Chris Watts: the slip-of-the-tongue that we all missed

At 4:44 in the interview clip Chris Watts lets slip an extraordinary clue. We missed it because the journalist used that moment to rejig his camera, and so as the question is being lined up, the image is temporarily off-camera.

This resetting throws Watts off camera and throws off our concentration as well. But when we anchor the scene to a narrative, when we nail it down to a transcript, the slippery slip is captured in our true crime net. So let’s do that now.

To pick up what he’s saying and how the slip happens, we need to back up about 50 seconds. Here’s the context: Chris Watts has just made a long speech about wanting everyone to “just come home.”

This is it:

REPORTER: Can I ask another tough question, your relation with the kids?

WATTS: Whe… whenever, I mean, the kids are my life, I mean, those… those smiles are my life and there’s, like, I mean, last night, like, during…you know, when they usually dinner it was just, like, I missed them like, I mean, I missed tell them: Hey, you got to eat that or you’re gonna… not gonna get your dessert! You know, and just, like: Not gonna get your snack after! I missed that, I missed them, you know, cuddle up on their couches. They have like a Minnie Mouse couch and Sophia couch that they cuddle up on and watch on Bubble Guppies or something and it was just, like, you know, I mean, I… I was com… it was tearing me apart last night and I needed that, I needed that last night and for that… for nobody to be here last night and then going into their rooms and not… and know that I wasn’t gonna turn the rain machines on, I know that I wasn’t gonna turn their monitor on, no, I wasn’t gonna kiss them to bed tonight, it was… it… it was like I… I co… that’s why last night was just horrible, I couldn’t do it th… I was… I just want… I want everybody to come home like wherever they are at. Come home, that’s what I want.

He uses the past tense here, and refers to “tearing apart”. This clearly shows in his mind he knows they’re already dead.

But this is just the lead up to the slip. After this answer there’s a protracted silence where Watts curls his lower lip and presses it under his upper lip, and holds it there for a few seconds. The cameraman uses this break to set himself up at a better angle.

During this pause the dogs can be heard barking loudly, and Chris Watts appears to blink rapidly – anxiously. The subject matter they’re dealing with now is making him nervous, and it should.

It’s probably because of this anxiety, and the direct question about his children stirring up the still raw memory of their corpses, and the recent handling of their bodies, and having to account for it this soon, that causes his heart and mind to race. That’s why the slip happens when it does.

The reporter stumbles through his next question. He’s not sure, it seems, what he wants to ask. He says something like “where has she gone for” while the neighborhood dogs are still going nuts.

REPORTER: She was…she was…she came back Sunday just under two at night?

WATTS: Yeah, cause her flight got delayed from Arizona, cause, like, other storms around the…the nation, so she was supposed to get home like eleven, she got home at like 01:48 [swaying as his standing, flips out his left hand], got to bed [blinks] about 02:00. 

Chris Watts glances towards the window as he says “got home at like 01:48”. Sometimes when we remember things, we do so in sympathy. We act out what happens. We look in the direction of where something happened as we re-navigate the memory of it.

The slow blink when he says the word bed is significant. I don’t think something happened in the bed as much as Shan’ann never made it to bed, and probably didn’t even make it upstairs.

REPORTER: What was she gone for? Like a family trip-?

WATTS [Swaying from one leg to the other]: It was a Thrive…direct sales, uh… it was a local event that was down there between a bunch of leaders [flaps out his hand] in-in the company.

Then, arms folded, he purses his lips again.

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

And so this is where the slip happens. He’s still pursing his lips together, blinking rapidly, and the dogs are making a racket in the background when he starts answering. He starts answering with a stutter.

WATTS [Shaking his head, a slight flash of teeth as he smiles, still swaying from side to side the whole time]: 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.

Fullscreen capture 20181101 103219Fullscreen capture 20181101 103514

His mouth is open at the end of that, in the holding pattern of a slight  smile.

She barely gotten into bed pretty much

Consider that he buried her in a sheet from the bed, and so one nasty interpretation of the question and his answer: maybe he thinks it’s funny what he did to her and with her vis-a-vis the soft minimizing words he’s giving about her to the media:

She barely gotten into bed pretty much

A lot happens in the entirely of his answer too. So few words, so much going on, so many lives undone between those letters, those lines. He stutters, he interrupts himself, he repeats himself and he barely answers the question about what she – Shan’ann – was doing.

He talks about himself leaving, and where he was. The only word – and it’s only one word – that he offers to answer the implied question the reporter doesn’t quite ask [Where?] is bed. But he’d rather not say it. That’s why it’s bed…pretty much.

He doesn’t want to talk about where. Where is the big kahuna in this conversation, the one thing he really doesn’t want anyone to know.

