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

“Shan’ann had no defensive wounds…” But if she was murdered in her bed, there’s a problem. Can you see what it is?

The premise in the TWO FACE trilogy has been:

  1. The triple murders were all premeditated.
  2. The children were murdered first.
  3. Shan’ann wasn’t murdered in her bed – she never made it up the stairs.

But the trilogy was written months before the Discovery Documents came out. The trilogy was written before it emerged what clothes Shan’ann was buried in, or the 02:30 credit card purchase, or the stains on the sheets dumped into the trash were revealed.


So do the scenarios presented in the first three books still hold up now that we’ve seen the inside of the house in vivid video detail? Thanks to the latest release of evidence, we’ve been able to see into the crime scene literally hours after the cover up was completed, through the eyes of Officer Coonrod on the 13th and Officer Katherine Lines [the dog handler] on the 14th [after Watts had time to do more cleaning and covering up].

With RAPE OF CASSANDRA, the 4th book in the TWO FACE series, I’ve been able to integrate vital aspects within the enormous tranches of Discovery Documents and video and audio of the actual confession. These insights have moved the narrative forward, allowing for the fine-tuning of the original hypothesis.

For example, there’s an important clue in the screengrabs below that shows Watts wasn’t only lying about Shan’ann killing the children [that part of his so-called “confession” is false], but he was also manipulating his interrogators in terms of telling them when and how he killed Shan’ann.

Can you see where that it and why that is?

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  1. boycie

    Bed sheet could have been used to throw over her face and body from behind before she is strangled = no heavy bruising her neck or his arms hands.
    Also is it just me who can see the outline of her body on the sheet in the evidence locker?

  2. Sylvester

    He had to have come from behind as he says, because if she were lying in her bed he would have come from the front, a frontal assault, and she would know while it takes 2-4 minutes to strangle someone that you are being strangled, and by whom, and would have struggled and fought with her arms, hands, legs essentially flailed about. Coming from behind your prey is knocked to the ground in a death grip which minimizes struggle. The way he has his hands too – the fingers are on either side of the throat, thumbs used on a backbone to stabilize or hold the fingers in place for maximum pressure on either (both) sides of the throat.

  3. Sylvester

    His waiting spot could have been upstairs in the bedroom, knowing she would go there first. If she looked in on the girls and they weren’t there on the monitor (or if he had put their pillows in their beds to make it look like they were there) before she could figure out what that could mean – he came from behind. He’s removed the bedspread (he wouldn’t want to mess up that nice white comforter) and he’s got her bent over the bed, face down and squeezing before she took off her makeup. It’s not that she got in bed and got makeup all over the sheet, but that he had her face pressed into the top sheet, smearing.

    • nickvdl

      Waiting spot upstairs was one of my early theories. In theory he could also have let her get to the top of the stairs and then pushed her down. That could also work well in a fictional defense case scenario for them arguing after she murders the children, and she “accidentally” falls down the stairs and she dies, he panics etc…

      There’s a simple reason why that scenario doesn’t fly, she would have screamed, cried out, if she fell down the stairs and injured herself, and he then came after her.

      There are a few additional reasons why the loft upstairs area are not a good idea. One, it’s right beside the kids’ bedrooms, and any tussle there would undoubtedly wake them. Two, there are around 4-5 windows at that level that have no blinds over them. You really want to commit murder where there is line of sight from multiple angles? And the third and best reason…I won’t go into here 😉

  4. Diana

    I, for one, truly BELIVED Shan’ann was murdered in bed. NOT ANYMORE! Why? There’s several reasons, but the 2 main reasons why I’ve changed my thinking she was murdered on the main floor is the damage to the railing at the base of the steps on the main floor, but more importantly, her suitcase was at the base of the stairs – again, on the main floor. Shan’ann was many things, especially OCD! OCD people don’t just plop down their suitcase when they arrive home from a trip, especially if they’re headed up to the room/s where the suitcase would be unpacked! That’s just not how an OCD’er rolls! To try to begin to understand the how’s and why’s a crime was committed, you MUST look at the behaviors of those involved, the perpetrator as well as the victim/s or “victomology”. Plus, you have to look at any physical evidence. So looking at our victim Shan’ann’s OCD, and the physical evidence of that damaged stair rail, one must conclude it’s more likely than not that Shan’ann was strangled downstairs moments after arriving home.

