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

Ready for a Chris Watts Magic Trick?

Keep an eye on the loft railing in the video clip below [move the slider to approximately 22:48]. Watts doesn’t appear to have Shan’ann’s phone in either of his hands.

Coonrod then enters both of the children’s bedrooms. When he turns Shan’ann’s phone is suddenly right there on the railing.

Who put it there? And why not hand it directly to the police officer?

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  1. Georgia

    Any idea how hot it would have been at that time? He’s in a long sleeve top/sweater but all the fans are going upstairs.

    • nickvdl

      August 13 was about 85 F at 14:12.

      • Georgia

        Thanks NIck. That’s hot to have that big ole jumper on what’s he hiding under there.

    • CBH

      I had wondered about that because I knew it was August. What do you suppose he was hiding?

    • caseykaufman6922

      I’ve brought this up as well – the long sleeve wearing during hot August. Someone told me that it would be abnormal if he WASN’T wearing long sleeves due to his nature of work. I should have delved deeper but just assumed that meant long sleeves for safety/skin protection. Still not aware if 1. That is true for his line of work and 2. He normally abided by that. Both of which probably would have been helpful of me to ask. Anyone know?

      • Ralph Oscar

        Let’s not forget that he supposedly left the house in that long-sleeved shirt at, like, 5 AM – before dawn. It was likely much colder than 85 degrees at that point. He was heading out to do work outside in the pre-dawn outdoors – was it breezy that day? Because at night, it could easily have gotten down below 60 degrees and, with any wind, long sleeves would have been the sensible choice.

        Now, given Orange Shirt Guy, if that was CW as well, it suggests changes of clothing during the day as he goes through the various tasks on his to-do list. It might have been clever to choose the long-sleeved shirt as his take-away outfit even if he put it on *last*, when the temperature was climbing, because arriving home after lunchtime wearing that would be consistent with the “This is what I was wearing when I left the house before dawn” narrative that he would have been presenting.

      • Squirrel

        It’s completely normal for anyone working outside around here. To not have on long sleeves would be abnormal. I work for a contractor (based across the highway from the crime scene) and our guys wear long sleeves year round for sun, chemical, scratch, and bug protection. Not only do they prefer it, but we, and most other contractors, require it. Our guys often even wear fleece hoodies over their shirts to make them sweat more and give them more sun protection, even in the hottest days of summer. In the oil & gas industry, I’m actually surprised that he’s not required to wear full fire-resistant coveralls which are even thicker and heavier than what he’s wearing.

    • Ralph Oscar

      Given that the girls both had respiratory problems, it’s very likely that the A/C was going 24/7. So it may have been cool enough in the house for him to wear a long-sleeved T-shirt and still be comfortable.

      BTW, this angle – the girls’ fragility – could explain the compulsive cleaning we’ve seen CW engaging in (and being praised for by SW) and the perpetual “model home” look to their living space.

      • laralovesandrew

        It’s ironic that doctors now say having a pet and not sanitizing everything in sight is better for kids with allergies and asthma than a hospital grade clean.

  2. Mustang Sally

    I asked someone to watch this video with me who knows nothing (or very little) about this case, as I was curious what his perspective would be as he is a sheriff deputy. Indulging me as the good person he is, he immediately pointed out something Pam had already picked up on…summarized, his conversation from the point Nick marked the video is as follows:

    “Hear that? He just cancelled his request for original backup and is now requesting the homicide team for backup. Something suddenly clued the officer into something significant and he is now keeping his suspect under close video surveillance. Notice how he was looking randomly before but is now only focused on that guy? That’s his suspect. He believes he has committed a homicide.”

    This is from a sheriff deputy who has no idea what he’s watching, why, or what’s going on. He just agreed to indulge me.

    • caseykaufman6922

      Very cool to know the perspective of a fellow sheriff. Having hearing that, I’m gonna rewatch again with that in mind. Thank you.

    • Ralph Oscar

      Was your friend able to identify what it was that alerted the officer to turn his attention onto CW?

