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

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Sneak Peek: In TWO FACE III the dynamics of the Watts children is dealt with in High Resolution. Here’s a sample of what the 3rd K9 narrative will be analyzing

The last two months of Shan’ann’s Facebook is no longer visible to the public. Could there be anything there in the final six weeks of her life that drove the events leading to her death, and the death of the Watts children?

The posts below were sourced by  John Westrum and shared on the True Crime Rocket Science Facebook page. Thanks John!

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Since I deal in detail with these posts in the third narrative, I won’t be doing any analysis of them here. These posts are of course extremely insightful, and come at a critical time before catastrophe overtook the Watts family.

TWO FACE TWO POLLYANNAS, the third book in the series interrogating the Chris Watts case, will be available early November 2018

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Chris Watts’ Defense Has Just Submitted A 3-page 15-point Civil Motion!

Thus far Chris Watts’ defense has sat back and allowed the prosecutors to do all the work in terms of holding back the media [who have been baying of the autopsy reports]. Well, today that’s changed.

Chris Watts defense submitted a three page civil motion requesting that disclosure of the autopsy reports be denied to the media and the public. There are 15 bullets spread across those three pages, much of it filled with legal jargon.


But there are some excerpts of the report [full report here] that are quite revealing.

CHRISTOPHER WATTS, through his attorneys, hereby moves this Honorable Court to hold a hearing on the government’s proffered reason for wanting to deny disclosure of the autopsies in this matter.

So the issue here isn’t so much the autopsy reports, or wanting to deny disclosure, but the defense wanting to know the reason the state has given to deny disclosure. 

As grounds for this motion, Mr. Watts states:
2. Out of an abundance of caution…Mr. Watts respectfully moves this court to hold a hearing on whether the release of the autopsies “could result in tainting witnesses that have not yet been interviewed” as the government claimed in its Motion [L] at paragraph 3.
3. As stated in Mr. Watts’ notice (D-039), the government’s alternative claim that the results of the autopsies will taint potential jurors is groundless – the results will almost assuredly be revealed in court proceedings well in advance of trial.
4. However, counsel for Mr. Watts remains concerned about the government’s spurious claims related to tainting witnesses who have yet to be interviewed. Counsel remains specifically concerned that the government possesses information that the defense does not have.

What this reveals is that the defense wants to know which witnesses the state prosecutor has or has yet to interview. Interesting legal arm twist here.

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5. It is not clear if the government’s assertion means that it has knowledge that witnesses may change their testimony once they see the coroner’s opinion. It is not clear which witnesses the government knows about who have not been interviewed that may have that reaction to the opinion of the coroner. It is not clear what information the government possesses that would lead them to that conclusion. Perhaps more importantly, it is now clear that no party in the civil case has an interest in developing the record about this specious claim. According to the petition filed in
18CV30907, the coroner (whose office is ostensibly independent from the district attorney’s) “concurs with the District Attorney’s reasoning” and has “no reason to doubt [the] District Attorney . . . .” 18CV30907, VERIFIED PETITION IN RE: THE REQUEST OF THE GREELEY TRIBUNE FOR CERTAIN RECORDS PURSUANT TO THE
COLORADO OPEN RECORDS ACT, C.R.S. §§ 24-72-201, ET. SEQ., at ¶¶ 13, 14.
Counsel for Mr. Watts cannot share the coroner’s apparent confidence. The coroner’s naked deference to the government has therefore made clear that he has no interest in challenging the government’s judgement; consequently, he has no interest in investigating and ferreting out the validity of its claim. Mr. Watts does.

It’s interesting how the defense are shooting warning shots over the bow, basically alleging that the coroner is in cahoots with the district attorney’s office. The tone of the motion also indicates the tone of Chris Watts’ defense – it’s defiant!

Read the rest here [scroll down to the end].

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Nickole Utoft Atkinson: “The front door was locked different to the way it normally was”

According to the affidavit, [Nickole Utoft Atkinson] went to Shan’ann’s residence and discovered her car in the garage with car seats positioned inside of it. [Then] she attempted to enter the front door, but a latch prevented it from opening more than three inches.