    • boycie

      How did the stair rail get damaged though?

    • Lisa Niehoff

      She had on underwear, a t-shirt and bra. Would Chris have changed her clothes if he murdered her downstairs? No, it doesn’t make sense. Where are the clothes that she came home in? Also, she could have met Chris downstairs, told him to bring her suitcase upstairs, then proceeded to the bedroom where he followed her.

      • nickvdl

        It does make sense, but I’m not going to explain why it does.

        I notice you haven’t even tried to solve the question posed in the blog title, which is why none of this makes sense. You refuse to think about it. I want thinkers on this site, and I want the thinking to evolve.

      • donna marie wilson

        why would he have to change her? maybe she had the same clothes on that she flew home in? unless there are documents that state she wasnt wearing a bra or panties on airplane.

    • Ernest

      Chris Watts originally has his hands demonstrating a “pull” choke in your last three images. Then he has his hands in a “push” throttle. One them isn’t true, probably the second one, because a pull choke makes sense when you’re behind, a push when you’re siting on them.

    • Lisa Pagliei-ventura

      Very good observation and point. I’m inclined to agree.

  5. Syzia

    The only thing with that theory that kind of bugs me is that it’s an open space and you can see that spot from outside through the windows by the front door. What if she managed to set free and start yelling or turn the lights on or what if somebody was driving by and peeked through?

    • nickvdl

      Now you’re thinking Syzia. And that’s a good point. Now take that thinking a step further.

      • Maura

        The police figured out CW needed to get rid of his family (new girlfriend) and that he killed his kids first before Shannan. They gave him suggestions of what might have occurred before he asked for his Dad and “confessed.”

        I’m missing the clue in the screen shots still.

        To Syzia’s point about the open sidelights by the front door, and what if Shannan had turned on a light, Chris planned for this. He had set the motion detectors off on the first floor except for the front door. He disabled the lights on the first floor, waited for Nickole to leave and anticipated Shannan would head for the upstairs staircase.

        Not many people would be driving by at 2 am but if so they wouldn’t see anything.

      • Anna Plummer

        “Now take that thinking a step further.” – Did he not murder her in their bed because he would have to carry her down the stairs afterwards, which would be difficult physically, and could leave traces of her body fluids leaking out onto the floors / carpets from the bedroom, down the stairs, through the downstairs rooms, etc?

  6. Sylvester

    I think for me, allowing her to go upstairs, change, look in on the children (who weren’t there, likely) or to even wonder why the dog didn’t run to greet her takes away the element of surprise and it also introduces too many variables for him that could go wrong. That for me, so far, has been the main reason I think it had to happen quickly, before she was allowed to go upstairs. But then we have the sheet stains…….

    It’s also possible she dropped her purse when he attacked, and being the anal fellow he is, he put them on the kitchen counter, and removed her wallet, and a credit card, and her phone. Stealth, darkness, and the element of surprise were his powers.

    • nickvdl

      He’s a coward. He couldn’t confront her about his affair. He couldn’t confess. He had nothing to say for himself in court. Why would he step out of character when committing the crime?

      • Sylvester

        Like shooting someone in the back. Cowardly.

  7. Sylvester

    Hmm, no windows over near where her purse was, in the kitchen. Window shades, down. Right over where Deeter was below. His vantage point was as you originally said, behind the pillared wall. He didn’t know she’d go into the kitchen – unless he knew her habits with his photographic memory of them. And by hiding where he did, first floor, he wouldn’t be seen, and he could go where she went so to speak, and strike from behind. “I was coming from the back.” The back of the house? Or behind.

    • JC

      Sylvestor, I read somewhere in the document dump that the purse was first found just inside the office doorway almost immediately after they first entered the house, and then placed on the kitchen counter. It came out in an interview with either Nick or Nickole. I wondered if Chris had time (a full minute) to place her purse and phone out of sight before opening the front door.

