When we first examined Trinastich’s surveillance video, most of us focused on the television. There wasn’t much to see, was there? Even the original video is fuzzy in depicting the goings-on in that all-important top left corner.
It didn’t take long though for folks to pick up on something else in the bodycam footage: Watts’ oddball behavior beside the flat screen. He seems at turns nervous, restless, distracted and even seems to be daydreaming at times.
On a few occasions he reaches for his phone and seems to be simply checking messages. Now we know he was responding to messages, including one – it looks like – to his mistress.
Although a reader brought this information to my attention, it’s been surprisingly difficult to confirm, and to be honest, it still may not be. This is because Detective Dave Baumhover and the other cops are somewhat vague in describing 1) at what time Officer Scott Coonrod entered the neighbor’s house to view the surveillance footage and 2) detective Baumhover’s exact time of arrival at the scene.
And a check of bodycam footage at the moment Coonrod enters the house for the first time confirms this.
In any event, Coonrod was on the scene for approximately twenty minutes before Watts showed up.
Detective Baumhover arrived on the scene sixteen minutes later [subsequent to Coonrod entering the home] at “approximately” 14:35 according to the arrest affidavit.
So we see, Coonrod was inside the scene with Watts for just a few minutes when he reckoned uh-oh, something is badly out of whack here. And then he summoned resources.
Coonrod and Watts were heading over to Trinastich’s house when detective Baumhover arrived at about exactly 14:35.
We know Watts remained at the neighbor’s house for seven more minutes after Coonrod made Watts aware of the detective’s arrival at the scene. That pushes the clock close to 14:42.
Now let me show you how and why we make these inferences.
At 02:04 in the video clip above, while Watts is doing his lip-curl thing, has both hands cupped against the back of his head, and sways from side to side [henceforth known as the Watts Bullshit Dance] Coonrod says: “My detective just showed up.” The bodycam records the time as 20:40:42Z.
If we assume the 14:35 arrival time is fairly accurate [but it may not be], and we advance 9 minutes forward through the timeline of the bodycam video [to the time of the text message to Kessinger] we get this at approximately 14:44 [20:49:35Z on the bodycam clock].
At this point in the bodycam footage, Watts has just exited Trisnatich’s home and returned to his own home to be questioned by Baumhover. It’s possible during this interlude, Watts sent this text to Kessinger:
As mentioned above, the bodycam clock shows the time when Watts exits as 20:49:35Z. I’ll explain the “Z” in a moment. For the time being, bear with me.
If the detective’s arrival time has a five-minute margin of error, and if we add a minute or two for the detective to arrive on scene and for dispatch to convey that to Coonrod, then it’s possible Watts sent the message to Kessinger while standing beside the cops. And we know that he was texting because on at least two occasions we can see he is texting beside the television.
His last text is at 20:42:53Z.
What does the “Z” mean?
The bodycam seems to be configured to Zulu time, which is a military metric based on Greenwich Mean Time [GMT]. 20:42 Zulu converts to 15:42 Mountain Standard Time [MTS]. So it appears Officer Coonrod’s bodycam clock is fast by one hour or the arrest affidavit is inaccurate by an hour. It seems unlikely detective Baumhover would mistake his ETA by more than a few minutes.
The Discovery Documents do show Watts texted Cristima Meacham at 14:26, which is nine minutes prior to Baumhover’s estimated arrival. Watts’ text to Cristina read:
Police are here, call you when I know.
Unfortunately the Discovery Documents are silent on further activity from Watts, or the cops – there is nothing between 14:26 and 15:46.
It’s frustrating that on so simple an issue as when the cops arrived there’s so little clarity or consistency.
Incredibly, in the Amanda Knox case, there’s also confusion around a critical part of the timeline; when the cops arrived at the Villa crime scene in Perugia.
By doing this analysis of Coonrod’s bodycam video again, what are we looking for and why does it matter? We’re looking for Shan’ann’s phone. We suspect it wasn’t inside the house when Chris Watts first arrived arrived home on the 13th. But we could be wrong. It could have been inside the house.
In time we’ll do a more thorough analysis, looking for instances where Watts has his phone, and we’ll see what that looks like.
One of the commenters on this site, MattyB, has suggested Watts retrieved Shan’ann’s phone not in his truck, but in the passenger area of Shan’ann’s Lexus.
Let’s take a look.