      • Mustang Sally

        Ralph, no. He didn’t offer anything specific. His impressions were based solely upon viewing that tape for the first time and having no clue what/who/when/where the investigation was regarding.

      • Donkeykong

        Ralph Oscar he cancelled the medical and requested the code for homicide because he just heard NA’s son yell out from Downstairs that he’d just spoken to the Neighbour and the only people who have left the house all day is Chris, no one else.

      • Ralph Oscar

        Thanks, DonkeyKong. That makes sense.

    • Nikki

      The entire world know about this case but a sheriff had no idea, yep sire.

      • Mustang Sally

        Oddly enough, Nikki, a deputy sheriff on the opposite side of the country who is also a member of a SWAT team and a special military reserve unit has his plate full with his own business that following every sensational case to catch National interest isn’t his first priority. As I intimated, the video didn’t specifically state in the clip what we were watching, so his observations were unbiased based upon that. I asked him if he had heard about the case after I told him what it was about and he just said “not much” indicating to me little interest.

  3. Ralph Oscar

    The phone-finding shenanigans make me all WTF. I have no idea what’s going on with that.

  4. Kathleen

    Here is an off topic comment based on someone’s description above about the home being model home looking. I have OCD. This home does not look like one I could tolerate living in. Furniture, books, etc are sparse but that is a home design feature, and a matter of taste. Those gobs of electric cords would drive me up the wall. Also, if she did indeed have OCD, Watts had to have grabbed her inside the door right away. We do not leave bags in the living room, or shoes. Purses and keys do not stay on the counter. And the phone gets plugged in to charge. When I travel, I find laundry facilities in the hotel and wash my clothes so all I have to do it put them away. We do not go to bed with makeup on no matter how tired or pregnant. The condition is relentless. There is no peace when there is a mess. He seems more OCD than she does to me.

    • nickvdl

      Also, if she did indeed have OCD, Watts had to have grabbed her inside the door right away. We do not leave bags in the living room, or shoes.>>>Agree 100%, although Shan’ann was apparently in the habit of leaving her shoes by the door.

      The electric cords are in the basement.

      Watts put the purse on the counter.

      I’m not sure why there is a debate around the “OCD” thing. Maybe it’s how social media works. If enough people question something it spins off a narrative of its own.

      In the Discovery Documents numerous people refer to it, including Shan’ann herself, her husband and her parents. The babysitter and her father also refer to it. So it was real to them.

      Regardless of whether you feel it is OCD, or meets your standard of what OCD, it’s a significant feature of the dynamics of the Watts family. But you will only get to know the tone of it when you get to know Shan’ann as a person, and how she interacted with others in more detail.

      I agree that Watts himself probably had a certain degree of OCD himself, which explains why virtually no evidence was found at the Saratoga Trail crime scene, virtually no cadaver odor and most if not all traces of an affair on his phone were also taken care of.

      Given more time he may well have gotten rid of all three bodies without anyone ever finding them.

      Thanks for your insight into taking off make-up before bed. Shan’ann doesn’t strike me as someone who would go to sleep with her make-up on.

      What is your opinion on her wearing a bra to bed, or doesn’t that relate to OCD? Someone mentioned it was an underwire bra…

      • mitzi2006

        If he killed the kids before shanann got home and shanann as soon as she got home and loaded bodies after 5, should there not have been cadaver hits by the dogs. They bring a drug dog into work and they put a small amount of drugs in a plastic bottle with a tight fitting lid and throw it to the mix of a huge container of bottles with lights off and the dog will come up with the hit in seconds. But those bodies were someplace on that property or in house for hours but no hits, that’s baffling to me

      • ganana

        If the dogs didn’t find the scent of a cadaver, whose dog was that barking in the background during the “Sermon on the Porch” interview?

        The bra thing isn’t a big deal – many women sleep in their bras, although I doubt many sleep in underwire models. If Chris ambushed Shanann at the bottom of the stairs before she could go upstairs and find the girls deceased, her makeup and bra would still be on. I read somewhere (don’t have the original source) the suggestion that Chris stripped Shanann down to her shirt, bra and underpants to make it look like a predator had stolen her for nefarious purposes.