Fullscreen capture 20181030 045402

If he’d answered as simply and as straightforward as he could, he could have said:

She came home late and went to bed.

But instead he seems be unsure whether or not she went to sleep. If we remove the last part, the bit he’s uncertain about, it becomes:

She came home late and…

She went to her grave. She went to bed. It’s symbolically similar pretty much, unless you’re Shan’ann.

He repeats the word barely three times. Think about the word barely and the context we’re talking about: Murder at the last minute.  A flight delay of three hours. An early morning trip to a remote site before dawn.

Barely…

And all he has to say is she came home and went to bed. So what’s this barely business?

She barely let me in, she barely got, barely got in bed. Pretty much.

Pretty much got in bed? Or pretty much didn’t get into bed?

But none of this is the slip. The critical slip is where he says I left work [interrupts himself] and then says she barely let me inbarely got…before he interrupts himself again.

We know when he says he left-he left work-he left for work that actually he wasn’t working that morning, he was dumping bodies at his work. So we see what happens when he lies – he stutters.

What he seems to be struggling to avoid saying is:

she barely let me in

The slip up sounds like he’s remembering himself barely letting her inside before killing her. Or:

she barely let me

She barely let him…kill her?

Barely because he was pressed for time…

Barely because the three hours delay was driving him nuts and potentially scuttling his big plans…

Barely because when he struggled, she fought back…

And the repeated stuttering on the I left-I-left-I left is because the going to work was a crucial part of covering up the whole thing. At the time of the interview, the cover was still holding, the bodies were still missing, the status of the victims was still unknown. Barely.

When he left, it was all about being seen to leave for work like it was any other day. That was the point of it. But:

she barely let me

Since he was caught and arrested in record time it seems there was no barely about it; Shan’ann didn’t let him get away with anything after all.

HfrtGfJ

25 thoughts on “Chris Watts: the slip-of-the-tongue that we all missed

  1. I have been waiting for you to discuss “she barely let me in.” I have wondered in WHERE? Also a lot of “barely” going on. I wonder if that word was used by Chris a lot in everyday life.

    The whole interview gives me the creeps, especially his inappropriate smiling and grinning. His hand gestures seemed out of place to me and slightly off. Makes me think he didn’t spend a lot of time practicing the interview that he had to know was coming.

    Like

  2. So many qualifiers to his statement “she barely gotten into bed pretty much.” So, she didn’t. She didn’t get into bed at all. His conscious mind is trying to say she did get into bed but just barely, his unconscious mind is telling the truth – “pretty much” which means that was her intention but it wasn’t fulfilled as it wasn’t his intention and he won that one. Pretty much is really, not at all. It’s a sugar coater.

    Barely means “only just; almost not; hardly, scarcely, narrowly.” Barely actually doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as barely. You either do or your don’t. Barely and pretty much are words we use to be cute and hide what we actually did or in this case to hide what didn’t happen. Bed.

    In his words “she barely let me in” or she narrowly let me in – for she narrowly came in before he was upon her. She just made it in, and he narrowly and barely had time to do all he had to do and get to Cervi 312. There was barely time for that.

    He likes to use qualifiers because they are words to hide himself behind.

    Like

  3. Also a little slip at 3:40 when he was supposed to be talking about (last night) he slipped up and said tonight. His subconscious was talking because how would he know he “wouldn’t kiss them to bed tonight”. He would have said “to know I wasn’t going to kiss them to bed last night”

    Like

  4. There are all of those other references to, to mealtime – “eat” “dinner” “dessert” “snack” which makes me think something happened around their dinner time, either just before, or just after.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was watching a program a few years ago about a young woman who had gone missing in Colorado. They showed a video of the suspect being questioned where he says he has no idea where the woman is. That man was later arrested for the missing woman’s murder. The detective on the case pointed out that when the suspect was denying he knew where the woman was, he was actually nodding his head YES, the opposite of how he was actually answering the questions. Chris does the same thing! While Chris is saying he needs them all to come back, referring to Shan’ann and the girls, he’s nodding his head NO! Like – no I don’t want them back. The opposite of what he’s saying. He does the head nodding thing more than once, saying one thing but nodding his head saying the opposite of the words coming out of his mouth. Instead of slip-of-the-tongue it’s slip-of-the-head!

    Like

  6. I think this is a bit of a stretch. It’s widely known he’s an introvert. Being one myself, I could not do an interview without stammering and being uncomfortable with cameras on me and knowing this will be out for all to see. I also suspect he’s on the spectrum. I’ve worked with autistic kids and I have friends with grown autistic kids and their responses are often inappropriate with circumstances, much like he is here and their body language when they’re uncomfortable or scared is very similar to his.

