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

Chris Watts: "She didn’t wash her face…Mascara is running all over…"

True Crime Rocket Science is about discernment. How to tell the difference in the fog, in the smoke and mirrors, between what’s real and what isn’t? How to intuit psychological artifacts from the misleading miasma?
Many have accepted Watts’ version of taking the children to the CERVI 319 site [alive], and apparently also having Bella sort of run around at his ankles while he was transferring Shan’ann’s body from the bed, down the stairs, then backing out the truck and loading her body. Bella was sort of scampering around like puppy, and that was fine.
Some have found reason to doubt what to me is a the more likely of the two crime scene scenarios. It’s this idea of Shan’ann arriving home at almost 02:00, making up and having sex, but never taking a shower. Shan’ann ultimately never removed her make-up.

That’s one version of how that happened. Another possibility was that she was murdered before she could wash up and remove it. Presumably, had she been given a few extra minutes of life, that’s the first thing she would have done.

 It seemed like it was longer than two to four minutes. I just felt like time was standing still. I just couldn’t let go. It was like something else had taken over and I just couldn’t let go. I feel like I was in a rage. That is the only way I can describe it. Strangulation is a passionate type of thing but I don’t know how it could be passionate. It felt like someone was behind me. I just couldn’t let go…

It’s interesting how Watts describes the crime as some shadowy persona pulling his strings from behind him. Also the words he uses…  He can’t let go as if he’s holding onto something.

The last time he slept with Shanann, it all became very clear to him. “I felt like that last time sex with Shanann was a trigger point. So I woke her up and I told her that I don’t feel compatible.

This is very likely true. At some point having sex with Shan’ann triggered something in him where he realized he no longer wanted to have sex with her and be with someone else. Though this probably happened, it’s doubtful it happened on the night in question.
Fullscreen capture 20190313 195852
“I just wish I could take it all back” sounds like the sort of thing you say about something you said, that you wish you hadn’t, rather than something you did, that you wish you hadn’t. He doesn’t say:
“I just wish I could have them all back.”


  1. CBH

    I’m assuming in the new confession Chris was drawing on nights prior to the murder, when Shannan told friends she’d cried herself to sleep for nights.
    One indication that he wishes he had them back is expressing regrets about the affair with Nichol. Also talking to their pictures daily, and reading to them every night. Also describing Bella as 5, CeCe at 3, his “beautiful wife”, and a one month baby Nico. But of course they may be idealized for him spiritually now.

    • nickvdl

      Maybe. He also still wants to see Nichol to apologize to her.

      • CBH

        He should know that she either heard or read this from the February 18 audio, or had someone relate it to her. I think it would be devastating for her to see him again.

      • Laura Thompson

        And gee whiz, he sure does hope she hasn’t been corresponding with him under an alias! (Nudge nudge wink wink.)
        I wonder if Dude even realizes just how very transparent he can come across.

  2. mitzi2006

    I would have thought there was more remorse if he had said that he wonders what his victims could be doing right now rather than him saying what he could be doing with his family.

  3. Gina

    It seems that like the story he went with from the investigators hinting at Shanann may have done something to the girls he also did with his second confession by way of the shadow video. I do not believe his 2nd confession is the true account of that morning. How he explained his actons when he woke up the second time. How he told them that they had sex missionary style. Why did he feel he needed to include that tidbit? I feel this way he explains is not the truth and he is trying to hard to make it believable because it happened differently. I am not very good at explaining what I mean so I hope you get what I’m trying to say.

    • CBH

      I believe he mentioned the missionary position to show he wasn’t going to use sex for a sneak attack from behind. So he strangles her from the front. Great.