Nickole said this way of locking the front door was unusual. It’s not clear whether Nickole had a key to the front door, and that the latch was an additional security measure to make sure she never got in. Had she entered, Chris Watts could theoretically have accused her of tampering or contaminating with the crime scene, and even fingered her as a suspect.

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If the door was latched though, it suggests the last person who left the house did so via the garage. It also raises another interesting question. If the latching of the front door was unusual, and to be honest I’m not sure that it was, did Chris Watts place it there, or was it the last thing Shan’ann did when she arrived home? Probably the latch was Chris Watts’ doing, right?

But let’s be clear what we’re talking about. In very early images of the front door, going back to May 2015, there is no latch and no front door camera either.

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But then the latch appears.

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Now let’s focus in…

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That’s better, but this image above was photographed in selfie mode, so the actual image is in reverse.

Let’s see if we can find a better one.

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Does the latch appear to be in place when this video was taken on a Saturday morning?

Where Chris Watts is dressed up as Santa, standing at the open door, we get yet another angle.

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There’s also a keypad on the front door above the lock.

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Now, about the garage keypad, was it inside the house or somewhere on the exterior? If the keypad is on the outside, this could be it:

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The Watts home seems to have plenty of sensors, not only outside, but inside too:

The crucial insight we get from this is that when Chris Watts left his home on the morning of August 13th, it wasn’t through the front door. The front door can only be latched from the inside. That may seem obvious except it effectively rules out the crazy possibility of Chris Watts transporting bodies through the front door.

Since Chris Watts had to back his truck into the driveway, if he was truly loading tools he could theoretically have done so via the front door. If his truck was outside anyway, surely it was a shorter and more direct walk from the bedroom, to the stairway, to the front door and out?

One could argue the tools would likely be in the garage, so that’s why he took the less direct route to his vehicle. But we know he wasn’t loading tools from the depths of the garage on that fateful Monday morning.

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Just a Hunch, but it looks like HLN called it wrong on Shan’ann’s 9th Grade Teacher

At the end of September, when HLN was still doing bumper-to-bumper coverage of the Watts case, Ashleigh Banfield interviewed Matt Francis. HLN described Francis as a “life-long” friend of Shan’ann’s. Really? Was he?

As proof of their friendship, a letter from 2002 [16 years ago, about the time Shan’ann left school] is read out on HLN.

“I just wanted you to know that I am going to miss you dearly. You are truly something special to me. You have always been there for me and have been very helpful. You helped bring out the true person in me back in the 9th grade…” 

So even when Shan’ann wrote the letter, she was eighteen-years-old, and looking back on four years prior.

“…and I can’t thank you enough for that [bringing out the true person in me]. Not only have you been there for me as a friend, but you have also been like a father figure to me.”

Anyway, that’s HLN’s version of the letter. Here’s the actual letter posted onto Facebook on September 25th.

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We won’t deal with the portent here of why she needed a father figure at fourteen, or what the blanked out text represents, or why the HLN version cuts off where it does.

What we want to examine here is whether Francis was really there for Shan’ann after 2002, or was he more of a johnny-come-lately?

Going back to the start of her interview, Banfield says: “You weren’t just her 9th grade teacher, you became a very close friend of hers…You kept up a friendship with her, right up to as I understand it, two weeks before she died you last communicated.”

As she says these words, Francis nods. His response is weird though.

FRANCIS: Yeah…I find out kinda late too [he found out late that his close friend had died]. But she was just doing a convention over there, and I was just so impressed with her doing Facebook Live, and the way she did it, and the way she’d become such an encourager, ummm…I just gave her a big…how much I’m proud of her on the Facebook Live message. 

Francis can’t seem to say the words, but Shan’ann was doing a Thrive convention, and Francis seemed to serendipitously stumble on her Facebook Live. From the sounds of his message, congratulating her on her performance, it was the first time in years that they’d communicated.

