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

Tag: Deeter

Deeter goes to Hospital, Baby Monitor Footage, Bella putting doll under Green Blanket, Shan’ann mocks her husband and the Trip to Punta Cana – Watts Family Photos February/March 2017

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Notice in the image below, the sheet in the background is of the same type used to dispose of her body.

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Here we see Bella wrapping her father and her doll in a blanket, which goes some way to showing that it is possible she wrapped the doll in the twister mat. 

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If Watts was a dutiful husband, this sort of thing couldn’t have been very encouraging especially posted on social media. Scroll down to read the comments.

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Excellent Footage of the Moment Officer Coonrod Arrives on the Scene at 2825 Saratoga Trail

This footage confirms something that’s been frustratingly difficult to establish for sure. It may seem like a silly detail, but I wanted to know where Deeter was and why no one heard him when Nickole Atkinson came knocking.

Thanks to this footage, that mystery has been solved. Deeter was in the basement, which from the neighbor’s perspective, was virtually soundproof. From someone standing at the front door, you can just barely hear the dog barking when Officer Coonrod shouts Shan’ann’s name [see second Instagram clip below].

What this also shows is the lack of detail and holes in perception even when there are three different people on the scene. None of them made note of the dog because they didn’t think it was important. But locking Deeter in the basement should have been the first sign that Shan’ann wasn’t at a friend’s house. She wouldn’t have left the dog there when she went out, she’d have let him outside in the back garden [most likely]. Or, if she left the house, the dog would have free run of the main level, assuming the motion detectors were turned off or tuned to ignore doggy-sized disturbances.

The other aspect is leaving Deeter in an almost soundproof basement shows a) that Watts didn’t want the dog attracting the attention of nosy neighbors [remember, after the murders he was completely on his own for almost nine hours, from 05:00 to 14:00, and if everything had gone according to plan, Watts would only have arrived home at 17:00 or 18:00. 13 hours is a long time for a dog to be left on its own, especially for a dachshund. It also shows b) Watts’ postmeditation. How he “took care of the dog” demonstrates the amount of meticulous thinking [only some of which we’re aware of thus far] that went into the premeditation.

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Notice this outside porch light [below] was left on; unless it’s motion activated, it may be further sign of Watts’ hasty exit earlier that morning.Fullscreen capture 20181205 064717Fullscreen capture 20181205 064956

It’s also worth noting that the neighbor also had a dog, which means if Deeter was barking for a length of time, the neighbor’s dog would start barking “in sympathy”, something Watts would want to avoid.Fullscreen capture 20181205 081724

Even when Coonrod scoots down to peer in the basement, he doesn’t see or hear Deeter. This may be because Deeter was sequestered in the basement stairway, assuming there was a door or barrier of some kind at the bottom as well.

It’s also possible Coonrod simply didn’t see the dog in the darkness and clutter inside. But it’s unlikely the dog didn’t see the officer. If he did, he’d have scampered around and barked at the would-be intruder.

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Final point. Notice how when Watts opens the front door he immediately turns away, towards the wall, and walks quickly to the kitchen. Once Coonrod is in the kitchen he strides quickly to the basement. Coonrod is still trying to get his attention, talk to him and catch up. When Coonrod asks if he can look around, Watts says yes, appears to go somewhere, but then abruptly reappears. Watts had a lot of on-scene cleaning up and picking-up to do that he hadn’t anticipated when he left that morning.

This is another version of what probably happened in the Ramsey home for seven hours while the cops were in the house, and the friends they’d invited into the crime scene, while JonBenet lay dead inside. Crimes aren’t just covered up immediately after they’re committed, when they’re premeditated there is covering up before [removing data from phone and other devices, deactivating Facebook], at the scene with officers present, and Watts was still in clean up mode on the night of August 13th.


Brief Notes on Nomenclature

Now is probably a good time to deal with the small issues of nomenclature dogging the Watts case. Why is it that some people refer to her as Shanann, others [including this site] as Shan’ann, and some uninformed former drama teachers as Shanna Ann? What’s the correct spelling?

I took my cue from the funeral leaflet. It seems unlikely that Shan’ann’s nearest and dearest would get her name wrong.


So, from September 1 onwards I used this spelling as the convention. I believe the way Shan’ann spelled her name on Facebook was because Facebook often doesn’t recognize unusual names, hyphenated names or names with apostrophes.

The name on her grave also appears to follow the same convention.