    • Alyson Marie Rogers

      Re the sex missionary style, Tammy asked him that directly so he replied yes. Something is playing on my mind regarding his comments about blankets going into the truck. Initially, he is unsure about what exact blankets went with the girls, and he says yes about a toy dog. Later on, he is very specific about Cece’s Yankees Blanket. Why the switch? In the pictures on this site we can clearly see Bella’s pink edged blanket (which is the one she always carried around) left on her bed. I am wondering whether the true scenario is that Bella did indeed walk in on CW murdering Shan’ann and that his comments about her “last words” are lies mixed with truth, i.e. Bella was saying don’t do to me what you did to Mommy (not CeCe), and that he killed her at home as she witnessed the horror. On the alleged shadow video I have only ever seen CW lean down and pick up one child. I think that this could have been CeCe for 2 reasons, 1) would explain why her blanket went in the truck and Bella’s was left behind and 2) CW has always said he “bonded” more with CeCe than Bella. Could he have taken CeCe alive to the site as he was panicking about whether he needed to kill her too (and he may not have wanted to) but both Bella and Shan’ann were already gone? I realise that there is alot of imagination in my comments, I guess I’m trying to find a scenario that fits around the “blankets” issue.

      • Ralph Oscar

        The whole problem with this line of thinking is that there was absolutely no way, no way at all, that either of those girls would have remained quiet, obedient, and *predictable* at their ages, at that time of day, with that change in routine, doing what CW was doing, with the body of their dead mother wrapped up in a sheet in front of them.
        It’s impossible for either of them to have been alive that morning. Impossible.

      • Duper Dayley

        I think you are on to something. It’s as plausible as any other scenario I’ve heard. The small shadow is very much “it came from the grassy knoll”-esque & I am not one that gets into conspiracy theories, BUT (you knew that was coming) I feel, strongly, that CW did pick up one of the girls as she walked towards him. And I, too, feel it was CeCe.
        There was a considerable amount of time, after CW exits the garage for the last time, that he sat in the truck in the driveway…IF he did pick up a still-alive CeCe and set her in the truck, could he have smothered her then, before pulling away?
        And, as we witnessed in the first go-’round with LE, CW is easily led and will fabricate a scenario with help from their lead-in questioning, so when asked “did ya’ll have sex missionary style?” he probably just answered yes because it was the opposite of what actually happened. Maybe, with SW being so desperate to save her marriage, she was compliant when CW initiated sex (my apologies for the crudeness) doggie-style & before making actual penetration, he strangled her from behind? That might explain why she couldn’t fight back…he forced her face down into the mattress/ pillow, her arms falling on either side of her head, him sitting on her back, pinning her arms/hands down to the mattress with his knees? I didn’t read the autopsy report, but I believe I heard there was only significant bruising to the right side of SW’s throat… and that CW is right handed…if he was behind her, his dominant hand would probably apply more pressure, leaving more bruising. If he was on top of her chest, like he claims, wouldn’t there be more significant bruising on the left of her throat, coinciding with his right hand being on that side?
        Ughhh… so many theories, so many questions! What are the odds that one day all will be answered, truthfully, by CW?

  4. ianmc1968

    What happened to Shan’ann needing to ‘wash the airport off her’??

  5. Sylvester

    He spends alot of time wishing. Didn’t he say on the porch interview he just wished they would come back – or I just want them back? Now he wishes he could take it all back. They were both living in a make believe world where wishes and dreams might come true. When you wish upon a star…..

    • SRC

      At least he can find comfort in Nonna’s vision of Bella forever at play in Disney World…

      • mitzi2006

        He shouldn’t take comfort in that nor does he deserve that comfort

        • SRC

          Agree – I was being sarcastic, Mitzi.

  6. Aaren

    I listened to the full audio. He didn’t offer the “missionary” description himself. Agent Tammy Lee asked him what position.

  7. JH

    Listening to his last interview, he does mention some regrets however, he doesn’t
    sound the least bit remorseful and speaks very casually throughout, as if he’s talking
    to some friends. Then, his voice breaks a little when his kids are mentioned.
    I still don’t think he’s telling the detectives the truth.
    Shan’ann would have likely washed off her make up that night, maybe not.
    It sounds like he wants to spin it as not a premeditation.
    I also wonder if he feels he has something to gain by this?
    Can’t imagine he would, he’s already been convicted.

    • mitzi2006

      Seeing the pillowcase, if the smudges are makeup she would know it would mess the bedding like that and would definitely remove her makeup being the clean freaks they were. That leans to that she never slept in that bed that night. If those were makeup smudges and she was killed downstairs how did the cosmetic stains get on them. I can’t remember if anyone had any theories on that since those photos came out. There’s been so much on this case I cannot recall if it was or not.

