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The 102 References to the word "Alert" in the Chris Watts Discovery

When I wrote the first book in the TWO FACE series, I was convinced that the cadaver dog evidence would be instrumental in solving this case. I was also certain Chris Watts made a fatal error in allowing the canine units into his home. This suspicion seemed to be confirmed by the loud barking of these dogs while he was giving his Sermon on Porch. I assumed those barks were the dogs alerting to cadaver traces. I was right. And wrong.

It’s true that Jayne Zmijewski’s K9 alerted in several places. But Jeff Hiebert’s K9 did not. For there to be “reasonable cause” to suspect a crime, an alert requires corroboration.  This may be physical evidence, or a second dog showing a strong alert separately but in the same area. If this happens it’s considered “confirmed”.  But this didn’t happen in the Watts case.
In fairness to the dogs we have to acknowledge that in this instance the dogs weren’t just scenting for one cadaver but three, and making it even more complicated was the fact that all three cadavers occupied the search area in life, which had been extensively cleaned prior to the search. Adding to this was the possibility that scented items were contaminated by Watts himself.
Although the shoes of the children were used to scent off, it appears these had been washed and touched by Watts.
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Normally the brief for a cadaver dog is simple: find evidence of a dead person. In the Watts case the dogs had to identify the dead, and there were three identities to juggle in their noses.
When the discovery was made available, I made a beeline for the cadaver evidence but was sorely disappointed at how iffy it all was. Watts obviously had reason to be confident in letting the dogs in. He’d prepared and processed the house from top to toe. It’s not that he completely boggled the animals, just that he compromised the crime scene enough to produce a confusing and contradictory result. The dogs were interested in something, but they couldn’t agree on where. Nevertheless it’s a mistake to assume there were no alerts. The word “alert” appears 102 times in the Discovery Documents. Let’s examine a few of them:
1. Cadaver Alerts
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2. Vivint Security Alerts
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3. Transactional Alerts
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4. Chemicals/Drugs causing reduced alertness and impaired muscle coordination
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5. Ordinary Alerts [Notifications]Fullscreen capture 20190222 135848

6. Missing Endangered Alert
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What both dogs have in common is that they both alerted to the basement stairs. According to the discovery, one dog alerted at the bottom, the other at the top, or both at the bottom. The Discovery Documents are somewhat inconsistent and unclear on this information.


The Suitcase At the Bottom of the Stairs

Shan’ann’s suitcase at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t the same as the suitcases she took to North Carolina.

It was a smaller black case, ideal for a two day trip.



Another maddening aspect of the tsunami of coverage is that there are only fleeting glimpses of the suitcase. You’d think the cops would start at that point, the last known point where Shan’ann left a trace of herself from the trip, but instead they’re everywhere else except looking at the case at the bottom of the stairs.

These are some of the glimpses I’ve been able to grab of it thus far.

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My impression was that the suitcase was left right at the foot of the stairs, but this case has been placed to the side of it, which would have taken two or three steps. Furthermore, Watts has left something of his own right beside it, a blue container, on the side of the case. It’s not clear what it is exactly.

While we’re on the subject of the suitcase, this footage provides some perspective of the motion detectors in the lounge. There appear to be just two, one in the corner by the couches, and another set higher up.

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When one is standing at the foot of the stairs, the small protruding wall blocks the coverage of the upper sensor. Presumably the sensor can detect movement above the first landing on the staircase.Fullscreen capture 20181204 200152Fullscreen capture 20181204 200203Fullscreen capture 20181204 200206

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There’s a strange moment in the footage where the officer asks Watts for information about the doorbell camera. Watts, who has been one great big disappointment in terms of ideas, interest or contributions, suddenly hits his stride. Literally. To explain how well he understands the system, he jogs at the door and shows – demonstrates – to the officer EXACTLY where the range of the doorbell camera extends to.

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There’s also another moment that was of interest to me, and will be of interest to those who have already read the TWO FACE series.  When detective Baumhover and Watts stand below the staircase shooting the breeze, Watts initially appears relaxed, then darts a few glances at his feet and at the floor. If you view the footage carefully, he does this when the detective breaks eye contact and looks away. Nickole Atkinson is also in the room, on his right.

We know Watts’ key tell when he’s nervous is swaying side to side, curling his lower lip and folding his arms. He starts doing that here too.

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When he is initially interrogated, in the kitchen, Watts is standing – from the perspective of the bodycam – between the view of the suitcase [and the stairs]. He’s blocking it, just as he seemed to do in Trinastich’s home when the officer wanted to view the surveillance footage.

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I won’t go into the reasons here, but I believe exactly in this area where Watts is standing, Shan’ann was murdered. She never made it up the stairs, and she never got into bed. There was also no argument, in fact no communication between them after she arrived home. The murder was the only message Watts wanted to send.

But what about the Vivint alerts showing no activity on the main level for over two and a half hours? There’s a well known saying in law, and in true crime, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, or, as I like to put it: the absence of evidence is also evidence.

In the same way Watts was able to hide data on his phone using the Secret Calculator, he knew how to outwit his own home security system. The 01:48 motion alert in the lounge probably came from the overhead sensor, while the one in the corner was neutralized [either digitally turned off, or rendered blind with a piece of paper] until he was finished with his nocturnal work.

