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Tag: Plausible Deniability

Why the GPS Tracking Device Theory on Chris Watts’ Truck is a Dead End

Today is two days shy of two months since the Watts family murders. HLN has provided consistent coverage of the case until now. But not all the analysis is what it’s cracked up to be.

Take the GPS tracking device stuff. The line of interrogation HLN took is that Anadarko looked at Chris Watts’ GPS tracker [it comes standard in many corporate vehicle fleets] and gave this data to the cops, and that’s how they located the remains.

But for one thing, that’s not how the affidavit reads. According to the affidavit Chris said he loaded all three bodies onto the back seat of his work truck and then took them to CERVI 319, a remote work site where he was stationed as an operator.

In other words, the affidavit notes that once confronted with the surveillance video and the fact it confirmed that Shan’ann and the kids were never seen leaving the residence, the only possible inference was that they had left – alive or dead – with him. [There’s actually more to it than this, which I go into in TWO FACE, and there’s also the possibility that they could have gone out through the back door, but for the sake of argument, let’s accept that the surveillance video alone was sufficient].

The affidavit pertinently notes that Chris said…[to the cops]…he took them to an oil work site.

HLN seems to believe he said this only because he was confronted with GPS tracking data. The cops knew the bodies were somewhere at the work site, they just weren’t sure where.

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There have been lingering doubts about where the little girls were disposed, but the affidavit is unambiguous: they were placed in separate locations.

Secondly, there’s a very good reason why the GPS data isn’t crucial evidence.  HLN makes out that Chris Watts was driving around unaware that he was being tracked, and this data caught him out. It’s possible of course, but in my view unlikely.

When Scott Peterson returned from his fishing trip [which we now know was actually a body dumping trip], he made several calls to Laci’s phone and to the home phone. The point of these calls wasn’t because Scott Peterson didn’t know where Laci was, or didn’t know that his movements were being tracked, timestamped, logged and the geographical location recorded, but the opposite. It was because he did. He wanted his trip to San Francisco Bay that day to pass the plausible deniability test. In Peterson’s scenario, his deniability lay in the “fact” that he was a hundred miles away from Modesto when Laci was walking her dog and disappeared.

As it turns out, his browser history on his work computer actually proved he was still in Modesto mid-morning. Uh-oh.

I’ve seen a fair amount of comment suggesting Chris Watts had “no plan” after the murders, and others that he may not even have planned any of the murders to begin with. I won’t deal with that here, except to say, just like Scott Peterson, the secret was to disguise the crime in plausible deniability. What does this mean? It means on the morning of Monday August 13th, Chris Watts was supposed to be at CERVI 319 anyway.

In TWO FACE I provided extended timelines, and also showed that Chris Watts often left home before the crack of dawn. A neighbor also said it was unusual that he’d leave as “late” as he did Monday morning.  He usually left shortly after 04:00, not 05:00. Shan’ann said as much in several of her social media posts.

Like this one.

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And so, the murder and the disposal of the remains was hidden in plausible deniability – hidden in the routine work schedule. Here was Chris getting up early as usual, except it was a little unusual that he was up and out quite a few minutes later that Monday morning of all mornings.

If the murder/s were committed close to 02:00, then what had Chris Watts been doing for the next three hours that delayed him getting through the door on time?

Chris Watts going to work as per his usual routine was meant to be his alibi. Where was he when Shan’ann disappeared? Why, he was at work. He, being the concerned husband he was, also called her from work throughout the morning [reinforcing his alibi].

So the idea that GPS tracking data gave away secret information is, to my mind anyway, a little silly. Chris Watts’ job was to monitor work sites. He knew exactly what was being monitored and where, and it’s likely he knew his vehicle was being monitored too. When the cops were investigating his house as a crime scene with sniffer dogs, he was also painfully aware of scent issues around the remains, which is why he dumped the children in separate oil drums to begin with.

So going to the work site wasn’t any different to where he was going anyway, and that was the point.

The affidavit does note that prior to Chris Watts’ confession, investigators arrived at CERVI 319 with consent to conduct a drone search. Does this mean Chris Watts consented, did Anadarko consent, or did Chris Watts and Anadarko consent?

More likely the latter. If either had objected the cops would have had to get a search warrant. Chris Watts was fine with the cops searching his house; why wouldn’t he play it cool and be fine with them searching the work site too? They’d need specialized tools to find anything inside the tanks anyway.


While the idea is intriguing that Andarko or the fleet controllers gave GPS data to the cops, what’s more likely is the cops simply asked Chris Watts where he went when he left home, and confirmed this information with Anadarko.

Exactly the same spiel played out with Scott Peterson. He was asked where he was that morning, and he told investigators where he was. He even had a ticket stub from the marina to prove where he was. The whole point was to commit a crime under the disguise of doing something completely plausible, in Peterson’s case it was going fishing, in Watts’ case it was going to work.

And in both cases, even telling the cops where he was, wasn’t going to reveal bodies very easily. That was also precisely the point, which is why it took as long as 48 hours to retrieve the bodies of the little girls even when the cops knew the location of the burial site.

In the Peterson case, they knew roughly where the burial site was but ultimately Scott Peterson and the currents of San Francisco Bay succeeded in fooling them. The cops never found Laci’s remains; nature – when she was ready – returned them to the world of the living. This happened with a little help from mother nature and man’s best friend. What was never meant to be found made its way back into the world thanks to a large storm and two families walking their dogs.

Just because the search span in the Watts case was much shorter doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of planning, calculation and strategy involved.

There was a plan.

The bodies being found ever was never part of the plan.

Shan’ann’s Phone Was Left HERE – and what it means

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:

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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There appear to be two large cushions, grey and white [or tan] on the leather couch.

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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.Fullscreen capture 20181007 151003

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

*On the same night Kercher was murdered, Knox and Sollecito [the original suspects and both twice convicted in the murder] both turned off their cell phones. In addition Kercher’s two phones were removed from her room and disposed of outside the house. It later transpired that someone had attempted to use her phone to hack into her British telephone banking account. Only someone very familiar with Kercher would have known about this account. #tcrs investigated the Knox case in a series of narratives, licking off with Despicable.