Thus the TCRS convention is to use:


To use the conventional spelling [which, incidentally, the lawyers “representing” the Rzucek family have just done, suggests pronouncing her name Shannon. I.e. Shanann = shannon.

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The apostrophe breaks the name into two syllables, with slightly added emphasis on the second instead of the first:

sha -nann sha’nann

As recently as November 14th, media outlets like KDVR were still spelling Shan’ann’s name Shanann and Shannan in the same article!

People magazine, on the other hand, appear to have accepted the apostrophe as a convention.


Is the unborn baby spelled Nico or Niko? If we use the same reasoning as the funeral nomenclature then we ought to go with the former, and yet, I haven’t. So why haven’t I?

I believe the Rzuceks purposefully altered the spelling from Niko to Nico because of the association with Nichol Kessinger. This may be the reason, or it was a spelling error. Either way, the initial spelling for Niko in the media, when the press were referring to Niko’s Law, was Niko with a K.

It’s not clear where Brittney Basher’s petition on to charge Watts with a 4th count of murder [by recognizing the unborn fetus as person in its own right] was a misspelling, and that all the media then cottoned on to the misspelling. It seems unlikely that someone would misspell Nico with a K when it’s conventionally spelled without one.

It also seems unlikely that if the name was misspelled, it would have been corrected immediately. On the other hand, the Rzuceks don’t seem to be avid readers. In any event, the “Niko’s Law” spelling seemed to indicate the spelling at the funeral was to score a point against the killer by misspelling his son’s name, or was a misspelling.

I elected to follow the Niko’s law spelling for reasons that were grounded in reality, but were also in a sense more intuitive than anything else.


Shan’ann spelled Ceecee’s name Cece, so why not spell it the way she wanted it? The reason is because when “e” follows “c” the “e” [when there’s just one] is usually silent. One way to illustrate this convention is with the letter “v”. When “v” is followed by a single “e” it has a “buzz” sound to it, as in the case of “have” and starve”. So no one intending to say “Vee for victory” would spell it “Ve for victory”.

I’ve used the same logic with a word that when spelled out in “practice”, ”
nice” or “rice” doesn’t translate to the “ee” sound.

So in the instance of Celeste’s name, I’ve overridden Shan’ann’s spelling because it seems to be a misspelling. Facebook is full of misspellings, and that doesn’t mean these misspellings should be carried over into journalism and reporting as well.


I’ve taken quite a lot of flack for spelling Deeter with two “e’s” instead of “ie” – that was how both Shan’ann and Frankie spelled it. If the word is written in small caps, we have “dieter”, from someone going on a diet. Removing the “t” it still has the wrong sound. “Die” and “Dee” are completely different. So why not “Deter”, from “Peter”? Because, again, in small caps it’s “deter”, as in a deterrence. English is a funny language isn’t it?

There are a few names based on double “e’s” including “Fleet” and words like “creeper”.

In the same way that I thought Nico might be a type, and Ceecee clearly is, Deeter is also a misspelling. While I would like to be as conscientious in honoring the spelling as it’s supposed to be, and as it was intended, I draw the line at misspelling, and then making a misspelling a convention.

I hope this clears any confusion going forward, but with that said, in a case where there’s  so much uncertainty about how names are spelled, don’t the public deserve a court case to get certainty about everything else?

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Chris Watts: Don’t Forget About Deeter!

As I left in my car this afternoon to do some grocery shopping, I noticed in my rear-view mirror a neighbor walking his dog. It’s a little dachshund, just like Deeter. I’d been meaning to ask him a few questions about temperament, so I hoped [while shopping] that he’d still be out walking the dog when I got back. Fortunately he was.

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One thing I picked up during research for the first TWO FACE narrative was the neighbor at 2817 Saratoga Trail – 68-year-old Cheryle Hallowell – remarking on the dog’s barking being “different” on the day the family were killed.

2817 is not directly beside 2825, there’s one house in-between. Even so, the neighbor said she could hear the dog barking and what’s more, could tell the pitch of the bark changed too.

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When I approached my neighbor, he had let go of the leash and the dog – Gigi – was moving around a neighbor’s brick wall sniffing various drainage orifices. I asked him – let’s call him Ted – about how he experienced Gigi’s barking.

“How long does it take if you leave the dog outside for him to start barking?”

TED: Well, it’s a her, and we don’t tend to leave her outside. She’s treated like…


TED: That’s the word.

