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

Tag: processed

If Bella and Celeste’s Bodies were Dismembered or Processed then a Plea Deal – if you’re Chris Watts – starts to make sense

Chris Watts has maintained from the start that he had nothing to do with the deaths of his daughters. Shan’ann killed them, he claimed in his confession. Even to his parents he apparently maintained this psychological distance, telling them “after what she did” there was no way he was going to bury the three of them together.

If Chris Watts killed and dismembered – or chemically processed – the remains of his children, then we can see how this case going to court could play out very badly for him.  The dismemberment theory isn’t wild conjecture by any means; we’ve just seen the same scene [a missing person’s case become a premeditated murder case with missing dismembered remains] playing out in international media while the Watts case was in legal limbo.

Taking on the defense perspective [I realize many are allergic to even hypothesizing this, but at TCRS we explore all possibilities], if Watts is able to win some credit with a potential jury it may be through portraying Shan’ann as an obsessive, compulsive, controlling, abusive partner.

So he might win some sympathy with a jury. On the other hand, if he liquidated his own children it’s difficult to see there being a stitch of compassion for him, especially given the fact that he murdered his wife while she was pregnant as well.

Anything can happen at trial, of course. The Casey Anthony case proved that a slam-dunk case can be undone with a rigorous defense, especially if and when the parents come to the party. The Anthony’s managed to create “doubt” on two important aspects at trial that otherwise seemed certain. Remember the “odor of death” in the car becoming the odor of pizza? Remember the repeated Google searches for Chloroform that Cindy Anthony said she performed [even though she was at work at the time]? It was enough to create doubt in the jury’s mind, if no one else’s.

The two big difference between the Watts case and the Casey Anthony case are:

  1. Casey Anthony never confessed to anything. Not while being interrogated, not to her parents, not to the media, not at trial. Never. Casey Anthony was offered a plea deal and incredibly, refused to take it. Thus far Chris Watts has done all those things that Casey Anthony didn’t do.
  2. Caylee Anthony’s remains took around six months to recover by law enforcement. By the time an autopsy was conducted, the little girl’s remains were entirely skeletonized. This favored the defense case because it couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt [in the jury’s mind] that Caylee was murdered, or even how she was murdered. Was she given an overdose of chloroform or Xanax? If she was, the evidence [as the jury saw it] wasn’t sufficient.  In the Watts case the girl’s remains were located almost immediately, though crucially, it took four days to recover them even after authorities knew where they were.

We assume that the four days of recovery simply involved the time it took to drain the almost full tanks, but I believe that’s a mistake. Theoretically, if the bodies had been dumped intact from above through the thief hatch, they could have been fished out just as easily.


Again, if the oil tanks were almost full, and the bodies were suspended whole inside, all one needed to do was stir the tanks slightly, or reach in with a noose, rope or lasso wrapped in plastic to prevent fiber contamination [CERVI 319 is situated on a cattle ranch] or a blunt curved object like a Bo Peep staff. And that’s if bodies don’t float naturally to the surface. Would they in the case of crude oil is the key question?

And if cadavers do float, wouldn’t Watts have wanted to prevent that from happening? If it was a premeditated murder, wouldn’t part of the thinking have involved preventing the bodies from becoming easily visible to a passing glance inside the tanks through the opened thief hatch?

Were they intact but anchored?


In any event, it seems the District Attorney has withheld the autopsy reports for two reasons. One, to allow the hysteria around the case to die down. And two, to use it as a bargaining chip [potentially] with the defendant. To hold the reports in his hand, to tell him “we know exactly what you did to your children” and to offer him the opportunity to go to prison quietly, without disgracing himself or his family any further at a very public trial.

Watts pleaded guilty

Watts Family Murders: Rocket Science SOLVES Thief Hatch Mystery!

On September 15th, 2018, one month after the remains of his wife and children were recovered from CERVI 319, I posted a blog analyzing a question that members of the public were repeatedly asking:

“Why wasn’t Shan’ann’s body dumped into the oil tanks as well?”

