

      The lack of bruises, not only in the body but also lack of marks on the walls, etc make me think the same way. As Nick mentions, exceptional cases do happen. But, if anyone is attacked near the staircase, she would possibly try to reach out to the heavy decorative piece on the furniture literally 2 feet away. There would be hairs all over. It would be a Nicole Simpson crime scene. Unless Chris Watts turned into Khabib Nurmagomedov on that night, it is not impossible even for a pregnant woman fighting for life to leave some marks.

      The other hypothesis is that Chris cajoled her before springing a surprise attack. “Come honey.. Let’s drink some wine and make up….” She goes to sleep and boom! However, the lack of participation in the group chat at 2:01 am seems odd to me.

      >>Did he dig the hole before?
      Excellent question, and I kept thinking the same.. And if so, why only one? Did the girls suddenly come into the equation, after a conversation with NK? Or, did they become witnesses? Or, dumping them in the oil tank was pre-planned to evade forensics (this is inconsistent with all the other dumb actions CW took). To me, there is a lot of secret stuffed in the hours leading up to Shanann’s arrival at 1:48 am.
      a. What was he doing in the 2 hours between 21:09 and 23:21?
      b. Why did Shanann end the previous call with “Sorry to bother you..” That’s not a natural conversation ender, unless the person on the other end insisted he was busy doing something..

  14. Sylvester

    Here is a full video of the two canine searches. Dog #1 did multiple alerts in the basement, unfortunately Dog#2 did not. Dog#2 also didn’t seem particularly interested in the garage – possibly because the second garage door was down and as you recall Watts truck was half-way in, half out. But at the 40:26 spot there is a suitcase on Watt’s basement bed. I’m guessing it’s Watt’s suitcase from the NC trip, which he took down to his basement bed where he slept until she left for Arizona.

    • nickvdl

      I still need to find that orange shirt in his closet.

      • JC
        Around 39:40. The convenience store footage (orange shirt) isn’t likely to be the morning of the 13th, although he likely frequented this gas station due to the close proximity of their neighborhood. It’s probably footage of him some time/day prior. He was at least a 45 minute drive away, near Roggen/Hudson.

      • Sylvester

        Okay, I’ll look up the videos and post it.

        I’m also looking around for the blue bag. Odd he would move her suitcase upstairs but where is the bag or container.

      • Sylvester

        Nick, look on the video Kaye provided – thread 12/4 “Chris Watts Latest Videos, Canine Search, etc.” when Nicholas and Nickole were at the house 8/3. Pause at the 39:25 mark. They are in the closet – it’s hanging next to a dark pink one of his. Now I’m wondering though since he came directly from work why it would be in his closet on that day. So maybe the breakfast burrito was purchased on the 14th. Looks like the neon orange shirt however.

    • nickvdl

      Sylvester I finally located your orange shirt. Problem is it’s hanging in his closet on August 13th when Officer Scott Coonrod arrives and follows him inside. It may not be THE orange shirt, maybe he has more than one. If the shirt was in the closet on August 14th and not August 13th then that would have been a mini jackpot.

  15. Sylvester

    I think I just typed something on the wrong page. Looks like JC found it anyway – it’s on Kaye’s video posted 12/4 – in the closet @39:25 hanging next to a dark pink one.

  16. Shannon

    Since no timeframe of when Chris started sleeping downstairs. Since he’s getting it on with other girl, feelings, he thought I can’t sleep in the same bed as Shanann. Once you Feel for someone else it would be hard to share a bed. He slept on her parents coach, when there.
    I’ve said this before, she was killed downstairs, problems right by the stairs as she took her first step, minutes after she came home.
    With her arriving late…via plane…kids already killed. He had to act fast because now his timeframe has changed. He doesn’t have alot of time to kill, move bodies, drive, dig hole, dispose kids and pit stop at store and try to look normal.
    My thoughts.

  17. Georgia

    There’s an empty hanger next to the orange shirt in that video you referred to Sylvester, and seeing as the clothes are all hung by colour group it could have come from next to the one there. Is it a work shirt high vis?

  18. julinka1981

    I have just found Shannan’s last messages that were sent on the night of the murder after arriving home.But it’s not allowing me to share a screenshot of the conversation Nick.This would be really helpful to you .

    • nickvdl

      I think you mean the messages Nickole Atkinson sent to Shan’ann. Can you post a link to it here?

  19. Duttdip

    Not a believer in paranormal activities, but any idea why the police went there?

    • Nick

      Because the lights were on in the garage and they should have been off.

  20. Georgia

    Was just looking again at the broken part on the rail, looks like it’s been pulled open where the gap is. Seeing as he spoke in his questioning about laying a trap as a means to harm someone, what if he lay some sort of cord or line across the stairs there, took out the lightbulbs for that area so that as she advances up the beginning of the stairs in low lighting she trips in surprise and that’s why she doesn’t fight back cos she’s still in shock of falling. Wasn’t she buried in an unusual position, if he buried her in the position she fell, isn’t there some kind of marks/areas that can appear on a body once passed if they’re in a certain position long enough? Would it mask any bruises from falling? Don’t know how he would have secured the ‘trip’ feature at the other side, possible tied to something heavy. I don’t know how strong the metal railing would be at that point and if it could be pulled open with body weight falling force. Just some thoughts.


    what will happen with the house and belongings? It appears the same in this video as the searches 2 days after the first police visit. I would imagine Shan’ann’s family has already claimed items, keepsakes from their daughter and granddaughters. What happens from here? I would wonder what neighbors are feeling about the gawkerfactor? (Assuming there is….) shouldtje home be torn down, sold (assuming any one would want to buy ?) what are the legalities? Where would a bank/mortgage company stand with taking possession? I’m sure they can as the mortgage hadn’t been paid for 3 months when this happened. Such a heartbreaking tragedy for Shan’ann’s family. ❤️

    • Duttdip

      Nicole Simpson’s house on Bundy Drive still exists with a new address (579 instead of 575). So does Scott Peterson’s house.

    • nickvdl

      Typically houses associated with high-profile crimes are put on the market but lose a lot of their value. This was true of the Ramsey house, the Spreckels mansion in the Zahau case, the apartment in the Madeleine McCann case, the villa in Perugia where Meredith Kercher was murdered, and so on.

      It’s actually an interesting question in and of itself. The Watts home, as I understood it, was purchased for $399K but was worth around $500K+ a few years later. The Discovery Documents seem to show Watts was concerned that a fracking battery was going to be erected directly opposite their home, and I believe that construction is now underway, which would have devalued the property.

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