      • Sylvester

        Mitzi – if he put a pillow case over her face then she would have thrashed around under it, smearing her makeup. He says Bella’s head might have been moving back and forth – maybe it was Shan’ann. He could do that anywhere, the stairs, the bed, the loft sofa, if he came from behind as he originally said. He wouldn’t have to look at her face, and it would render her blind and muffle her gasps for air or struggles to scream. If he did use a pillow case for that purpose then not only would her makeup be on the pillow case, but it’s premeditated because in the heat of the moment he wouldn’t have stopped to remove the case from the pillow. But until they tell us what the substances were on the pillow cases – all three – then I’ll probably just keep speculating. It’s disturbing to think what the other two pillow cases were used for. And the more I think about it the more I think he bagged up her jeans and shirt and took them with him and disposed of them. There really isn’t any way he would have popped them into the laundry basket with his clothes, not only because of the lingering smell but it’s part of his staging. -He may have put her jacket in the wash if it wasn’t soiled and that’s what he held up during the K9 prep. To me he went to a great deal of planning. He couldn’t foresee everything though, not many criminals can.

  8. Donkeykong

    I believe the girls were killed well before shanann got home, but I still have this niggling voice in my head about rigor mortis. Apologies for the gruesome thoughts, but How on earth did he manage to get the girls down into the hatches if rigor mortis had set in? From what I’ve read, it takes 2-4 hours? So by the time he put them in the tanks, RM would have set in hours before?

    • Laura Thompson

      I don’t remember the exact timeline, and it can vary due to many factors, but, rigor dissipates after a time. I’d have to look it up, and again, there is a wide range of when it can set in and when it will begin to subside. Also possible that he positioned the girls right after he killed them, knowing he was going to have to fit them into the hatches. That seems like a little too much forethought for our dear Chris, but it’s possible.

      • Donkeykong

        It’s about the 3 hour mark that it sets in. And doesn’t let up till about 36 hours later. I just can’t imagine how he got them in. But I’ve never had to see RM. so I don’t know how rigid it can be. Or how easily flexed one can be during it. So morbid, 🙁 but it’s the one of the few things Im confused about and need to know about this case.

  9. KerryA

    Regarding rigor mortis, it is not an ‘all or none’ situation, but rather a progressive process. Immediately after death, there is a ‘primary flaccidity’ in which all muscles including skeletal (voluntary) muscles go slack (where the term ‘dead weight ‘ comes from). Incidentally, the external sphincters of the bladder and anus are made of skeletal muscle (under voluntary control), and therefore part of this immediate relaxation state – hence the urination and defecation we often see upon death. Rigor mortis does set in relatively soon after death, about 2-3 hrs, beginning with the muscles of mastication (chewing\jaw muscles) and smaller muscles of the face and neck. Rigor then moves onto the upper limbs, trunk and lower limbs until we see full rigidity at about 12 hrs after death. Without getting too complicated, the muscles of the body contract in a cross bridge manner but the body is no longer functioning and cannot now relax the muscles normally until enzymatic decomposition begins. Think of rigor mortis progression as a hill, the rigor begins small in the face then moves on to the larger muscle groups in the lower body until we reach the top of the hill at 12-15 hrs (full body rigid muscles). Now we begin the descent on the other side of the hill – the relaxation phase begins: the muscles which first became rigid (face) will relax the first and so on. From 15-36 hrs we see the relaxation of the body as decomposition begins to break down the rigid muscles. in general, the body will be completely relaxed and flaccid by 48 hrs after death. The timing of rigor mortis can be effected by several factors: age, muscular build, sex, medical conditions, external temperature, activity before death etc so there can be variations in the timing. When the body is in full rigor mortis (12-15 hrs), it has stiffened in the position the corpse was in after death. The body is rigid in this position, but it can be manipulated with considerable force – essentially the tearing of ligaments and muscles from the bone. This is not an easy task, so most bodies would be buried etc in the rigor mortis position, or the killer will give up and come back later when rigor is released and the body is more manageable. (Possibly the case with Shan’ann being buried in an odd position with one arm extended; this would also support a time of death closer to 2am than 4-5 am). If a body is found in a ‘flaccid state’ we can generally assume that it has either been dead for under 2 hrs or dead for more than 36-48 hrs. We then rely on the other markers of death to determine approximate time of death: Pallor mortis (paleness due to cessation of circulation), Livor mortis (lividity – settling of blood in the parts of the body closest to the ground due to gravity), Allor mortis (cooling of the body temperature after death), stage of decomposition, insect activity etc. A final thought; in Nick’s books, he believes that Bella’s facial injuries were inflicted by Chris forcing her body and head through the oil tank latch This would be quite likely if Bella was already in process of rigor mortis which begins in the face – her jaw and facial muscles would be very tense\grimaced and therefore not easily manipulated and squeezed through the hatch without force. This would also support an earlier time of death (of at least 2-4 hours prior) and it would be doubtful that she was killed immediately prior to going into the tank.

