Nickole Utoft Atkinson: “The front door was locked different to the way it normally was”

According to the affidavit, [Nickole Utoft Atkinson] went to Shan’ann’s residence and discovered her car in the garage with car seats positioned inside of it. [Then] she attempted to enter the front door, but a latch prevented it from opening more than three inches.

Nickole said this way of locking the front door was unusual. It’s not clear whether Nickole had a key to the front door, and that the latch was an additional security measure to make sure she never got in. Had she entered, Chris Watts could theoretically have accused her of tampering or contaminating with the crime scene, and even fingered her as a suspect.

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If the door was latched though, it suggests the last person who left the house did so via the garage. It also raises another interesting question. If the latching of the front door was unusual, and to be honest I’m not sure that it was, did Chris Watts place it there, or was it the last thing Shan’ann did when she arrived home? Probably the latch was Chris Watts’ doing, right?

But let’s be clear what we’re talking about. In very early images of the front door, going back to May 2015, there is no latch and no front door camera either.

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But then the latch appears.

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Now let’s focus in…

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That’s better, but this image above was photographed in selfie mode, so the actual image is in reverse.

Let’s see if we can find a better one.

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Does the latch appear to be in place when this video was taken on a Saturday morning?

Where Chris Watts is dressed up as Santa, standing at the open door, we get yet another angle.

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There’s also a keypad on the front door above the lock.

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Now, about the garage keypad, was it inside the house or somewhere on the exterior? If the keypad is on the outside, this could be it:

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The Watts home seems to have plenty of sensors, not only outside, but inside too:

The crucial insight we get from this is that when Chris Watts left his home on the morning of August 13th, it wasn’t through the front door. The front door can only be latched from the inside. That may seem obvious except it effectively rules out the crazy possibility of Chris Watts transporting bodies through the front door.

Since Chris Watts had to back his truck into the driveway, if he was truly loading tools he could theoretically have done so via the front door. If his truck was outside anyway, surely it was a shorter and more direct walk from the bedroom, to the stairway, to the front door and out?

One could argue the tools would likely be in the garage, so that’s why he took the less direct route to his vehicle. But we know he wasn’t loading tools from the depths of the garage on that fateful Monday morning.

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16 thoughts on “Nickole Utoft Atkinson: “The front door was locked different to the way it normally was”

  1. I don’t think Chris Watts is the smartest person around by any means, but he would have to be mentally challenged to take three bodies outside using the front door.

    Was it routine procedure for Nickole to use a key to open the front door, I wonder. Her use of the word “unusual” points in that direction. I mean there’s really nothing unusual about a safety chain (latch) being in place unless Nickole knew for certain that the Watts family never employed theirs. I’m thinking the safety chain (latch) was put in place by Chris as a means of preventing anyone who had a key from entering the house before he returned from work. Do we know who all had a key to the front door? Maybe a neighbor or a close friend of Chris? He definitely had a good reason to prevent someone gaining entrance.

    Nickole sure interfered with his plan of coming home from work to find his wife and children “missing.”

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    • I find it hard to believe the Watts family never used the latch. Otherwise why install it? Probably, when Nickole came over, the latch was never in place. Since Nickole was a work colleague and fairly often at the house doing promo work, it’s possible she did have a key, but probably only came over on announced invitations, and agreed meetings. If Shan’ann was expecting her, she’d have the latch off I’d imagine. That’s how I figure it anyway.

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      • I think you’re right Nick. The latch was used but notice how high it was placed on the door. I’m willing to bet that it’s primary use was to keep the kids in. I know, because I had to install one after finding our 4 year old playing in the front yard early one morning.

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  2. the key pad replaces the old door lock. I have one I get in and out of every week. Nickole and possibly others Chris may not have known about who Sha’nann shared the code with, would be able to enter usually a 4 digit code and gain entry. Unless of course the door is latched with that top latch on the inside. Nickole would have seen Sha’nann press the door code when she returned home Aug. 13 and go in, so thought later that day she could do the same. But he had it latched by then. He had enough smarts to keep anyone out he didn’t want coming in.

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  3. Nickole said herself “this way of locking the door was unusual.” Which says to me she tried the door code and was stopped by the fastened inside latch.

    And yes, adding the indoor latch would have been a way to prevent the kids on the inside from opening the front door and going out. On that morning it also prevented anyone from coming in.

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  4. I was wondering if Chris backed his car in that morning or the night before. When exactly did it start getting light out on that day? I live in Arizona and we don’t have daylight savings time here and in August it begins getting light out at about 5 a.m.

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  5. @ Spock Yes the height makes sense. In one image I have taken at the level of the kids one can’t see if the latch is on or not because it’s so high, it’s out of picture. I do think the kids may have figured out how to open the front door, and the latch was meant to keep eager young minds safe inside.

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  6. The fact that he backed his truck in to the garage also tells me he removed Deeter from the garage if he was put in there in the first place. Otherwise he may have backed over him, or he would have run outside. Also if the murders of the two girls occurred before 7:30 p.m. Deeter wasn’t barking then. Was he only locked up just prior to Sha’nann’s arrival home or maybe not locked up at all. Hard to imagine a dog of that size “interfering” in any way with a triple homicide. That’s why it would be helpful to know just what time the neighbor heard the “barking all night long.”

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    • That’s a good point. Deeter couldn’t have been in the garage. I don’t think any neighbor mentioned Deeter barking all night, just that he was barking non-stop. He was basically alone for great gobs of time, and when the sniffer and cadaver dogs arrived [invading his territory], he had to be kept out of the way too. Where is a good question. The basement is one possibility, the back garden another.

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  7. Pingback: Chris Watts: Don’t Forget About Deeter! | True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

  8. Pingback: Chris Watts: The Gamechanging Video Surveillance Footage – where’d it come from? | True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

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