In other words, Shan’ann was selling her Thrive Kool-Aid, and Francis was buying, at least to the extent that he felt her selling patches at premium prices was “encouragement”, a Thrive keyword.


There’s also an ironic moment where Banfield asks Francis how to pronounce Shan’ann’s name, and he role-plays it, bobbing his head as SHANNA ANN. He describes her name as being “two syllables”, which is right, but the way he says it there are three.

Just looking at her name, that’s not how anyone would pronounce it correctly, and in three years [and to the current day] Francis doesn’t seem to know for sure how to say her name. For the record it’s Shan Ann [Shun-nan].

If Francis and HLN are a tad disingenuous in this interview [perhaps more than a tad], the real value in it is Francis’ observation that his former charge was once painfully shy, inside her shell and at fourteen she was teased a lot. In 20 years Shan’ann had transformed herself – not just physically, but also her personality.

In another segment, it’s weird that Francis describes Shan’ann in the present tense:

FRANCIS: Yeah, so…[laughs]. You’ll be amazed at how far she’s come; she’s a- she’s a wonderful, beautiful human being…who…uh…learned the power of giving her life away…uh…brings true joy.


But this part is meaningful.

FRANCIS: She was a very insecure young lady who didn’t have a lot of friends when I met her at fourteen-years-old. Uh…but she was brave enough to sign-up at beginning acting, and that’s where I think she made a big mistake…


We won’t delve any further into this, but personally I think it’s a poor show that Francis holds himself up to the media spotlight as a genuine, lifelong friend when that doesn’t appear to be the case at all.

A single comment on a Facebook Live promotional video doesn’t conver life-long friendship status, and what’s more likely, is that Shan’ann added him as a potential customer and asked him to be part of her Facebook Live audience and see if he was interested. Call it a hunch.


“Did you see your wife when she got home?” LISTEN to Chris Watts’ answer

When was the last time Chris Watts saw his pregnant wife alive? what was the last thing he said to her?

At 12:13 in the clip the reporter asks the most crucial question.

REPORTER: Um…did you see your kids, or your wife when they got – or you had the kids, I forgot.

WATTS: Had-had the kids over the weekend. 


Now here it is.

REPORTER: Did you see your wife when she got home?

WATTS: Ah-she got home really late. About 2am. From the airport, when she got back from Arizona. 

Notice he hasn’t answered the question.

REPORTER: Did you wake up and say-

WATTS [Interrupting]: No. I-I [stuttering] saw her when she got in. But it was really quick. Just because it was two ‘o clock in the morning but…I saw the kids on the monitor before I left and…[softly] that was it.

Once again, he dodges the question here, saying he saw the kids on the monitor before he left, but did’t say anything to Shan’ann or see her before he left [she was supposed to be sleeping in bed next to him, after being away for two days on a business trip. Why wouldn’t he greet her…unless she was already dead, and never got into bed].

He also answers “no” to the question: ‘did you wake up…?’

I saw her when she got in. But it was really quick.

I believe him. I don’t think he went to sleep on the night of August 12, morning of August 13. And it was really quick when it happened.

You haven’t heard THIS version of what happened from Chris Watts

Listening to the audio only of Chris Watts on the @Murdersesh podcast, a few elements stuck out that I hadn’t noticed before.

WATTS [Sighs]: Unless something develops in the next hours or so, I’m hoping that someone sees something…or somebody knows something…and…comes forward. 

Now, in the Scott Peterson, Casey Anthony and Madeleine McCann cases, that’s exactly how things played out. There was a massive PR blitz, and the well-meaning public soon began to overwhelm authorities with sightings. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of tips.

If you want a case to become unsolved, this is how you want it to go – the cops running around in circles after a seemingly infinite number of tips, the public’s eyes peeled for kidnappers and abductors but none of them leading anywhere.

It’s no wonder then that this was Chris Watts’ hope, that people would soon start calling in, saying they thought they saw Bella in Boulder, or they glimpsed a pregnant woman who looked like Shan’ann boarding a flight at Denver airport. Every tip, every sighting would draw resources, suspicion and scrutiny away from him. As long as a dead person is missing, there’s reasonable doubt that there’s no murderer, and no murder committed. And the longer a person who is dead is thought of as missing, the more doubt has to be dealt with at trial.