“But if you did leave her outside, how long would it take her to start barking?”

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TED: If she had something to distract her, like this, it would take longer for it to start. But she’d probably start after about ten minutes.

“What about the change in tone? You know when they go from barking, which is already quote loud, to a sort of whining and shrieking?”

TED: Hard to say. We don’t let that happen to her.

“But if you did?”

TED: Half an hour. They’re quite anxious animals.

I told him I’d lived beside another neighbor once who had a dachshund, and they worked during the day. And at some point in the day, every day, you could hear the dog bleating and shrieking from simply being left alone. It got worse and worse as the day wore on and grated the nerves. Not all dogs do this of course, but this one does.

Wikipedia also makes note of the dachshund’s idiosyncratic “separation anxiety”:

They can have a loud bark. Some bark quite a lot and may need training to stop…Dachshunds are known for their devotion and loyalty to their owners…If left alone, many dachshunds will whine until they have companionship. Like many dogs if left alone too frequently, some dachshunds are prone to separation anxiety and may chew objects in the house to relieve stress.

Dachshunds are burrowers by nature and are likely to burrow in blankets and other items around the house, when bored or tired. Their temperament and body language give the impression that they do not know or care about their relatively small size. Like many small hunting dogs, they will challenge a larger dog. Indulged dachshunds may become snappy or extremely obstinate.

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Many dachshunds…growl or bark at [strangers].  Although the dachshund is generally an energetic dog, some are sedate. This dog’s behavior is such that it is not the dog for everyone. A bored, untrained dachshund will become destructive. If raised improperly and not socialized at a young age, dachshunds can become aggressive or fearful.They require a caring, loving owner who understands their need for entertainment and exercise.

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Dachshunds may not be the best pets for small children. Like any dog, dachshunds need a proper introduction at a young age. Well trained dachshunds and well-behaved children usually get along fine. Otherwise, they may be aggressive and bite an unfamiliar child, especially one that moves quickly around them or teases them. However, many dachshunds are very tolerant and loyal to children within their family, but these children should be mindful of the vulnerability of the breed’s back…

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What we get from all that it is:

A. The dachshund’s loud bark is an issue. Deeter’s bark was an issue and we know it was because the neighbor heard it the day of the murders, Monday August 12th.

B. The dachshund’s temperament [its separation anxiety] is an issue. Deeter’s temperament meant he couldn’t be left outside when the crime/cover-up was committed, not even for a short time, and especially not at night, as this would soon awaken/disturb/alert the neighbors.

C. Its loyalty to family members is an issue. If one family member wishes to murder another or several, sequestrating the dog will likely form part of the preplanning. Given the propensity to bark after a short period, it’s not ideal to leave the dog outside, and then be seen [during the commission or cover-up of the crime], awake and opening the door for the animal. Given the loudness of the bark, somewhere has to be found inside the house that is soundproof. Three possibilities in this respect are the basement, the upstairs laundry and the inside of a vehicle parked in the garage.


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Since the neighbor from two doors away heard the dog on the Monday when Shan’ann and the children were considered “missing”, and since by then already the barking had escalated from normal loud barks to anxious hysteria, it’s clear that when Nickole Atkinson arrived, Nickole who was right in front of the door HAD to have heard Deeter barking too.

In an article by the Daily Camera posted on August 15, Madeline St. Amour reports on visiting the Watts residence sometime on Tuesday August 14, but that:

…No one answered the Watts’ door when the Times-Call knocked, although a small dog did come to the door and bark.

Wouldn’t Deeter have done the same when Nickole came round? We know from the latch that Nickole was able to open the door, but only three inches. Could she see Deeter?

We know that when Nickole arrived at the house, Deeter had been left alone [counting from when Chris Watts left the house after 05:27] for at least five hours. That’s more than enough time for a dachshund to experience chronic distress.

“What about the change in tone? You know when they go from barking to whining and shrieking?”

TED: Hard to say. We don’t let that happen to her.

“But if you did?”

TED: Half an hour. They’re quite anxious animals.

What if Deeter couldn’t come to door, but Nickole could hear him loud and clear? Could it be that the dog’s hysterical barking and shrieking inside the house, and perhaps the dog’s inability to get to the front door on Monday was what got Nickole to call the cops as soon as she did?

Was Deeter the first one to raise the alarm?

Deeter Dieter Watts dog

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.