    • Donkeykong

      Thanks Kerry! That was really informative thankyou for going into so much depth. And I was thinking exactly the same thing!! regarding Bella’s facial injuries as he forced her head through. That she was likely starting to go through that process and he would have had trouble getting her through with a rigid jaw.
      One thing that stood out for me is Ive always felt there is no way that someone can break a frenulum in the manner hers was (almost completely lacerated) by his hand smothering her with a blanket? Even with head thrashing. It just doesnt match up. (Maybe I’m incorrect and it can happen but i can’t see how)
      But booting down on her head, with her top lip getting caught turning it open and upwards on the edge of hatch, on the way down would be exactly consistent with that type of injury, especially cause she went feet first.
      Im familiar with frenulums because my baby twin girls both had quite severe tongue and lip ties. The frenulum tie being worse. The dr had to release some of them and it wasn’t pretty my poor babies.

    • nickvdl

      Always appreciate your medical insight Kerry. What are your thoughts on post mortem “birth”? How long does it typically take, and in your view, would the fetus have been “birthed” after burial or possibly before? I suspect the timeline is 5 hours at most, 1-2 hours minimum between death and burial.

    • Ralph Oscar

      That was a great analysis, KerryA – thank you for all the detail. I was very curious about rigor mortis. A few thoughts:
      1) If Chris sedated and then suffocated the girls (like by wrapping plastic bags around their heads once they were adequately incapacitated), he’d likely lay them out flat somewhere (in front of the TV or in their beds). If he gave them the Oxycodone overdose along with their regular meds while they were relaxing in front of the TV (probably a normal scenario for them), once they went limp, he could take them to their beds and finish the suffocation. They’d likely be laid out straight. Thus, easy to transport stiff – just like cordwood. And Chris was easily strong enough to “rearrange” them as needed to stuff into the tanks despite whatever degree of rigor mortis was present, as they were small. Bella in particular was quite thin.
      2) With Shan’Ann, if he killed her around 2 AM (which I find most likely), then by the time he got her to her grave ca. 6:30 AM, she would likely have been stiffening. It would have been most convenient to transport her laid out straight like the girls, but I’ll bet he could have still folded her in half to stuff her into the grave. I don’t believe she was folded in half for transportation in the truck, as she would have not fit as easily into that space.