Watts was painfully aware of the intricacies of the Vivint system because, while Shan’ann was away, she asked him to repair the dodgy garage sensor.

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Part of his dodgy explanation for Shan’ann leaving was that she left through the garage door. His point being, if she’d left that way, he’d have no way of knowing.

Maybe so, but he’d forgotten about the other sensor spying on his garage: Trisnatich’s.

Chris Watts moved Shan’ann’s suitcase from the bottom of the stairs to inside the master bedroom upstairs, leaving it at the doorway – why?

Just over a month ago we speculated on TCRS about which room the murders took place. Amazingly, after 1960 pages of discovery we’re no closer to answering that question. Well, except we may be a little closer than we were.


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More: Why is there a U-Turn in Chris Watts’ Version of the Murder?

Why is there a U-Turn in Chris Watts’ Version of the Murder?

Why does he go downstairs “for a moment”, and then return? We’ve looked at this particular area before in: Think You Know the Chris Watts Case? In Which ROOM Does HE Say The Murders Took Place?

The U-turn is a recurring theme in the schema surrounding the Watts family murders. On the night/morning of the crime, Shan’ann was returning home from a trip to Arizona. She went, she returned. Chris Watts backs his truck into the driveway [a kind of U-turn in itself], before he heads out.Fullscreen capture 20181109 121052

When Nickole Utoft Atkinson called the cops, Chris Watts had to return from the work site, but Nickole herself was also returning to the house after dropping Shan’ann off only hours later.

The whole Thrive business is based around the idea of making a u-turn in your life, or put otherwise, turning [or re-turning] your life around.

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In his affidavit he says he spoke to Shan’ann not once, but twice.  He talks to her, goes downstairs then returns [up the stairs] to talk to her again. But it’s important to note this is the version he gives during his “partial” confession.

His first version is that he woke up at 05:00, had a conversation about marital separation. He wanted to initiate it. It was a civil conversation and they weren’t arguing.

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But Officer Coonrod isn’t convinced by Watts story. In the affidavit, Officer Coonrod calls for assistance, and Detective Baumhover responds. Baumhover begins by conducting a thorough search of the house. It’s during this search that he finds Shan’ann’s cell phone, not out in the open, but hidden between two cushions on a sofa in the loft area. The fact that it was hidden indicates he wasn’t supposed to find it right then, but he did.

So the cops look at Shan’ann’s phone, still on the scene, and something on the phone [or not on the phone] convinces them that Chris Watts’ story – the timing of it – isn’t right. And so they return to the question about when he was awake. Let’s face it, WhatsApp and other social media log online activity. So it may have been possible for the police to quickly establish that Shan’ann’s phone either showed activity after 02:00 or even shortly before 05:00.

In any event, after finding her phone, Chris Watts is asked to return to his story [still on the scene], and this time he moves his timeline back by an hour. From waking up at 05:00 to informing her 04:00 [which implies that’s when he woke up]..

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On November 1, I published a post on the slip-of-the-tongue that we all missed. This was the slip where he repeats the word “barely” three times:

REPORTER: And then, the day she was back, I mean…?

He starts answering with a stutter.

WATTS [Shaking his head, a slight flash of teeth as he smiles]: I lef-I left wor-for work [glances left] early that morning like 05:15, 05:30 so like [holds out his hand]…she [shrugs]… barely let me in [glances up], she barely got… barely gotten [blinks] into bed pretty much.

No wonder he was so nervous on Tuesday morning, the cops had returned, this time with dogs, and he already had to get his story straight with the media, based on fine-tuning it with the cops the day before.

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Hudson is also referred to twice in the affidavit, that he “drove off to a work site near Hudson” and that he went to “a job site near Hudson to check it.”

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Hudson isn’t really giving the cops anything to work with. It’s 20 miles from CERVI 319, whereas Roggen is less than 3.

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The checking of the job site sounds like he had to go there because of an anomaly. He’s checking. So the dumping of the bodies could both be explained 1) by the anomaly he went to check on, and b) the dumping of the bodies causing the anomaly. One body in each tank would suggest [and could possibly be explained] by some coincidental change in product coming out of the ground.

As the operator tasked with maintaining the remote site, he could – essentially – come up with any story he wished. Maybe the thief hatch had come loose, maybe the product had gotten super-heated over the weekend, baking in the summer sun and causing a gas discharge.

And then, of course, there is the plea deal, which is a U-turn on the confession. All of it reinforces the U-turn that Chris Watts was trying to effect in his life. He was trying to get out the marriage. He’d changed jobs after a lifetime of being a mechanic [just like his dad], he’d turned around his weight, and he’d already found someone else. Niko, though, was threatening to ruin the U-turn, the return to the man Chris Watts wanted to be. So Niko figured he’d U-turn Niko, which meant U-turning Shan’ann, and his daughters had no place in the aftermath, so they had to be U-turned as well.

A U-turn is by definition a course correction, so that one is going back to where you originally started from. That’s what he wanted. Ironically, the plea deal did just that. Chris Watts swapped the jail he was in [for the rest of his life] at #2825 Saratoga Trail, for prison, for the rest of his natural life.