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

Tag: basement

GUEST POST: Did the murders happen in the bedroom or the basement?

The post below is from a reader who asked to remain anonymous. Thank you for your thought provoking contribution!

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…did Shan’ann, not seeing her husband immediately as she entered the home, decide to head downstairs where Chris Watts had admittedly been sleeping and working out the last several weeks or months to find him and speak with him face to face?

Anxious and with blatant and bold determination to wait not a moment longer to confront him right then, an argument could have taken place over something as simple as Chris’s last credit card charge that Shan’ann had been alerted to on her phone.

Could it have been an argument in the basement of their Saratoga Trail home, near the foot of the downstairs steps and across from Chris’s bed where Shan’ann was killed; rather than by a totally unexpected, surprise blitz attack from behind her at the foot of the stairs? There are two main reasons why neither of these possibilities should be discounted.

The first reason is the fact that the dogs that were brought into the Saratoga Trail home on the 14th of August trained to sniff for possible trauma or traumatic events alerted that some sort of event, such as an argument or possibly even an altercation may have occurred in a few places within that house.

Curiously, one area where a trauma dog provided an alert was in the basement, near where the bed in which Chris Watts slept was situated.

Eager to talk to her husband and find some resolution to the tumult that had become their lives in the months leading up to the murders of her and her children, it’s a definite possibility that after entering her home if she did not see Chris Watts at first, Shan’ann proceeded down the stairs leading to the basement to talk to him. Perhaps an argument began downstairs. Shan’ann, oblivious to the fact that her children MAY have been deceased at that point in time, would not have thought twice or worried about talking loudly or even yelling in her interaction with Chris if they were way down in the depths of their home because she knew it was highly unlikely the children could hear anything or be woken up by noise that far down from where they slept.

If she went downstairs to find and or confront her husband after arriving home in those early morning hours and an argument did ensue in the basement, the possibility that she was murdered there cannot be ruled out. Then however, we are still left with the how of the logistics of her strangulation. The autopsy report for Shan’ann Watts states that she died by means of strangulation/asphyxiation. Yet, one of the biggest mysteries in this case that still requires much in depth questioning and examination, must be how absolutely no visible defensive marks or wounds were found on Shan’ann. The only thing found were finger shaped bruises on one side of her neck. That begs the question once again of how could her murder have been carried out in a way that essentially left her completely disabled to fight back in any manner?

Is it possible that given the supremely high state and level of extreme fitness Chris Watts had worked diligently to commit himself to by the time these murders took place, coupled with the fact of an almost guaranteed physiological adrenaline surge while committing the murder, that he was able to lift his wife right off of her feet; off of the ground and continue to hold her up, one hand firmly held to one side of her neck, compressing her caryodid artery in precisely the right location for the necessary length of time to end her life? If this is possible, it’s also possible the murder really could’ve taken place either downstairs or on the main level of the house at the foot of the stairs. If her murder took place in this manner, the location of her murder becomes less important in a sense.

The reason this premise is even a possibility is because not only were there no defensive wounds or marks found on Shan’ann, but even with Shan’ann’s perfectly groomed and religiously upkept long fingernails, there were absolutely no obviously visible scratches, bites, cuts or even minor abrasions found on Chris Watts either. Even further; to the public’s knowledge, no trace of blood, urine or other bodily fluids were found on any carpeted areas in the Watts home.

If Shan’ann was killed down in the basement and some form of bodily fluid or excretions were present during or afterward her being killed, wouldn’t a more comprehensive and effective clean up on a concrete surface be even a little bit quicker, easier and more efficient than attempting to remove all trace of DNA evidence from plush, medium depth, light colored carpeting found on the main and upper levels of home? We do know from the discovery documents in this case that it was noted the home smelled of bleach and cleaning fluids when first entered by the Atkinsons and law enforcement the afternoon of August 13th.

Obviously, swabs for DNA can be collected and tested from almost any surface. Therefore, if when Shan’ann was killed, her face was pressed directly against carpet, possible bleeding from her nose or mouth due to pressure being exerted on her head, cheeks or some area of her face, while up against even a carpeted surface should leave blood/fluid stains that would be quite difficult to get rid of in all traces, especially in a very limited time period in terms of clean up. However, the same thing would have occurred if Shan’ann was in fact strangled at the bottom of the basement stairs. If her head or face was pressed up against any surface really while her heart was still actively pumping blood through the organs of her body, there would have been evidence of bruising in and around her face and yet, apparently, there was absolutely nothing. Are we to believe this strangulation occurred in midair? Extremely difficult, yet perhaps not impossible.