It’s worth looking at the the whole manoeuvre in real time a few times to get a sense of how he’s moving relative to the camera behind him. MattyB has a point. Watts does appear to scootch down towards the floor mat of the Lexus passenger seat, and retrieve something there, something inside the Lexus.
It may be a case of visual bias – we may be seeing what we want to see, rather than what’s really there, but it does seem like Watts is retrieving a flat, pinkish object with his right hand. The same can’t be said for the object from the truck, tucked under his arm [it may be a phone, but it’s definitely not pink].
As soon as Watts gets what he came for, he turns away from the camera. He skedaddles through the garage’s rear interior door just as Nickole starts to advance on his position at the passenger door. Nickole then inadvertently blocks Officer Coonrod’s video view of the suspect.
What does this mean?
Again, this could be reading way too much into fuzzy video images, and we saw how some folks got carried away seeing a phantom Ronnie Watts or Nichol Kessinger accomplice in Trisnatich’s surveillance video. We don’t want to do that here.
So let’s just say tentatively, there could be two possibilities here.
1. Watts left Shan’ann’s phone in her car
Taking her phone with him presented an enormous risk. If he was seen with it, or caught with it, he would be in deep trouble, and if he turned it on, then a cross-reference for his phone and hers would implicate him directly.
It just wouldn’t be a good idea to take her phone with him, unless he could be in two places at once. If he had an accomplice, he or she could impersonate Shan’ann and leave a bogus message. But that didn’t happen.
It makes sense that Watts would leave the phone in her car, because that’s what Scott Peterson did as well. When Laci’s phone was found, it was plugged into her 1996 Land Rover SUV’s cigarette lighter, but had virtually no charge on it. Shana”n’s phone, when found, was also off.
The phone is a vital piece of evidence, because it locates both the victim, and in the case of a cover-up, provides insight into where the murderer doesn’t want an inquiring mind to go. If Watts did move the phone first to the car before he left, then from the car when he got back, why put it on the couch and not next to her bed, or suitcase?
The answer is, Watts probably preferred it if the phone wasn’t found, because it could incriminate him. But he couldn’t have the phone be completely irretrievable, as that would raise serious suspicions that Shan’ann wasn’t simply missing, but had come to harm. That scenario wouldn’t be good for him. But that’s precisely what Nickole Atkinson thought when the phone appeared but Shan’ann didn’t.
Putting the phone in the car delays discovery. Putting it on the couch under cushions also delays discovery, but confuses the location of the crime scene.
Unfortunately the phone wasn’t seized immediately as evidence and dusted for prints. Chances are Watts wiped traces of himself from the phone both times when he placed it in the car, and under the cushions.
2. Watts is a cagey bastard
Let’s assume that Shan’ann’s phone was in the Lexus when Watts pulled up. Let’s also assume that foremost in Watts’ mind was a sense of, “Oh shit, I’ve got to get hold of that damn phone…”
I’m not sure why he’d think that, perhaps because the mismatch of the bed sheets on the floor and the phone in her car, would implicate him more directly. But looking at Watts arrival the first thing he does – making for the garage and the Lexus – it does seem Watts was intent on staging the phone, and we know Watts knew that her phone had some utility in exonerating him in terms of his call to her phone and the staged message [Scott Peterson did the same thing on the way from his fishing trip].
If Watts’ first thought when he got out of the truck was to retrieve her phone, then if did that, he achieved it virtually without being seen even though he was on camera. That’s stealth. If true, I think it also reinforces the notion of a stealth attack when Shan’ann arrived at 01:48. This is a guy who is acutely aware of his surroundings, and the digital eyes and ears of his world.
But as savvy as he was to all these signals, what he was attempting to do was insane. What he was trying to pull off reminds one, quite frankly, of the scene in Entrapment when the cat burglar [played by Catherine Zeta Jones] tries to outwit a spider web of cotton strands with bells on them [symbolizing a security systems of laser beams]. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. Watts thought he did until one bell after the other started going off, only he was the only one who couldn’t seem to hear them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In POST TRUTH, the 100th True Crime Rocket Science [TCRS] title, the world’s most prolific true crime author Nick van der Leek demonstrates how much we still don’t know in the Watts case. In the final chapter of the SILVER FOX trilogy the author provides a sly twist in a tale that has spanned 12 TCRS books to date. The result may shock or leave you with even more questions.
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“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.”