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The 102 References to the word "Alert" in the Chris Watts Discovery

When I wrote the first book in the TWO FACE series, I was convinced that the cadaver dog evidence would be instrumental in solving this case. I was also certain Chris Watts made a fatal error in allowing the canine units into his home. This suspicion seemed to be confirmed by the loud barking of these dogs while he was giving his Sermon on Porch. I assumed those barks were the dogs alerting to cadaver traces. I was right. And wrong.

It’s true that Jayne Zmijewski’s K9 alerted in several places. But Jeff Hiebert’s K9 did not. For there to be “reasonable cause” to suspect a crime, an alert requires corroboration.  This may be physical evidence, or a second dog showing a strong alert separately but in the same area. If this happens it’s considered “confirmed”.  But this didn’t happen in the Watts case.
In fairness to the dogs we have to acknowledge that in this instance the dogs weren’t just scenting for one cadaver but three, and making it even more complicated was the fact that all three cadavers occupied the search area in life, which had been extensively cleaned prior to the search. Adding to this was the possibility that scented items were contaminated by Watts himself.
Although the shoes of the children were used to scent off, it appears these had been washed and touched by Watts.
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Normally the brief for a cadaver dog is simple: find evidence of a dead person. In the Watts case the dogs had to identify the dead, and there were three identities to juggle in their noses.
When the discovery was made available, I made a beeline for the cadaver evidence but was sorely disappointed at how iffy it all was. Watts obviously had reason to be confident in letting the dogs in. He’d prepared and processed the house from top to toe. It’s not that he completely boggled the animals, just that he compromised the crime scene enough to produce a confusing and contradictory result. The dogs were interested in something, but they couldn’t agree on where. Nevertheless it’s a mistake to assume there were no alerts. The word “alert” appears 102 times in the Discovery Documents. Let’s examine a few of them:
1. Cadaver Alerts
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2. Vivint Security Alerts
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3. Transactional Alerts
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4. Chemicals/Drugs causing reduced alertness and impaired muscle coordination
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5. Ordinary Alerts [Notifications]Fullscreen capture 20190222 135848

6. Missing Endangered Alert
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What both dogs have in common is that they both alerted to the basement stairs. According to the discovery, one dog alerted at the bottom, the other at the top, or both at the bottom. The Discovery Documents are somewhat inconsistent and unclear on this information.



  1. Diana

    Nick I have this vision in my mind that you have several walls full of post-it sticky notes to keep all the data/info involving this case straight and what’s relevant and why! Then, as time passes and the case continues to evolve, you’re able to take all the data and transform it from sticky notes to this blog, from this blog to your books, all the while untangling all the clues and pinpointing what’s relevant and why. Very daunting task! The proverbial “cherry on top” is an interactive product where the reader has links to go to certain sites that are relevant to the narrative at that time!
    When going back to the day the dogs were brought in, I believe at one point the dog/s showed some possible interest on the bench with the cushions right outside the front door, wasn’t quite cut and dry if they were showing an interest or not. Knowing how OCD Shan’ann and Chris were/are, it was notable that the direction of the stripes on the cushions were not all uniform. The cushion the farthest from the door was on the bench in such a way that the stripes were horizontal, and the other cushion stripes were vertical making one wonder – What part did that bench or that area play in the murders, if any? Just wanted to say that when the video was released of Shan’ann coming home for the last time, I noticed that that same end cushion was horizontal, the same position it was in when Chris gave his “Sermon on the Porch”. So it appears perhaps the dog/s weren’t alerting or showing interest in that bench after all. I do wish that what the dogs did or didn’t find was more definitive!

    • nickvdl

      Thanks Diana, I do use mental post-its.
      I also noticed the one cushion wasn’t aligned with the other in the doorbell footage. Perhaps the dog was smelling evidence of the children playing there at one time.

      • Kim

        The middle cushion (second out of three) is going the other direction. I think they did that by design as you can see the cushion layout in pictures before the murders, as well as the video of Shan’ann coming home for the last time.
        I have no idea what, if anything, happened on the porch, of course. But I have a friend who does this with their similar 3 cushion striped furniture, to align the middle cushion on the couch a different way (it drives me nuts, but it’s relatively common).

  2. Karen

    Is an alarm the same as an alert? I’m somewhat confused about the alert Shan’ann received as opposed to the alarm Chris received about the garage door being opened at 12:42. This is what I’m referencing…”Christopher gave us consent to check Shan’ann’s phone. It had an alert that stated the garage door was open at 12:42.Christopher showed me his phone which shows alarm times when the garage doors are opened. It sent an alarm at about the time time stating he had left the garage door open. Shan’ann showed an alert at about 12:42 hours for the garage door open” Does that mean his phone also received a alert that the garage door was opened at 12:42, or he received an alert at 12:42 that the door was opened? Also, I remember clearly one of the dogs running in circles at the bottom of the stairs. I’m very surprised that wasn’t an alert.

    • JC

      That’s a really good observation, Karen. Shan’ann’s phone may have been in airplane mode right then so she was notified with an alert after she landed at the airport and looked at her messages. Or she changed her settings to send her an alert instead of an alarm going off every time her garage door was left open over her weekend away (that would be pretty annoying). Was it the door into the house or the overhead garage door that set off the alarm? I assumed it was the door into the house – do you know? If she saw the alert, she would have known Chris was still awake just 3 and a half hours before he had to be up for work, and only an hour before she arrived home. You’d think she would text him to ask if he was awake, or to see if one of the girls had gotten up in the middle of the night and wandered downstairs.

  3. Sylvester

    He lived in the home so it would be difficult to find something he hadn’t touched but I also read in the docs that he had touched her flip flops she removed at the door. He didn’t move them, or arrange them differently, but he touched them and I thought that was strange. Doc 254 “Christopher had previously touched the straps of these sandals” (the flip flops at the door).

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