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

Who Engaged the Front Door Latch – and how that could have changed everything

Shan’ann’s father Frank believes when his 34-year-old daughter arrived home that fateful night on August 13, one of the last things she did was latch the front door. It was, according to Frank, something she usually did, and Frank noticed this because he was the one who put it there in the first place.

fullscreen capture 20190110 000120

My initial reaction to the door latch scenario was that Watts put it in place to secure the house [and the crime scene]. In other words, the latch was a secondary measure deliberately used to prevent nosy parkers from accessing the house while he was away [including Nickole Atkinson, who had the front door code].

But what if Watts didn’t even think the about the latch?

Does that change things?

There are a few scenarios to consider here, but I’m only going to be exploring one, and in limited detail.

In one scenario where the latch is left off, when Nickole Atkinson arrives she lets herself in. She enters, hesitates, calls for Shan’ann and the kids, and so does her son. Moving halfway through the lounge, but getting no response [and without going upstairs], she shrugs, exits the home soon after and decides to wait for news from Shan’ann herself.

In this scenario Nickole feels she has done her due diligence and does not summon the cops. She also leaves the home without confirming whether the car is in the garage. She assumes Shan’ann and the kids aren’t there [and she’s correct] but without going through the entire house to make sure [why should she?].

Meanwhile Watts receives an alert indicating that his home security perimeter has been breached by Nickole Atkinson and her son. The Vivint security system tracks miscellaneous moving through the main area of the house. Now [and later to law enforcement] it remains unclear whether Atkinson took his family during this period, whether they were already gone shortly before they arrived, or if they left some unknown time afterwards…

In this scenario, a great barn door of Reasonable Doubt is allowed to open. All because of a little latch that wasn’t left in place.

fullscreen capture 20180904 071921fullscreen capture 20181019 233323fullscreen capture 20181019 233528fullscreen capture 20181110 182423


  1. CBH

    Interesting. Of course Watts having engaged the latch is exactly why 911 was called.

  2. CBH

    Addendum: Or having failed to disengage it, if Shannan did it.

  3. Kaye

    I agree—it seems likely Shan’ann came in, then immediately shut the door and latched it. A little detail he didn’t remember, since he went through the garage door to leave the house, right? If he took the bodies through the garage and then left in the truck, he wouldn’t have needed to go through the front door for any reason.

  4. MCG

    Of course, SW latched the front door. SW wanted it installed, her father installed it. SW gets home, unlocks the door, waves goodbye to NA who has waited in the car watching to ensure SW gets inside, and SW then closes and latches the door. She leaves for still unopened luggage at the door (not a stretch for an OCD person, after all it’s still neatly packed). She does not check on the children, they’re light sleepers and doesn’t want to wake them, and she goes to bed as CW is already “asleep” in the basement, as he routinely goes to bed early for work and Has been sleeping in the basement for a little while as their marriage has been disintegrating. CW wanted a new life and his old one had to go.

  5. Diana

    I also believe Shan’ann engaged the latch. I believe the outcome for Chris may have turned out quite different. Nickole would’ve went inside, looked around, not seeing Shan’ann or the girls she would’ve left. You could say in a small way Shan’ann helped nab her killer! Even in death Shan’ann still had control of her husband one last time!

  6. amber (@xmissanthrope)

    I realize this is fairly late but I do think she would have noticed her purse in the kitchen and that probably would have given her pause.

Leave a Reply

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