  8. Sylvester

    Good spot JC. I went to the thread “excellent footage of Officer Coonrod”, something like that, and rewatched the little clip when Nickole and Nick and the officer came inside. After Chris opened the front door (and Nickole has Shan’nann’s mom on the phone, something I didn’t hear before) Chris runs ahead to the kitchen counter and with the camera following, there is no purse there.

    • nickvdl

      Great observations guys.

  9. Diana

    Oh wow, didn’t realize the stair rail was no longer an issue. I’ll read the update. I think one thing we are all in agreement with at this point is that it was a stealth attack. But where? Hmm…….

  10. nickvdl

    @Maura Unlikely anyone would be peeking in through the left door window at 02:00, but still a risk. Of course as soon as she took her first step onto the staircase they’ve be out of sight, and if the gate was closed at the top, then she’d be hemmed in on all sides, especially if he was coming for her from the rear.

    • Maura

      Agreed. Trapped.
      I meant the long vertical windows framing the door which are called sidelights. They might show into that area.

      • nickvdl

        I know which windows you mean.

  11. JC

    I think there are problems with the murdered-in-bed theory as well…

    She’s 4 months pregnant, 2nd trimester. There are only 2 positions she can physically sleep in comfortably or safely; on her right or left side. Doctors strongly recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side because blood flow and nutrient absorption to the womb and baby is better. Odds are high that’s the side she slept on every night, probably facing her husband. (guess it depends which side of the bed was hers, but don’t think they were in bed anyway.) Positioning wasn’t right for strangulation if he were laying down, or even if he got on top of her. Tammy even asks him, “with one hand or two?” since she was probably leaning towards the “in-bed” theory too at that point. It would just be awkward.

    The biggest indicator of how he strangled her is the way he positions his hands when he demonstrates for them during questioning. She wasn’t laying down, and she wasn’t leaning over CeCe hurting her as he said, because he isn’t tilting his hands in a downward motion when he’s demonstrating what he did. He demonstrates like he’s strangling someone sitting or standing in an upright, vertical position. But I still don’t know exactly where in the house he planned that to happen.

    And I’ll stop here now because I feel a little sick just typing that out.

    • nickvdl

      Some excellent analysis JC, well done. To be honest, because the murdered in bed theory is so ludicrous, I hadn’t even thought it through to the point of if she was in bed, she definitely wouldn’t be on her stomach. That leaves, as you say, side or possibly on her back. There is just no way if she was facing him, or half facing him, he’d get the jump on her and not suffer any wounds [and she’d not have any defensive wounds]. 2 minutes is a long time not to kick, hit, claw, scratch, writhe etc.

      So far though, no one has addressed the *actual* problem though.

  12. Maura

    Can we eliminate some of the 50 screen grabs? I’m supposed to be Christmas shopping tonight.
    (Insert Smiling emoji)

    • nickvdl

      I’m surprised no one has come close to answering this. Well, the answer is in the book RAPE OF CASSANDRA which is out now.

      • boycie

        What I keep on thinking about is whether the strangulation caused either a miscarriage, involuntary urination or defecation. Which would explain the change of clothes.

        • chipnanna

          Yes, when a pregnant person dies, the baby is expelled. And, when a person dies, there’s usually A LOT of urine released and often times there’s stool & loose or watery stool released from the body.

          I wonder if CW expected this, or not, but if a murderer kills with premeditation and knows this, they would be prepared – but even then, since most people have never seen someone die AND had to handle the body afterwards, it seems that even someone who expected this might not realize the extent of it and be able to keep the murder scene clean – for instance, if a murderer wrapped the body in a bed sheet immediately after the victim dies, they might not realize that 1 or even 2 bed sheets is not enough to keep urine and loose stool from soaking through. Plus, he might not have thought about extra fluid that would come from the uterus of a pregnant woman. Just makes me wonder about this case with what he had to deal with, as he doesn’t have medical experience.

  13. Maura

    @boycie @DonnaMarieWilson @LisaNiehoff On another post we discussed why Chris changed her clothes, from the black hoodie and denim shorts she flew home in.

    One reason was he could have left evidence on her clothes that was linked to him, from clothing fibers, hair, DNA, etc. so he took those items off and washed them. Then after she was missing and the police were there he laid out those freshly washed clothes on their bed.