  10. KerryA

    Sorry for the delay in answering Nick, I am traveling atm and only get on this site when I get a moment and find decent wifi!! My personal opinion about Niko is that it was initially a miscarriage as a result of trauma. In the first and early second trimester (up to about 25-26 weeks of gestation), if there is some form of trauma to the mother (for example a car accident) we often see the mothers body expel the fetus as it uses all its energy directed towards saving the mother’s life. This is kind of like a survival technique the body adapts if things become dire. Certainly, a period of severe deprivation of oxygen (hypoxia) resulting from a 2-5 min process of strangulation could cause Shann’ann’s body to go into emergency mode and miscarry Niko. (In the case that the mother survives her injury, it would be a complete miscarriage and the uterus would be still be in place and healthy, she would likely be able to carry another pregnancy normally). In the autopsy report for Shann’ann, it states that the ‘fetus is expelled and there is partial prolapse of the uterus ‘ (the uterus has unattached from its original position in the pelvis and has begun to slide down through the vaginal canal). I think, and it’s just my opinion, that her body began to miscarry Niko during the strangulation period and it partially continued after death but was not complete. (I suspect there would be leaking of amniotic fluid mixed with blood and some clotted tissue antemortem and in the hours after death). Since this was an incomplete miscarriage (due to maternal death), the uterus would have been contracting heavily at the time of death, the cervix open and the fetus would likely be partially expelled in the vaginal canal somewhere I think that subsequent decomposition and bloating of Shann’anns abdomen while she was buried would have pushed the uterus and fetus outward as the cervix was already open and in the process of a ‘birth’, thereby expelling the small fetus and placenta as well as partially prolapsing the uterus. A true coffin birth, with a 3rd trimester well-developed fetus, takes much more pressure from decomposition as the baby is large and the uterus is a very thick, elastic and strong muscle, as well the cervix is tightly closed before labour and contractions begin. IIRC in the Laci Peterson case, her body was mainly skeletal and her large 8 month gestation baby was released near the end of decomposition as the uterus wall finally began to break down, one of the last internal organs to do so. So I believe the Watts case was a combination of a traumatic miscarriage antemortem and decomposition in the hours after burial further expelling the small fetus and partially prolapsing the uterus by the time they found Shann’ann several days after her death Chris probably cleaned up fluids that leaked at death, which may have included urine and feces, but he could have been unaware that Shan’ann was in the process of miscarrying if there was a fairly bad mess (amniotic fluid is clear). DonkeyKong, I would agree that your scenario is not only possible but probable – the injuries were apparently made by ‘downward pressure’ not pressure applied from the front like in typical smothering. And you are correct, the upper gum frenulum is difficult to tear and well protected – injuries here are rarely seen in a normal childhood accident (bike riding, fall etc) with most injuries to the lips or teeth. It is unusual to see an injury here and would require a great amount of force, more than head thrashing during smothering imho. Hopefully I have not written too much, this is such a fascinating case.

  11. KerryA

    Ralph, I just saw your comment. Yes, if he had laid the girls out straight they would have been easier to carry up the stairs in RM and in some ways to maneuver and ‘stuff’ into the hatch with force, as they would not be flaccid and flopping all over the place, slipping from his grasp. You are correct that were small enough and Chris was strong enough to ‘break rigor’ on their bodies if necessary to rearrange them at the tanks. I also believe Shan’ann was killed closer to 2am and that her bizarre burial position was a result of an advancing rigor mortis in the position Chris had folded her into either for transportation or his best efforts to manipulate her body for burial. It would have been much harder for Chris to break rigor with Shan’ann than the girls as she was a fairly solid\muscular adult with the extra weight and bulk of pregnancy.

  12. KerryA

    I have done a little extra reading on coffin births. There is not a lot in the medical literature – most accounts are historical and therefore not very precise – accounts range from hours to days to weeks after death
    However, modern preservation techniques (embalming) have made this phenomenon quite rare In modern times. In a few cases like the Watts, a pregnant woman is not embalmed (due to homicide or accidental death) but these cases are few and far between with sparse information One recent case documented, from 2005, was a 34 yo pregnant heroin addict who was about 8 months pregnant when found in her apartment. The cause of death for both herself and the baby was acute opioid intoxication When she was found she was in an advanced stage of decomposition (putrefaction), with abdominal marbling and a greenish abdomen (10-20 days post death). The 8 month fetus was expelled from the top of head to mid chest beyond the pelvis. The maximum point of abdominal pressure from gases in decomposition is reached at about 2 weeks postmortem and this article believes that is when this ‘coffin birth ‘ most likely occurred. I still tend to think that in the case of an early pregnancy and immediate death (like a gunshot) the fetus would most likely not be birthed at all, but would simply decompose within and with the uterus. In the case of a 3rd trimester advanced pregnancy (most fetal skeletons found historically that were studied were at least 33-35 weeks gestation), I think it would be closer to 10 days to 2 weeks postmortem when abdominal gases reach their highest pressure. This is definitely an area of pathology with little information available.

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