        The OCD thing is a nonstarter – all these diagnoses are by lay people – possibly Shanann herself said she was OCD as a way to diffuse the effects of her controlling behaviors.

    • EllTee

      It depends on the person. Everyone’s OCD manifests differently. I’m not so much about “everything in its right place” as I am about counting, making sure I do things in odd, preferably prime, numbers, checking things for safety again and again, etc. But it’s very much OCD. But you really can’t make a blanket statement about how anyone’s OCD should “look”, because it’s a condition with very individual particularities. That said, I get what you are describing is what people imagine when they think of “classic” OCD symptoms. I *wish* I had a little more of that and a little less of mine. 😁 (Just kidding. This condition is no joke whatsoever. )

      • Kathleen

        You are right. I am a professional in the field of mental health and other disabilities. There are two mainn types of OCD.; obsessions, as you describe, which are essentially thoughts and, compulsions, which are actions. I have compulsions, or feel forced to have a completely tidy house, self, all laundry done, etc every day. Exhausting. The though based can be even more demanding. I worked with a young man who thought if he didn’t pray constantly, his family would die. I think when Shanann’s friends and family referv to her OCD, they are not using a clinical term but describing her in lay vocabulary, the color coded clost, etc.

  5. Cwatts

    NA’s son found SW’s phone between the couch cushions in upstairs loft area. I’m not sure about the accuracy of this piece of article

  6. JuJuBee

    Between 22:40 and 22:44 I keep looking at the spot on the railing. It’s hard to tell what’s there/not there because the officer and thus the camera is moving and Chris’s arm comes up. It does not appear that the phone was there. But after the officer checks the kids’ rooms, before Shan’ann’s friend even makes it all the way up the stairs she says, “There’s her phone.” Chris keeps staring at it like it’s a bomb that’s going to go off, which it kind of is, under the circumstances. (He’s probably thinking, “Why oh why didn’t I get rid of the phone, her purse, etc. this morning?”) If the officer had already scanned the railing as he walked up, maybe this is the moment he realizes he’s got something other than a mom running off with the kids because she had a fight with hubby.

  7. Kim c

    What am I missing here about the phone placement. It appear as if Nick found the phone and quietly placed it on the rail as a display for all to see like a flashing billboard. Apparently he found it in the cushions and quietly placed it on the rail for public display. He’s a kid.. I’m not sure why he didn’t alert the moment he found it other than it seems more of a “gotcha” mindset to find it, hold your tongue and then openly display it possibly to watch watt’s reaction to this silent display of crucial evidence. I saw it Almost like a covert “your fk’d” move on the kids part.

    • nickvdl

      It does seem that way.

    • atschmid5322

      that kid just strikes me as an asshole.

      • CBH

        There was a forum about this case that I was posting on prior to reading the Two-Face series. Quite a lot of people felt that way about the kid and his Mom (arrogant, overstepping boundaries, etc.)

      • ganana

        Not an a-hole, exactly, I think, but certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to roam around and play detective. Early on, this was a missing persons case but a missing person can actually be a murder victim. The cops should have shooed everybody out and treated the house and grounds like a crime scene, which it was.

      • sheis

        Someone posted a video here,of Nickole Atkinson wishing Shanann a happy birthday in heaven. She shares a story about how her son would tease Shanann by slightly moving things in the home, and how it was their little playful thing. He’d move a vase or turn something to face the wrong way.

        She said when they were “housesitting” while Shanann was in NC, he moved a whole bunch of things around. When Shanann came back, she had to put everything where it belonged.

        That isn’t “cute” to me. That’s disrespectful and mean and intrusive and as if Shanann didn’t have enough to do, with unpacking and repacking for her AZ trip.

        I thought it was a real asshole move. Maybe it was okay with Shanann, but it wouldn’t be okay with me. Those people don’t have boundaries.

        • Kathleen

          If the Atkinson family had boundaries, Watts might have had a better chance of getting away with murder.