Well, the missing person narrative never got off the ground in this case.

When the reporter asks him what’s the worst part, Chris Watts leaks an interesting disclosure.

WATTS: Not knowing. If they’re safe or…if they’re in trouble. Like…there’s just that…that variable…like I’m not sure…I mean I can’t do anything from where I’m at. Like I’m not sure if they’re safe somewhere, just [voice rises a notch] huddled somewhere. Or…if they’re in trouble. And knowing that, if they could be in trouble it’s [stutters] it’s earth-shattering right now. And it doesn’t feel like it’s real.

Taking out the bold elements and putting them together we get this:

I can’t do anything from where I’m at.

they’re safe somewhere, just huddled somewhere.

if they could be in trouble…it doesn’t feel like it’s real.

We have to remember, for a murderer, “safe” actually means what’s safe for him. So in this sense, safe means they are huddled up somewhere out of sight.. And they were huddled up somewhere out of sight. Also, the claim that they might be in trouble, not mortal danger from the public’s perspective [which they were], but trouble in the sense that they’d gone to be with a friend, doesn’t feel like it’s real because it isn’t real.

Consider how the psychology is tangled up here. Would they really be in trouble if Shan’ann had gone to see a friend to get away from him? That scenario was really the best case scenario during the missing phase, and yet Chris Watts frames it as trouble.

The mirror to this fictional trouble is obviously his own very real, but very secret mistress, and him huddling up somewhere with her, vanishing every now and then.

For me the most significant disclosure is the general statement of intent. I think this was true not just the day after the crime, but in the days, weeks and months before the crime:

I can’t do anything from where I’m at.

Returning to the original question, consider it from Chris Watts’ perspective, and a motive perspective. What was the worst part for you, living in that house with that family.

Not knowing. If I’m safe or…if I’m in trouble.

And then, at 10:46 in the Soundcloud audio, a fantastic probing question from the reporter.

REPORTER: The weird part of all this, it sounds like everything’s been locked up. There’s no signs of them leaving the house.

WATTS [Softly]: No. No…like…we have a camera there…the neighbor has a camera [stutters] I-I mean everything was…everything’s checked out. 

What follows next is a little indistinct and inaudible, but the reporter asks about the neighborhood cameras. Chris Watts answers that the camera is associated with the front doorbell.

WATTS: The neighbor has one right there. 

REPORTER: Were all the doors around the house locked?

WATTS: The front door was locked, the garage door was…unlocked…but that-that’s normal for…like, when she comes in the house she leaves it unlocked so she come in and out just in case [inaudible] get in the garage door.  But the back sliding door was locked as well. 

REPORTER: So how would she have left the house…?

WATTS: I-I [laughs]…I don wanna put anything out there….s-suspecting someone pulled in the back and…because we have a driveway back there…from the new town homes. But [laughs] it’s so hard to tell. There’s no cameras in the back yard or anything like that, it’s really hard to even…suspect anything right now, as far as how she could’ve left….or if someone came and picked her up, or if someone came and took her. 

This last answer from Watts is revealing. He doesn’t want to put anything out there, but then he does. He uses the word “suspect” twice in an unusually long answer from him. He uses the word “back”, referring to the back entrance three times in his answer. He suggests Shan’ann may have exited through the back entrance, unseen, and opens the door to someone who picked her up as arranged, or someone who came and took her [perhaps secretly, against her will]. He’s clear that if someone came around the back, no one would have seen her, and no cameras would have recorded it either.

Two aspects are worth highlighting here.

  1. The garage door wasn’t unlocked. Fullscreen capture 20181019 094805
  2. In an earlier answer, Watts uses a biggish word for him, the word “variable”. This word doesn’t really fit with his casual locution. It’s a technical term that has more to do with the readings an operator would deal with on site, than with a criminal investigation. In studying dozens of high profile cases, I’m not sure I’ve come across anyone else using it, whether by suspect or investigator. We know what he means, but it’s an extremely distancing word for a husband to use to assess whether he thinks his family has come to harm or not.