One aspect of the answer [and admittedly the simpler one of the two] was – I thought – easy to answer. The children were dumped into the respective tanks because they were small enough [barely] to fit through the thief hatch. Shan’ann was not.

I “proved” this theory by intuitively [visually] measuring up the size of the hatch against an adult operator standing beside it.

Fullscreen capture 20180916 104145Fullscreen capture 20180915 101246-001

My assessment, without any more factual or scientific data to go on, was that the children would barely fit through these small openings. They had to, how else could he have gotten them in there short of chopping up their bodies or chemically reducing them beforehand?

About two weeks later, on September 28th, HLN covered the same issue.

They had an expert on board, and the expert’s was unequivocal on the size of the opening. 8 inches.

Fullscreen capture 20180928 025708

The screengrab above doesn’t make it very obvious just how small 8 inches is. It’s 20 centimeters, roughly the width of this paragraph or the length of the average dinner fork when viewed on a desktop monitor.


Needless to say a 4-year-old child’s head and hips can’t fit through such a small opening. This was devastating to my theory, hence I posted a follow-up blog the same day HLN challenged the notion.

Chris Watts: The crime scene at CERVI 319 just got a LOT more complicated

The problem was, although HLN had provided more information, they’d actually shot their own theory in the foot. They speculated that Watts had used the clean out manway at the bottom of the tanks to access the tanks. It made sense from a size perspective – yeah, it’s big enough to put a child inside, hell, an adult could step inside as well.

Fullscreen capture 20180928 030356

The problem with the manway access point is the fact that the oil tanks were almost full when the cops arrived on the scene. They were so full, they took several hours to drain.

Fullscreen capture 20181102 093333

HLN seemed to miss the fact that in order to open up the manway cover, the tank had to be completely empty. So what, one might argue, maybe it was empty to begin with. The problem is if it was empty the tank would have to fill to almost full within hours. These are huge tanks, and they aren’t filled up rapidly. They take months to fill to capacity. The sequestration of gas and liquids also happens over an extended period.

Besides this, any sudden change in the conditions inside the tank would set off monitoring alarms. This would likely attract attention to the CERVI 319 site by Chris Watts’ colleagues, perhaps even his boss – something he’d want to avoid.

Fullscreen capture 20180916 144350

I struggled with this impasse over the next few days. I decided, ultimately, that the thief hatch HAD to have been used, but the only way to dump the remains of both children through those small 8-inch orifices was if the bodies had been dismembered or “processed” in some way.

#Shakedown’s Call on the Chris Watts Case: The Bodies were “Processed”

The extensive “processing” theory doesn’t sit well with me for 2 reasons:

1. Chris Watts had very little time to process one cadaver, let alone three.

2. There appears to be no obvious evidence of tissue fragments, blood or body fluids at #2825 Saratoga Trail [the bodies could have been processed at CERVI 319, but doing so outdoors with three bodies seems very likely].

It’s taken six weeks for this enigma stewing in the subconscious to resolve itself, but I believe it has. The solution appears to be that an operator might be able to remove the entire thief hatch with the right tools. That’s the housing and the contoured core section.

This doesn’t get us back to where we started with the manway housing. The thief hatch has about half a dozen bolts to loosen and tighten again whereas the manway housing appears to have hundreds.

JT81040 New Lid June 2015fullscreen-capture-20180911-14445339-Peak1-TeflonJT20.1 a look insideimages (1)

In Conclusion:

I believe the thief hatch was used to dump the bodies into mostly full oil tanks from the top of the tanks. I do believe there was some processing or preparing of the bodies irrespective of whether they fit into the hatches or not. If they didn’t fit, this would involve substantial processing including dismemberment. It’s possible to dismember a cadaver without creating a bloodbath if it’s frozen first. If the cadavers did fit through the thief hatch, they were probably prepared in a minimum manner, including cutting off hair and probably removal of clothing that could clog the grates inside the tank.

The arrest affidavit is also unambigous on this point, that all three of the victims’ bodies were tampered with to the extent serious enough to charge Watts with a felony in each and every instance.

Fullscreen capture 20181102 082205