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The Mystery of the Levitating, Disappearing & Reappearing Handbag

Now you don’t see me. Now you do. Through the excellent and seamless bodycam video of Officer Coonrod – the first responder – entering the home with Chris Watts, we’re provided with our best first look at the crime scene just after 14:00 on August 13th.

Watts leads a small retinue reluctantly in his home. He isn’t quite done with tying the loose ends of his crime scene, and he didn’t expect the cops to be inside this soon. Even so he’s had the time before departing to work, and about 1 minute before letting them into the door, to do most of the heavy lifting. Most, but not all.

The handbag was one of the things Watts didn’t get around to dealing with.

On Officer Coonrod’s first flyby through the crime scene, Watts leads him, Nickole and Nicolas straight to the kitchen, wheels around and scoots off to the basement [to let Deeter out].

The first time I watched this footage I was looking out for Deeter, the suitcase, the basement, the setup of the windows and the carpet at the base of the stairs. What I missed was the trash can in the kitchen and – yes – the handbag.

On Coonrod’s first entry into the kitchen it’s not there.

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But when Detective Baumhower and Officer Matthew James arrive, the handbag has miraculously floated to the island in the kitchen [apparently from Shan’ann’s study], and the counter itself has sprouted a theme of its own – a red and yellow flower in a vase, a red water jug, a jar of pickles and the handbag.

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The book from Amazon is subsequyently fished out the trash, and the sheets and pillow cases pulled out as well.


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The busy kitchen counter reminds me, frankly, of the kitchen counter in the Ramsey home, which also saw objects coming and going during the course of “kidnapping phase”. The devil is in the detail.

Credit goes to TCRS commenter JC for picking this up.


  1. Karen

    It’s so frustrating to me that the officer asked about the suitcase but then didn’t look at it. The dog handler was told about it. Did it ever come up? What a great place for the search and cadaver to start

  2. Sylvester

    Anyone notice when Chris finally pulls up to the curb and runs inside the garage he opens the Lexus backseat door and leaves it open. Good decoy. Caused Nickole to come over and look inside the door as Chris quietly skips inside the house door, buying him a little more time and a quick run to the kitchen before he comes to the front door to let them in. Too bad they didn’t run to the side door panels and take a look where he went first.

    • nickvdl

      It is a good decoy. And not only blocks their view of him, creates a slight barrier for them to get around.

      • Duttdip

        This is where the guy is so inconsistent. He is sharp in a moment, and utterly stupid in another. In some ways, he planned his act meticulously, while in other ways, he had left loose ends like an act done in haste. Leaving the bag and phone behind was completely antithetical to his “playdate” theory. Even if he wanted to clean things up later, all he needed was to take them with him and dump them somewhere along his route.

    • starryl

      He also picks something up from the floor of the Lexus. The ring?

  3. nickvdl

    He’s only stupid because he’s been caught out, and he’s been caught out because there were bodycams swooshing in and out of that house constantly. That’s hardly a common occurrence in true crime generally. Who knows, going forward it might be.

    Shan’ann’s flight delay may have played directly into this error [something Watts couldn’t have foreseen] and Nickole Atkinson’s nosiness, and desire to call the cops weren’t things he could predict.

    He tried to hide the bag and the phone, that much is obvious, which shows you, he was going for the playdate scenario and had made provision for that.

    • Duttdip

      >>something Watts couldn’t have foreseen] and Nickole Atkinson’s nosiness.

      Given Shanann’s extrovert and outgoing nature, if it was not Nicole Atkinson, it would be someone else. Shanann going untraced for 12 hours would be a great anomaly. Two things surprise me:

      1. That he simply did not carry the bag and phone out while he left.
      2. On a more macro-planning level, that he did not wait for the upcoming Aspen trip to commit this act. “An accidental fall down a desolate hill” would be far from nosy neighbors and their cameras. Possibly because he wanted the kids out of the way too.

  4. Sylvester

    Yes, we can give him low marks for his lack of aplomb, but high marks for leaving the DA and others scratching their heads wondering where, when, and sequence. And they don’t care now. I’m glad we all do.

  5. Marie

    Isn’t there a bathroom there at the stairs? She comes in, we know how often pregnant women need to go. He’s waiting behind the column. She’s away from Windows a tight space.

  6. JC

    Wow, unbelievable. He had the wherewithal to place a vase of flowers on the kitchen island on the day his family vanished. I guess he finally had the freedom to decorate his own home. I’m almost surprised he didn’t put a bowl of nuts out.

    • Chrissy

      The nuts came out, alright. They are writing blogs, making you tube videos, and concocting conspiracy theories such as empty islands when the items are clearly there the entire time.
      Someone, or several people, missed their eye appointments.