If Chris Watts had left the back door open or unlocked, there would be a little additional doubt supporting his case. Ditto the garage door. So why didn’t he?

One reason could be that he feared losing Deeter. Actually leaving a door open meant the dog could be running around outside drawing attention, when that’s the last thing Chris Watts wanted to do. He wanted to buy time.

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I reported on this aspect in TWO FACE, that Deeter was the only survivor of the annihilation, but he nevertheless presented a problem. Where to put him, and who would look after him with the whole family gone? Putting him outside could send various signals to the neighbors that the murderer didn’t want to send, and worse, might have the neighbors come knocking, as Nickole Utoft Atkinson ultimately did.

According to CrimeOnline:

The dog reportedly got the attention of neighbors frequently, with Charyle Hollowell telling reporters that he “made more noise than the family did.”

On the day the family disappeared, however, the barking was different. “It was like he was being punished or hurt or something,” the neighbor said. He was just howling. Because we had a dog, I said, ‘What the hell is that all about? So we called the police and asked them to check on the dog. And it turned out that he was OK. They did a wellness check on the dog.”

So if Deeter had been left outside, or a door left open to allow him to run around, he was the kind of dog that could bark or howl when left alone, and the noise was liable to attract nosy neighbors. An unlocked entrance could also mean neighbors entering the home early [since Watts left before dawn] and finding no one there.

In conclusion, the gamechanger Chris Watts didn’t expect was that, thanks to Nickole Utoft Atkinson, the cops arrived at 2825 Saratoga Trail before he did. Because of this, they were able to establish immediately that the entire house was secure, despite Chris Watts’ claims that the garage door wasn’t locked.

Had the cops arrived later and “discovered” any door or window unlocked, open or broken, or had Chris Watts told them he found a door unlocked or open, suspicion would have shifted from the inside to the outside of the house, and Chris Watts would have been home free.

All he had to do to create this impression of leaving, was to leave a door open somewhere. Yet he couldn’t bear to leave anything unlocked, or to break or damage a window or door. In my opinion, what this reveals is Chris Watts’ unusual attachment to the house.

Elsewhere in his interview he says: “This house is not the same…” We take it to mean that it wasn’t the same with everyone gone, but how he may have meant it, was with everyone in it, the house wasn’t the same, it was no longer a home if he had to share it with them, and for some reason, it didn’t hold as much value for him. And isn’t that what it came down to ultimately, losing his family or the house? Well, he made his choice.


Think You Know the Chris Watts Case? In Which ROOM Does HE Say The Murders Took Place?

In which room is the crime scene at 2825 Saratoga Trail? According to Chris Watts it’s an upstairs room, but which one? Is it a) the kid’s bedroom, b) the loft lounge or c) the parents’ bedroom?

The affidavit places Chris Watts in his bedroom. It’s about as safe a place to be as any, right? This is inferred from him stating he “returned” to his bedroom after discussing a separation with Shan’ann [presumably in the bedroom].

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The affidavit implies a single baby monitor, but there were nevertheless two cameras, one for each child, and one for each room, beamed to the same monitor. The children didn’t sleep in the same room.

According to the affidavit, Chris Watts goes downstairs “for a moment” [to drink a glass of water, to eat something, whatever he needs to be doing to not to be upstairs], and then returns an undisclosed time later. Does he make it all the way downstairs, or did he make a u-turn on the stairs? He doesn’t say. What he does say is he returns to his bedroom and while there, witnesses a murder taking place in another room on camera, presumably Celeste’s room.

In other words, Chris Watts places himself everywhere but in the rooms where the children are killed.

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In his version, Chris Watts firstly places himself in his own bedroom, and secondly downstairs and/or on the stairs when Bella’s murder takes place.  When he returns to his bedroom, that’s when he sees Celeste’s being murdered.

Thirdly, it sounds like Chris Watts confronts Shan’ann in Celeste’s room and kills her there, from his description.