    He changed her shirt to one of her tee shirts that she slept in and left her in her underwear. This changing of her top makes it appear she had made it to bed vs. being killed in the clothes she wore home which is what I think happened.

  14. Charles Edison

    When the police asked Chris ways to get rid of someone he mentioned almost every single option except strangling or smothering. At the time of the interview they also knew blood was not detected by the dogs. I felt the police were giving him direction based upon those facts. I also know their objective was to get him to admit location of the bodies. They were trying to “understand” scenarios to put him at ease that it could be a crime of passion. Their techniques went to Shanann wouldn’t do that attitude and your story doesn’t make sense after they baited him. Chris immediately mentioned she had not removed makeup which is odd and sounded as an explanation for the make up stains on the flat sheet . The police had Frank bring her makeup bag in as well, I assumed to match it. If Shanann. Was laying on her left side on the left side of the bed her right neck would be exposed but thumbprint would be in back and fingers in the front. Not a position to kill.

  15. sally james

    If death had occurred just after 2am and he buried them around 6am, rigor mortis would have started and he would never have got those girls through those holes in the tank without breaking their bones. Atopsy showed no broken bones. He stated he held their arms above their head so therefore they were still very supple and couldn’t have been dead for long.

    • nickvdl

      therefore they were still very supple and couldn’t have been dead for long.>it’s almost a 1 hour drive to CERVI from Saratoga Trail. So in your view the children were murdered when?

      • sally james

        Shanann had asked him to wake her at 4am to talk. I believe that is what happened and the murders happened between then and half 5. The dogs didn’t hit in the home positively either, so therefore the bodies hadn’t been in the house for around the 90 minutes it takes for cadaver odour to develop or the dogs would have been going crazy with 3 dead bodies that had given off cadaver odour.

    • chipnanna

      Here’s some info about Rigor Mortis from Wikipedia that might change your mind (I’ve capitalized a few key words), and also, muscles in RM, like arm muscles, can be loosened by moving them several times without breaking bones or damaging joints.

      “Starting between two and six hours following death, rigor mortis BEGINS with the eyelids, neck, and jaw. The sequence may be due to different lactic acid levels among different muscles, which is directly related to the difference in glycogen levels and different types of muscle fibers.

      Rigor mortis then spreads to the other muscles, including the internal organs, within the next four to six hours. The onset of rigor mortis is affected by the individual’s AGE, sex, physical condition, and muscular build. Rigor mortis may not be perceivable in many infant and CHILD corpses due to their smaller muscle mass.”

  16. Markus

    Good god. You’ve written four books on this case already? Making the case for premeditation so as to appeals to the tens of thousands of women obsessed and traumatized by the idea that CW was a narcissistic cold blooded monster killer? Brilliant. Just brilliant.

    I find it impossible to believe that anyone would pick that time and place to kill her. The murder of Shannann has to be impulsive. Then once the anger abates, he realizes he has a dead woman in his bed and he’s going to prison for murder unless he can make her body disappear. He thinks that through for a minute, remembers the cameras that his neighbor has surrounding his house and realizes there only way to make his wife vanish is to make his kids vanish at the same time. That, plus the fear that his kids will grow up to know him only as the man who murdered their mommy, is enough to get him to do the unthinkable: murder his kids. And then make the whole family “disappear.”

    No one would every choose this time and place to kill their family, unless they either didn’t care about getting caught or they were winging it, trying to cover up the crime in a panic.

  17. Nick

    The muder was impulsive….>>> Are you new to true crime in general or just this case?

  18. chipnanna

    Is the clue in the screengrabs of the actual problem of her being murdered while in bed the fact that Chris has his fingers curled in one screengrab like he’s coming from behind like he said, then after seeing the woman lay her hands more flat, he changed the way he held his hands out, more like he was coming at her from the front?

    OR, does the fact that CW wears glasses have anything to do with it? As in how he would come at her due to the fact that he wears glasses and that she could cause them to break or cause wounds to his eye area from hitting him or elbowing him causing his glasses to push into his face?

    OR, would he not plan to murder her while she was in bed because of either the fact that he’d have to carry her downstairs, or because it wouldve caused a mess on the bed that would’ve went not just through the sheets, but likely would’ve soiled the mattress pad too, which was still on the bed later that day?

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