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Tag: deed to house

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.


An Idiot’s Guide to the Watts Family Finances

We ought to do our due diligence in the Watts case, and figure out the finances. How was responsible for what? What financial storms were barreling over the Colorado plains that summer for this picture-perfect family from North Carolina?

As an initial point, in the 2015 Bankruptcy Filing, under the heading DEED OF TRUST FOR PRINCIPAL RESIDENCE, a black rectangle censors out a space. Does the blacked out space cover one name or two?

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I know something about economics, but I don’t claim to be an expert on the subtleties behind income statements and balance sheets. Over the past few days I’ve approached three expert friends of mine – an accountant, a banker and a guy with a successful debt collection business – and asked them to prognosticate on the Watts family finances, including the 2015 Filing. I’m still waiting to hear back from all three of them. Other people’s money, it seems, is seldom as simple, straightforward or easy as it looks.

While we’re waiting for the experts to pronounce on those finances, let’s begin by stating the obvious in three areas:

1) What did the Watts themselves believe about their financial ability? 2) How were they living in 2018 compared to 2015 [during their first bankruptcy filing]? 3) What are the relative histories of Shan’ann and Chris Watts towards money and debt over time?

1) What did the Watts themselves believe about their financial ability?

Shan’ann uses the same language over and over again in all her promotional videos. A product is seriously “amazing” and “incredible”, we’re told, and her fellow promoters breathlessly repeat the same empty aphorisms. We never really find out why Thrive is such a gamechanging life changing product. As amazing as it is, it’s amazingly thin on facts, stats and real information, and incredibly fat on fancy packaging, branding and promotion.

There are endless character witnesses just like Shan’ann telling the world of Facebook – anyone dumb enough to listen – how amazing they feel, how good they look, what cars they’re driving, what holidays they took and of course what to do to join the Thrivin’ to make it all a better world for everyone.

The product [like the money in this game] is just a byproduct to living the Thrivin’ fairy tale. Nobody really cares about the product on their way to financial wellness. Well, only in a fairy tale business is the product itself a fiction and a fairy tale, and only real world flakes invest in fictitious finance.

During the above call Shan’ann refers to someone on her team earning a $200 000 bonus, someone else a $1 million bonus. These massive sums are presumably amounts extra over commissions, incomes and salaries. If so, it seems being part of the Thrivin’ thing means being awash with cash, doesn’t it?

So why wasn’t Shan’ann cash flush two years into her swim in the MLM Kool-Aid? Or was her marriage in trouble not because of financial strain, not because of the enormous debt they still carried three years later, but other factors?

Let’s consider for the moment that their finances were going down the drain. Being involved in MLM tends not to be a success story for 99% of people who do get involved, so the idea isn’t far-fetched.

The massive cash payouts Shan’ann was referring to in the clip above sounds and feels almost like a lottery, doesn’t it. Is it performance based or random?

Where this phantom money is supposed to come from is beyond me, but to MLM it doesn’t manner. The pyramid will fart it out. Who cares about the marginal economics of patches and powders, or how many of these bandaids must be actually purchased and recycled by those drinking the Kool-Aid to produce an excess – who cares about that when what matters is getting the bonus!

The extent of Shan’ann’s “investment” if that’s the word, in MLM provides some idea about just how poor her grasp was of business, economics, income or simply making ends meet.

If Shan’ann was drowning in Kool-Aid, Chris Watts was also taking glugs and gulps at the font of the barrel. If he wasn’t drunk on the Kool-Aid, he was certainly susceptible to its hypnotic pull.

The Watts family were in a real sense the intellectual inheritors of the housing bubble. In other words, they believed wealth could be conjured [like bubbles] out of thin air. Straw woven into gold with a few careful chosen words/incantations on social media.

The problem with bubbles is the same problem with fairy tales – when they pop, you find yourself in the real world, but this time the wolf barking at the door is real.

2) How were they living in 2018 compared to 2015?

In the video clip above Shan’ann appears to say [at about the 5 minute mark] that “they” have donated $500 000 to breast cancer awareness over the past two years, and are “shooting for” $500 000 “in this year alone”. What she means is the entire company has donated money. In 2015 Le-Vel donated $250 000 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation via the proceeds of it’s “Limited edition breast cancer DFT” [whatever that is].

