18 minutes before Nick Thayer’s text – sent from the parking lot of the Frederick Police Department – Watts handed over his phone to the FBI. Watch that moment here.
This means Thayer’s text came through when Watts no longer had his handset with him. It was the best advice he ever got, from anyone. Approximately an hour after giving up his phone, and half an hour after Thayer’s text, Watts had already consented to give a polygraph.
If Shan’ann knew, or suspected, that her husband was cheating on her, when would have been the best time to confront him about it? Before her trip to Arizona was one possibility, except he’d already communicated to her that he didn’t want the baby. So consider the fine line Shan’ann may have felt she had to walk. If she confronted him too strongly, he may have dug in his heels and rejected the baby. What she was trying to do was sort of woo him back – by suggesting counselling, by have him read a book, by him writing a love letter to her.
Shan’ann would have felt some confidence, perhaps, that she could get the ship back on course. She was an influencer on Facebook, and she was used to controlling her husband and telling him what to do. So this would be just another version of that.
At 16:18 in the video belowAddy Molony, one of Shan’ann’s Thrive promoter pals, mentions Watts “coming around a little” immediately before her trip to Arizona. This made Shan’ann think she should stay and sort out her marriage. If she had, maybe the children would still be alive, and maybe Shan’ann would be too.
ADDY: Maybe he was willing to work things out. And she told him she didn’t want to go to Arizona, she wanted to stay home, and work things out with him. He said, ‘No, just go.’ Because, you know, she had the kids by herself for six weeks, so he said, ‘Go, go ahead and get away…and we’ll talk when you get back.’ So she was really anxious to get back when all the bad weather was happening, she was super nervous that she wasn’t going to get back…And she was looking forward to this coming weekend when they were supposed to go away [to Aspen].
So Watts also made Shan’ann think it was okay, even good, if she went on the last trip. Of course what this did was buy him more time with Kessinger, and provide him access to the girls while she was away.
During the weekend when she was in Arizona, the signs that something were afoot got worse. Things – literally – weren’t adding up. Addy suggested Shan’ann look through Watts’ phone to make sure.
At around 09:00 in the video clip below, Addy tells the cops that Shan’ann knew he was deleting messages even before she left for Arizona on August 10th.
ADDY: She told me through a text that he was even deleting text messages with his dad…because she’d had a falling out with his parents.
We ought to ask: why would Watts feel it necessary to delete messages to his father while Shan’ann was still alive? One possibility is that he was trying to minimize the fallout that was already taking place. Shan’ann had exploded about the nuts thing, and after that she wanted to some extent to shut out Watts’ family. So if he was communicating with them, this could set off a conflagration between her and him.
Another possibility is that Watts knew the argument she’d had with his dad could go to motive, and so he wasn’t just deleting messages at this stage [about 4 days before the murders], but destroying evidence.
What this demonstrates, though, is the first person Watts was trying to conceal, hide and deceive stuff from was his wife, and arguably he’d sort of succeeded in that until he made a credit card purchase on Saturday night [August 11th] at the Lazy Dog restaurant.
This purchase then alerted her phone, just as the hair care product purchase on the morning of August 13th immediately activated an email at 02:30. When it did, the penny dropped.
From the moment Shan’ann found out about the $62 charge, she was pretty sure he was having an affair and she was right – he was. That bill was proof that he was on a date with one Nichol Kessinger. But Shan’ann couldn’t very well confront him while on a business trip, nor could she do what she did to his parents on Facebook [name and shame] because by then his Facebook was no more. That meant she had to sort things out the moment she got home, or the next morning first thing.
In one of her messages she admits to temporarily “going with the flow” and hoping for the best. Watts was hoping she would do that, anything that could buy him some extra time with his mistress.
This was an interesting change in the dynamic, because usually it was him going with the flow, not her.
If Watts knew she was going to return home to confront him, and the murder is premeditated, why would he want to have that confrontation? Why would he let that happen? Remember, if he told Shan’ann he was having an affair with a co-worker, would Shan’ann want him to continue going to work? Would she try to confront Kessinger herself? What would happen then?