What I find dodgy about this version of events is the going downstairs and coming back the same way. In his description, he places himself in neither-here-nor-there land, while something very specific is happening in another specific location.

There are at least two other crimes where we see a similar running around in circles, a sort of directional much-ado-about-nothing. The one is the Oscar Pistorius case, where Oscar gets up, closes the open balcony door and curtains, advances on the bathroom, then returns to the balcony and opens the doors and curtains. In the Amanda Knox case she also heads around the outside of the house to look into Meredith’s window, then heads out a second time. In both instances she’s racing around only to end up back at Meredith’s door, which she somehow never succeeds in opening [someone else has to do that]. Below is an extract from Waiting to be Heard:

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Probably the most absurd version I’ve heard to date is Henri van Breda who basically has himself in the same room as the axe murderer, but he’s basically like an


invisible zombie. He’s there, but he’s not there. And the axe murderer sort of does what he needs to do and doesn’t bother with Henri. Eventually, in a magical moment, the ax

e murderer notices Henri, the two tussle briefly and Henri removes the axe from axe murderer so easily it’s like taking candy from a baby. Then the axe murderer flees, forgetting to step in blood on his way out and leave any traces of himself. Henri someone manages

to step through the crime scene and not leave any footprints in blood too – like the axe murderer.

In Henri’s version, he’s where the axe murders take place when his brother and fa ther are murdered, but he’s somewhere else [standing like statue in his own room] when the women of the house are murdered. Needless to say, Henri was convicted on all charges.

Now, back to the Watts case. When everyone is dead, Chris Watts  returns to his own bedroom and strips the bed sheets, dumping some of the bedding later in the trash.There’s no mention of him trying to perform CPR on anyone.



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Does the stripped bed mean the crime happened on the bed? It could. It didn’t in the Oscar Pistorius case. In the Jodi Arias case the bed was also stripped, and bedclothes stuffed into the washing machine, but the crime didn’t take place in the bed or the bedroom.

In the Watts case, we know Detective Baumhover found no blood, and no obvious signs of foul play on the bedding. Chris Watts also chose to bury his wife using a sheet from their bedroom. Presumably this sheet was meant to temporarily cover the corpse and seal in the smells.

If Chris Watts version is to be believed, then all three murders took place upstairs in the children’s bedrooms, and Shan’ann was murdered in Celeste’s room.

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But should Chris Watts’ version be believed? If not, what’s the alternative?

Were Bella and Celeste killed by their father or mother? What do the stats say?

On the one hand, the statistics are unanimous. Where infants are younger than a year [and fetuses are involved], the perpetrator is more likely to be the mother. These murders are a kind of grisly abortion-after-the-fact.

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On the other hand, the statistics show fathers tend to come to fore in child murders where the children are older, and this trend has been getting worse.

According to Canadian statistics, over the last several decades the number of mothers involved in fillicide has dropped from just below 50% to less than 40%, whereas fathers have risen from above 50% to more than 60%.

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But the Watts case isn’t infanticide, or fillicide, it’s the conventional murder of an adult [if there is such a thing] as well as fillicide and infanticide.

Does this suggest, on a purely statistical basis, that Mr. Watts is more likely to be involved in the murders than Mrs. Watts. I think it does.

Other statistics worth looking at:

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When it comes to child murder, a history of family violence is an aggravating factor in 26% [less than 1/3rd] of cases.

In terms of the type of “weapon” used in child murder [in Canada], strangling is by far the most common method, followed by beatings, shootings and “other methods”.

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Curiously, women only outnumber men in cases where strangling is the cause of death in the murder of children.

In other words, when murdering children, men prefer methods besides strangling.

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In Table 2 below we see that in 66% [2/3] of strangling cases, the murderer is a woman. In almost 60% of smoke [or gas] inhalation, the murderer is a man.

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What about motive? Interestingly, child murder as a result of frustration, anger and despair features more than four times as often as following a mere argument/quarrel, and about three times more often than as a result of revenge [which is the motive Chris Watts’ has mentioned in his allegation against Shan’ann].