  8. Diana

    After reading the OCD comments, I had to put my two “sense” in. As ELLTEE said, it’s a numbers thing, how true! And yes, I’m an OCD person as well, and while each person’s degree of OCD is different, there is one feature of OCD that ALL OCDers share, including Shan’ann! ROUTINE! ROUTINE! ROUTINE! That’s the aspect of this condition we need to look at while speculating the events around these murders. While most of us may have a routine way of doing things, OCDers NEVER alter their routine – no matter what! The question is – What was Shan’ann’s usual routine?

    We do know Shan’ann took her makeup off before bed. We can likely say she wouldn’t have dropped her suitcase at the front door. We don’t know if she slept in an underwire bra, but I doubt she did. We know she didn’t take off her rings unless coloring her hair. We know she wouldn’t have tossed her phone and Apple watch under couch cushions.

    So we can likely agree Chris tampered with her phone, watch and rings. We can likely say she never made it upstairs because she would not have plopped down her suitcase at the front door. We can be relatively sure she didn’t get the chance to change into her bed clothes. We can be 99% sure she NEVER made it to bed since her ROUTINE was to remove her makeup before bed! When looking at all the clues together – I doubt Shan’ann ever made it upstairs! My theory? Unless I see anything that tells me otherwise, I’m thinking there’s a good possibility Shan’ann was murdered in the basement. She was desperate for Chris to want her again and he knew it! I think he lured her into the basement under the guise that he wanted to have sex with her, got her legs beneath the sheets to render them useless and strangled her so quick she didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late! This would also explain her being partially undressed. It would’ve also helped Chris since he wouldn’t have to drag her down two flights of stairs.

    • Ralph Oscar

      um…just saying, I’d much rather drag someone down two flights of stairs than drag the same person up one flight of stairs!

  9. Sylvester

    This very well could have been the old sleight of hand trick. Watts could have palmed that phone up his sleeve and transported it into the house when he entered the garage into the house while Coonrod, Nickole and Nicholas waited around away from the front door windows. He thought it would serve his best interests to have it found, by someone, and not he. Since all three folks are circling like birds or drones looking around upstairs – and Officer Coonrod is downstairs poking around – the phone planted in the couch could have been made somewhat obvious. A cushion could have been slightly elevated, etc. Or Watt’s circling may have led someone there and it just happened to be Nicholas. Once it’s found it adds confusion into the mix. Was she upstairs and dropped it there? Was that the last place she was known to be? In essence it’s another decoy, and that it doesn’t make sense is the point. Just as the Ramsey note didn’t make sense. It also could show how Watts was conflicted in just which story he was going to put out there – she vanished, she was taken, she left of her own free will, she went to a friend’s house and then ultimately she was very active after 4 a.m. and killed her own kids. Of course none of these stories make sense, but wasn’t that the point?

    • nickvdl

      Except Nicolas retrieved the phone and wouldn’t give it to Watts. So it was in his possession first.

  10. Sylvester

    Nicolas was supposed to find it – or someone, just not Watts. Notice how Watts is neither surprised or dismayed it’s been found.

  11. Sylvester

    Now is as good a time as any to bring up the iwatch. p.1796 states “Located between the cushions of this sofa was a cellar phone Watts identified as Sha’nann’s. The pink and white Apple iphone Model A1784, was secured in evidence…” Where was the iwatch found? When an officer draws a picture of the couch Nicolas is asked to draw a circle around where the phone was found and on that drawing, as I recall (because I can’t find the document again so I’m going on recall) there was no drawing of the iwatch. Also Nicolas does not say anywhere that he found it with the iphone, or anywhere else. I know it’s been said here it was in the couch cushions, but where is the documented reference?

  12. Ralph Oscar

    Question: In the first two images, where CW is entering the frame from the left, it looks like he’s carrying something phone sized/shaped in his left hand. Have we already accounted for what that was? Was that his phone?

  13. Victoria Jones

    I’ll bet NK was 💩💩💩💩her pants! I know she was in there!

  14. Victoria Jones

    Nikki Atkinson is calling him out for telling Addy that Shanann left in the early morning! Just listen close he hands himself but it’s really too early to put the puzzle together.

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