Wouldn’t he prefer not to have a confrontation, or rather, to have a confrontation on his own terms?
When retired Detective Karen Smith went on HLN on October 4th, she didn’t go further than to say Shan’ann probably didn’t hide her phone behind the couch cushions, Chris Watts did. He put it there.
True, but if he did, then what?
Assuming he testifies in court, Chris Watts might say:
Shan’ann and him sat on the couch for a few minutes while having a civilized conversation early that morning. They were discussing his idea of a separation when the phone slipped out of her pocket…
Another possibility is that there was a tussle right there, and that the phone fell between the cushions between an altercation. Since the children’s bedroom is upstairs, and Chris Watts’ version contends that he went from downstairs back upstairs to confront her after seeing her on the baby monitor strangling the children, the upstairs landing area makes sense.
In the same way that Casey Anthony fielded a second defense long after the investigation started, Chris Watts might claim he pushed Shan’ann and she fell down the stairs. In other words, he killed her but “it was an accident”.
What’s the view of #tcrs?
According to the arrest affidavit, the phone was left behind in the loft area between the upstairs bedrooms in the loft area.
There appear to be two large cushions, grey and white [or tan] on the leather couch.
Where did HLN source their image of the couch? The “decor” in that image reappears elsewhere in the house too as indicated by the red arrows above.
Without an accurate floor plan it’s difficult to be absolutely certain whether the area indicated is the loft or not, and thus whether this couch is the right couch. But let’s assume for the sake of argument, the information HLN has and the location for Shan’ann’s phone is correct.
The sketch in TWO FACE BENEATH THE OIL provides a detailed explanation for where the crime scene happened [where Shan’ann was killed]. It’s not upstairs.
If the sketch is correct, then it suggests after committing the crime, Chris Watts went upstairs with Shan’ann’s phone and put it under the cushions in the area closest to the landing; there it could be plausibly present but nevertheless hidden from plain sight.
A much murkier question is: did Chris intend for her phone to be found, or was he planning on discarding it later? If he planned to get rid of it, why didn’t he dump it during his long outbound trip before dawn to CERVI 319? There was clearly the opportunity, and no one to see what he was doing, so why not?
Also: why not destroy the phone?
It’s unclear whether her phone was on or off [Nickole Atkinson might know], but if Watts wanted to delay discovery, then he probably knew her phone needed to be around to mislead people that she was still alive. Sometimes Facebook and WhatsApp can lead [or be used to lead] friends and followers to believe someone is online or around when they’re not, the phone is simply on.
In the Scott Peterson case Laci’s phone was found in her car, not turned off. The battery had run down over several hours. Scott Peterson seemed well aware that by calling Laci he was allowing himself to be tracked not only by cellphone tower pings, but by leaving messages. He appeared to do this deliberately to establish plausible deniability.
There is another possibility too. Perhaps Watts’ original plan was to return home and to send messages from her phone, leading others to believe not just that Shan’ann was alive when she wasn’t, but perhaps that she was going somewhere, or would be going offline for a period, when she was already dead.
Since Chris Watts said he sent several messages to Shan’ann’s phone when he knew she was dead, it makes sense that the idea of leaving misleading digital breadcrumbs must have occurred to him [just as it did to Jodi Arias, Oscar Pistorius, Casey Anthony and the murderer of Meredith Kercher*].
And just as it makes sense for him to say he saw what was happening on the baby monitor while downstairs [in other words, he wasn’t upstairs when the children were murdered], by placing her phone upstairs, he also places her elsewhere to where he probably was when she was killed.
If Shan’ann was murdered at the foot of the stairs, then a claim that she’d fallen down and landed beneath the stairs would also pass the evidentiary test.
QUESTION: Where do you think the murders took place, and why? #tcrs
Book 4 in the TWO FACE series, one of the best reviewed, is available now in paperback!
“Book 4 in the K9 series is a must read for those who enjoy well researched and detailed crime narratives. The author does a remarkable job of bringing to life the cold dark horror that is Chris Watts throughout the narrative but especially on the morning in the aftermath of the murders. Chris’s actions are connected by Nick van der Leek’s eloquent use of a timeline to reveal a motive.”