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Finally, the murder of children aged 1-4 is more common than any other age bracket, including infants below 1 year.

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Chris Watts: Will Autopsies Show Dismemberment, Food Contents, Clothing?

As part of research for the next TWO FACE book I’ve investigated an area that’s new to me. I haven’t encountered it elsewhere in true crime. It’s the impact of crude oil on a cadaver, and on stomach contents.

In the West Memphis 3 case, three eight-year-old boys were submerged for about 24 hours in a swamp. The defense tried to argue that ligature wounds suffered by one of the victims were inflicted by wild animals [snapping turtles]. Since the bodies were recovered early, and the medium was fresh water, the wounds were fairly well preserved.

A more analogous case in terms of similarity to the substance the Watts children were suspended in is the murder of British children’s author Helen Bailey. Bailey’s murder was also labelled a missing person’s case for several weeks until her remains were finally discovered.  Ian Stewart dumped his fiance and her dog into a cesspit.


It took three months to find her remains, and when they did, the only tissue that had any forensic value was the woman’s hair. Even so, they found varying levels of the sedative Zopiclone in Bailey’s hair, a sign that Stewart had surreptitiously and strategically added to her food in gradually increasing doses.

The Casey Anthony case also involves fairly complex human decomposition involving water, air, heat, and various organisms, from bacterial microorganisms to larger scavengers. But in all these cases there’s no crude oil.

Even in the authoritative Knights Forensic Pathology, the coverage of this subject is minimal and insufficient.


I did find three separate cases that involve crude oil in some way, and although none of the three answer the question about whether the stomach contents would be destroyed by the oil, they each provide a separate insight.

For the first insights we have to drift back in time 35 years ago, to May 7, 1983.

Two of three victims found stuffed in oil drums… –

Two of three victims found stuffed in oil drums in Golden Gate Park have been identified …Surdyka said coroner’s technicians were having difficulty identifying the other victim because of the body’s decomposed state. Investigators were able to obtain fingerprints from the bodies of Thomas and Ms. Melendez.

The coroner also put the two painted barrels in which police found the bodies on display to the media because they hoped someone would come forward to identify them if pictures of the 55-gallon drums were publicized by the media.

‘We know where one of the barrels was manufactured,’ Coroner Boyd Stephens said, ‘but the serial number was worn off so we don’t know where it was shipped. We don’t have any good clues about the others. ‘So we’re hoping somebody might recognize one of the barrels if they see a picture on television or in a newspaper and give us some information.’

All three victims had been shot execution-style in the back of the head, the coroner said, but refused to say whether the bullets were the cause of death since there was some possibility the shots could have been fired to conceal the true cause of death, or to make sure they were dead.

Neither would he say how long the bodies had been in the 55-gallon drums discovered near some bushes in Golden Gate Park. Investigators retrieved the bullets shot into the victims, but a detective said they ‘don’t look good’ and probably are too damaged to provide information about what kind of gun was used.

He said the drums were probably dumped in the park early April. At that time a witness heard ‘two loud thumps’ and saw three cars near the place where the barrels were found.

What do we learn from this? If the drums were dumped in early April, and discovered in early May, then this was sufficient time for the bullets to corrode so they couldn’t be traced back to a weapon. Also, one victim had “dissolved” beyond the point that she could be identified. This doesn’t mean the oil was responsible, because the body could have been placed in the drum after having decomposed elsewhere, but it does suggest the oil is effective at destroying evidence, including time-of-death and manner-of-death evidence.


Next we jump forwards in time from San Francisco to Sheffield England, circa 2005.

Tycoon ‘shot lover in car and sealed her body inside oil drum’The Telegraph

Howard Simmerson, 43, is claimed to have planned the murder of his lover Julie Turner… He sealed her body in an oil drum and placed it in the back of his pick-up truck and spent the next 40 hours driving around looking for a place to dispose of it, Sheffield Crown Court was told.

During that time he called at a remote farm and had sex with Charlotte Melland, another girlfriend, allegedly leaving the corpse outside in his vehicle.