  7. Kaye

    What I still don’t understand as well is how he thought the vanishing act for a play date would be believable as a way to explain their disappearance?
    —no friends would have confirmed that a play date was planned.
    —everyone knew the girls were to go to their first day of school, so why would they go to a play date on the spur of the moment and miss that?
    —if he had been able to move the car and abandon it somewhere to look like a carjacking, how would he know he could have done that without witnesses? How would he have gotten back home or to a place where he would have a plausible alibi? Any cab driver or Uber driver would remember him once the disappearance was mentioned on the news.
    —in the carjacking scenario, there wouldn’t be any other DNA found in the car—that would seem strange to investigators.
    —also how believable would it be that someone could kidnap a grown woman plus two toddlers in broad daylight (if his story was they were going to a play date during the day)? Anywhere they would have gone on a play date would have been in a suburban area, not the middle of nowhere.

    I can’t think of how he thought any explanation related to the play date story could have worked.

    • JC

      My guess is that the play-date scenario wasn’t part of his original plan.

      It’s almost like he needed a dark haired woman, similar enough looking to Shan’ann, to back the car out of the garage and drive away – far, far away up into the mountains that begin just 20 miles away, to maybe take a hike with the girls, without telling anyone where exactly they planned to go. It happens often enough that people go missing in the Rockies in similar circumstances, and sometimes their remains are never found by search parties. People who aren’t skilled or prepared risk getting injured or lost, and there’s no phone service up there. Bears and mountain lions are pretty common in the mountains as well.

      I think it’s actually possible that he could have pulled that scenario off. I still wouldn’t be believable, and we already know he’s a bad liar, but those cases are much harder to prove for investigators.

  8. Diana

    Sylvester call it dark humor, but your comments about CW having the freedom to decorate and being surprised he didn’t put a bowl of nuts out on the kitchen counter about killed me – literally! You see, I had emergency surgery 6 days ago and I have this very large, very sore incision. I was both laughing and crying at the same time when I read your remarks, they just caught me off guard. Regardless, thanks for the laugh, I needed that. Just sorry it was at Shan’ann, Bella and CeCe’s expense.

  9. Diana

    Apologies – my previous comments were meant for JC, not Sylvester!

  10. Maura

    If Shannan had made it to bed she would have taken her purse with her medication and phone upstairs, even if she decided not to lift the suitcase because of her pregnancy. If Chris had killed her in bed and not staged anything, her phone and watch would have been charging on the nightstand. It’s obvious he hid those items, and moved her purse. Shannan’s office was the only messy room. She was OCD so did Chris search it for cash after the declined credit card at 2:30 am?

    Chris preplanned the murders, carried them out, and cleaned the crime scenes so why was he so sloppy afterwards? Leaving her purse, phone, watch, favorite shoes, kids’ medications and car inside a locked house doesn’t make sense, along with the neighbor’s video confirming no one left the house but him. The playdate or other vanishing stories would never have worked.

    He drove a truck with GPS tracked by his employer. Chris’s timing ignored her 10 am doctor’s appointment, her texting habits with Nickole, her medical conditions and high risk pregnancy and her constant phone use. He threw the Amazon book she sent in the trash. Chris appears clueless that these would be red flags pointing to him.

    In the aftermath, Chris’s behavior to the police, family, friends and in media interviews sealed his fate.

    • Duttdip

      Troy McCoy’s interview at 1:05:30 states Chris told “She left the ring in the counter”. To me it was a Freudian slip.

      Possibly the ring was in the kitchen counter, but moved it to his pocket when he first went in, with Nikki and the officer waiting outside for the next 60 seconds. Then as they went up, he came out from the bedroom with the ring. This supports the theory that she was killed downstairs and the ring and purse were kept in the same place before the ring was moved.

  11. Sarah Dobrovolny

    Has the red water jug been explained? I didn’t see him come back from work with the water jug yet he had told the police that he had gone downstairs and fixed a water jug to go to work.

    Phone charger seemed to be placed hapazardly in purse. Maybe because they were searching through the purse.

    Lastly, and least of real importance, where did homemade jar of pickles come from and why near flowers. I remember video of Cece throwing pickle in trash. She hated the taste.

  12. raindrops

    Do you mean these items were planted?

  13. Chris

    In the second video I do not know if you have noticed put the look that launches a nikol

  14. Chrissy

    Officer Coonrod is not a first responder. A first responder is a paramedic. Officer Coonrod was the first officer “responding” to the dispatched call for a wellness check. We even hear Officer Coonrod radio dispatch for them to “stage medic” in the event he were to need them and an ambulance. I know you’re a stickler for “accuracy”

    • nickvdl

      Officer Coonrod is not a first responder. Officer Coonrod was the first officer “responding” to the dispatched call for a wellness check.>>>Aahh. Yes, these are serious inaccuracies.

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