Le-Vel Brands Donation

I haven’t been able to find any further evidence of additional donations to Breast Cancer Awareness besides this. If there are, drop me a line in the comments below.

The point is, the donation isn’t really anything else besides the company using it’s own promoters to raise money for charity through their own sales to one another “for a good cause”.

If the Watts family were Thrivin’ in 2017 and 2018, had they been able to address their debt burden, or had it gotten infinitely worse?

We don’t need an intimate knowledge of their finances to know that three years after filing for bankruptcy, it may not have been the best idea to have a third child. The original bankruptcy filing noted as much, stating in 2015 that the financial conditions of the family were likely to worsen after 2015 as Shan’ann was pregnant with her second child.

Fullscreen capture 20180910 084301

It should also be noted that Chris was driving a fairly beat up old truck in 2018. Hadn’t he qualified for a luxury auto bonus somewhere down the line? So why was he stuck in 2018 driving a company car, a fleet vehicle?

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Fullscreen capture 20181010 232233Fullscreen capture 20181010 232242

3) What are the relative histories of Shan’ann and Chris Watts towards money and debt over time?

This is the critical question. In a prior post we saw the backstories of Shan’ann and Chris Watts, and the sort of home they grew up in and lived in over the years. Shan’ann’s from a humble background. Her mother is a hairdresser, her father and brother are carpenters. Chris Watts is a mechanic from humble roots too. So how was money conjured into a $400 000 mansion on spiffy Saratoga Trail?

Now, remember that blacked out rectangle we looked at a moment ago? According to research done by one commenter on this site [thanks Cheryl]:

In terms of deed information the header for 2825 Saratoga reads:

“Two deed records were found on this property.” Underneath that header in this order is the following information:

Ownership Change: June 4, 2013
From: Christoper L. Watts to Christopher L. Watts and Shanann Watts (there is no loan information here, indicating the property was not refinanced; the June 4 activity indicates the addition of Shanann’s name to the deed only.)

Ownership Change: May 1, 2013
From KDB Homes, Inc. to Christopher L. Watts

Lender: DHI Mortgage
Loan Amount: $392,709
Lender Type: Mortgage Company
Loan Type: Federal Housing Authority (FHA)
Line of Credit: 0 Credit Line

Given what we know about the North Carolina house she owned and her selling it with all the furnishings, I would have to think she was in significant financial trouble (probably behind on mortgage payments) and couldn’t qualify for a loan…in 2013, when lending had really tightened due to the housing debacle. Assuming Chris’s credit was good, they probably had a better chance of obtaining a loan under his name only. Perhaps the idea was to jointly refinance the home later on, so that Shanann would be on both the deed and the loan. Since their finances went downhill after 2013, I imagine this was not a possibility. They certainly couldn’t take advantage of the rock-bottom interest rates that were available around the time they filed bankruptcy.

…What’s interesting about this is I think you can be on the deed without having to be on the loan, which means Chris may have been solely responsible for the loan while Shan’ann enjoyed half ownership of the house without the financial responsibility.

As their finances unraveled resulting in the 2015 bankruptcy coupled with what seems like continuing financial problems after that, the birth of two children, Shan’ann’s quitting her job to stay at home with the kids, unreliable income from Thrive, and then a third child on the way, I can only imagine the level of rancor this created in the Watts household, especially with Chris. It would also support Chris’s possibly having a sense of entitlement (literally and figuratively) to the home, thereby underscoring Chris’s wanting sole possession of 2825 Saratoga as a primary motivation for the murders. On the other hand, if Chris had no way to retain the home, his murdering Shan’ann could have been revenge for losing the home and compromising Chris’s credit–Chris had mentioned to a neighbor they were considering selling the home. Anyway, something to think about..

There’s also a third possibility. By getting rid of the straws that were breaking the camel’s back, Chris Watts may have figured he could cut his losses and replace his family [especially his wife] with a more viable family.  Perhaps he could move in a girlfriend who had a half-decent paying job like his, and together they could get real about keeping the dream house and at least have a chance in paying it off.

In the post unequally yoked I touched on this aspect. The money train, debt and the idea of being yoked isn’t as sexy, apparently, as reading about a mistress. Like Shan’ann, the mistress may have been a means to an end, the end being keeping the fairy tale going at all costs. For Chris Watts the fairy tale was the house, not what was in it.