Peter Kelson, QC, prosecuting, said Simmerson sent bogus text messages after the killing purporting to be from Miss Turner to cover up his “callous and gruesome” crime. Simmerson, who runs a gas bottle distribution company, lavished expensive presents on Miss Turner during a four-year relationship while she was living with her common law husband.

Initially he told police he had dropped her off near her home at her request on the night she died, but later claimed that she was shot in the Mercedes with the gun in her own hand. An Italian Derringer double-barrel pistol was later found at his business premises.

Miss Turner, of Sothall, Sheffield, had a long-term partner, Darran Akers, by whom she had two sons aged 14 and nine. She began a relationship with Simmerson, who is single, in 2001, but she continued to live with her family.

Simmerson and Miss Turner went to a promotional evening on June 7 at Harvey Nichols in Leeds. They left shortly after 10pm and Miss Turner was shot in the right side of her head in the passenger seat of his Mercedes. Simmerson then drove home, folded her body into an oil drum which he put on the back of an open-backed red Ford Ranger.

He was filmed on CCTV cameras driving around Derbyshire’s Peak District allegedly trying to find somewhere to dispose of the body. At the same time he is claimed to have sent text messages from a mobile telephone. One was to Mr Akers, purporting to be from her. The text read: ‘Staying at Gill’s. Back later. Need to sort my head out.’

At breakfast-time Simmerson had the barrel professionally welded shut and drove out to the Mellands’ farm. Mr Kelson said: “He ended up at Charlotte Melland’s and they had sex for the first time, as he had said he would not have sex with her while he was still seeing Julie.” The next day, Simmerson had the car valeted in Chesterfield telling an employee he had “knocked a dog over and put it in the passenger seat”.

Mr Kelson told the jury Simmerson was to tell police that Miss Turner had pulled the gun on him and “jabbed” it in his face. He claimed that he was trying to disarm her when it went off accidentally and he had no intention of harming her.

Simmerson, of Creswell, Derbyshire denies murder.

The Simmerson case involves many of the same elements as the Watts case: sex with a second mistress, caught out by CCTV cameras, driving out to a remote location in a pick-up truck, the adapting of a story from a disappearance to an argument leading to an accident, the sending of bogus text messages etc.

Body of man found sealed in oil drum and dumped in river The Scotsman

POLICE are investigating the murder of a man whose body was discovered sealed in an oil drum floating in the Clyde. He was discovered by workers who had been carrying out routine cleaning and dredging work midway between Old Kilpatrick and Erskine, close to the Erskine Bridge.

Strathclyde police said that the unidentified body, said to be that of a man more than 6ft tall with “a stocky, hefty build”, had been in the water between three and 14 days before it was found.

The body was brought ashore at Old Kilpatrick after it was found on Thursday morning. It had been crammed into an oil drum, which had then been sealed. It is understood that the man had not been dismembered before being placed in it. Detective Chief Inspector Neil Thomson of Strathclyde police said the victim had been subject to a “brutal attack” prior to his death and the priority now was to identify him.

“On the small finger of his left hand was a gold metal ring with the word ‘Dad’, which appears to have some sort of stones or jewellery encrusted in it,” DCI Thomson said. “On the wedding finger of the same hand was a fairly large, square-shaped gent’s signet ring, which also has a square-shaped design on top of it. It’s quite a chunky ring.” The victim was found wearing a polo-style shirt with the Yves Saint-Laurent brand name emblazoned right across it, rather than the more usual YSL logo. Police have been unable to give a specific age for the dead man, placing him between 20 and 50. DCI Thomson would not say whether this was due to the injuries the victim had sustained or because of the time spent in the water, stating instead that it could be “notoriously hard” to identify age purely by external examination.


This last example appears to involve an oil drum, but no oil. Nevertheless, the identity of the man is unknown, so much so it’s unknown whether he was young or middle-aged, despite only being in the water for a few days.

It does raise the question – were the children dumped into the tanks in their clothes, and if so, what were they wearing? Were they wearing their pajamas?


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