The Second Reason

After reviewing all of the discovery evidence available, I concur with Nick’s view that a premeditated murder would almost guarantee Bella and Celeste were already dead when their mother returned home. This scenario would also indicate that Chris Watts would not want to risk his wife heading upstairs to check the girls first thing after arriving home. If one goes with this train of thought, perhaps the possibility of Shan’ann being murdered in the basement must be abandoned.

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Yet once again, given the limited amount of evidence that we have to indicate anything to the contrary, the thought must at least be explored that Shan’ann could have met her end in the basement.

I think her feelings and internal drive of extreme anxiousness and desperation at that point in time in terms of her need to confront and immediately speak to her husband, cannot be entirely discounted.

Therefore, unless she happened to see Chris Watts almost as soon as she walked in the front door of that house, I believe it’s quite probable that Shan’ann’s first thought was to locate and confront Chris Watts.

She had likely finally realized Chris had to have been lying to her for months and she wanted, needed to hear the whole truth once and for all and to hear it directly from him. If that was her final wish, it’s highly unlikely her husband granted it. 

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The Cops Found Virtually No Tissue or DNA Evidence of Shan’ann or the Children Inside the House. Is that because Watts did this…

Did Watts make an improptu Dexter-style kill room [or processing room] in the basement?


We know the cadaver dogs smelled something in the basement, but whatever it was, it was a weak alert. We also know all three bodies moved through the garage and were loaded into the back of the truck. So even though we know for sure the bodies were in the truck, the cadaver dog only showed mild interest in the truck. What that shows is the bodies were well-insulated from the outside world.



First Look Inside Chris Watts’ MAN CAVE

The K9 unit bodycam footage is abysmal. It’s so bad it’s almost unwatchable. Much of the jerky footage appears zoomed in and oriented towards the roof. This means the audio is probably more useful than anything else.

There is virtually zero footage of the actual dogs, so its hard to see where they are reacting, which is a crying shame.

What the bodycam footage does show, albeit in fleeting jerky, very poor quality glimpses, are snapshots of Chris Watts’ Man Cave. Compared to the rest of the house, this subterranean area is a complete mismatch. A black garbage bag is stuck against one window near a makeshift bed, which reminds somewhat of Adam Lanza’s bedroom.

The rest of the basement is a mixture of neat packaging, housing and ventilation pipes, wires, innards and clutter that invokes the Ramsey basement.

Immediately below are screengrabs from the K9 bodycam.

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Fortunately we do have another source for footage of the basement. Although it’s also pretty bad, it’s significantly better than the k9 bodycam. Interestingly, even while in the basement, the officer comments about how “everything is in its place” and how neat “these people” are.

What’s also frustrating about the officer’s search downstairs is that he opens the large white refrigerator and looks inside, but doesn’t open the large black one right beside it.

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And then there’s this…

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What was in the Watts Family Basement?

Very little is known about the basement at #2825 Saratoga Trail. It doesn’t feature in any Facebook Live videos. Apparently it was still a “work in progress”.

In photos of other model homes and in the descriptions for model MLS®# 1846125 provision is clearly made for a “Man Cave”.

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…head to the basement for an incredible Man Cave entertainment area, complete with a pool table, wet bar with bar stools, home theater room with 120 HD screen, stadium seating and dimmer lighting!…

The fully kitted out Man Cave is supposed to look like this:

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In the Scott Peterson case, Laci’s body was likely “processed” in Peterson’s Man Cave – his warehouse located a few minute’s drive from the Peterson’s home on Covena Avenue.

At this point, we have no way of knowing exactly what was in the basement at #2825, but there’s some evidence it was a play area for the children and a storage area for toys, and perhaps other things too. A Mickey Mouse curtain or window cover supports this notion as does a remark made by Shan’ann in one of her Live videos [see below].


At 1:57 in the clip Shan’ann’s boasting about her daily spring cleaning efforts, and how the children’s clothes are sequestrated and given to others, or packed “in the basement.”

Bella’s clothes, according to Shan’ann, are packed in a container in the basement.

If the Watts basement was still unfinished – like in the Ramsey home – then besides toys, containers and clothes, it may have been used to store sports equipment, Christmas decorations, items of furniture, Chris Watts’ work tools and perhaps chemicals and engine parks too.

A windowless sanctum intended as a home cinema would be an ideal soundproof area to make noise without being heard or seen at night. It could also be used to leave Deeter temporarily, for the same reason.