    Like

    • Janny I think you’re missing the point. He doesn’t seem nervous at all. He’s smiling, and a lot of his disclosures are quite friendly and almost playful. I’m not saying he’s not nervous, just that he doesn’t seem nervous. As soon as you try to mask reality, you are creating uncertainty for yourself. Is what I’m saying convincing? How do I avoid dealing with that? Do I seem plausibly innocent and ignorant if I put it this way…?

      Just using common sense, if Watts was completely innocent, he OUGHT to have been nervous and grief-stricken in these circumstances. A lot of the controversy by ordinary people looking at this was an intuitive sense that he just wasn’t acting right.

      On a question about what time someone arrived home there shouldn’t be any nervousness. Fact is, he’s confessed to murdering his wife, and fact is, he lied [she went to visit friend] adapted the lie and perhaps adapted it again.

      So if you argue that the whole interview is just one nervous meaningless haze, that’s fine. He had something to be nervous about. What we try to do with this analysis is figure out his tells and triggers, and what areas of the narrative are the most in doubt. We try to see what he might be hiding.

      That said, “lie detection” isn’t an exact science, and one person’s dogma is another’s heresy. We use it as a guide to try to get to know the underlying psychological patterns better. To throw that all out and say, pah, he’s an introvert, just shows an unwillingness to try to drill down any deeper.

      In the narrative sense, where you’ve already pieced together a theory for where the crime happened and when, you want to look very, very closely at what he says and avoids saying. There may be some confirmation bias, but if you’re thorough and keep looking at the same footage, a lot of detail comes to the surface, even stuff you weren’t even looking out for.

      For example, he doesn’t once say the words pregnant or doctor’s appointment in the entire interview. He definitely seems to stutter more where he’s not telling the truth.

      I was in court a few months back with a well-groomed, polished millionaire CEO. This guy had a nervous tick and shrugged more than I have ever seen. Even when not on the stand his eyes were pinch-blinking. As I started analyzing his testimony and playing it back over and over, I could tell not all those pinch-blinks indicated deception. But by the same token, it wasn’t a case that none of them did either. The pinch-blink was the tell, but not every-pinch blink, if that makes sense. The fact that he shrugged [the CEO, not Watts] when answering virtually every question suggested to me a man who lies about just about everything. He was accused of murdering his wife at a big conference, and of course, as CEO all his employees were a sort of captive audience. He claims she committed suicide in his hotel room after telling her he wanted a divorce.

      With Watts the stuttering is a tell too, but as you say, not all the stuttering is a tell.

      If you haven’t read TWO FACE I don’t think you’ll appreciate the background or importance to the moment Shan’ann stepped inside her home that morning. But I’m not going to deal with that here.

      Like

      • Nick,
        I know you put a lot of thought into your books and so forth, and you can see things in a way that we, who are not really “trained” to and the way you analyze things, I’m just curious if you have ever made up your mind about something, even put it in writing “as in a book” then saw something you didn’t see before or maybe realized something different and changed your mind? This is just curiosity about the author, not the story. Thanks

        Like

  7. I have always thought that when Chris Watts curls his lower lip and presses it under his upper lip, and holds it there for a few seconds that he is doing that to keep himself from too much talking. At times once he starts he just keeps talking and he’s trying to curtail that. Anyone else?

    Like

  8. Happens all the time. I wrote 3 books about Oscar Pistorius before it went to trial. I was wrong on him not being on his prosthetic limbs when he fired the shots (so was the state prosecutor). My books on the other hand were the first to develop a complete timeline, something the state never did and the reason the judge ruled against them initially. Each book builds on the available evidence and fine tunes its way to the best possible scenario. Make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always wondered why he felt the need to explain in such detail surrounding the time she got home. REPORTER: She was…she was…she came back Sunday just under two at night? WATTS: Yeah, cause her flight got delayed from Arizona, cause, like, other storms around the…the nation, so she was supposed to get home like eleven, she got home at like 01:48
    There are so many unnecessary words and way too much explaining. He could have simply said ” yes, she got home last night about 1:48″

    Like

  10. I’m very confused about the timeline so please help me out. On the 13th the police came and did a walk through. Did the dogs come on that same day or the 14th? Did they see and/or find the sheet in the trash on the 13th or 14th? If it was the 14th why didn’t Chris Watts dispose of the sheets on the day of the 13th? What did he do the night of the 13th? I know he went to the Thayers on the 14th. I remember reading that they found out on the 14th that she didn’t return home and that’s when they really started looking for her. Thanks

    Like

      • Okay, I just reread it. I guess I was wondering why Chris didn’t properly dispose of the linens that he put in the trash. He had Monday night to do it because the detectives didn’t start the real search until Tuesday. Maybe he was busy watching Monday night football. (Not sure if the season had started yet) I’m thinking the Thayers and Nikole with be called to court. Could be who the prosecutor is meaning when he says witnesses that haven’t been interviewed yet

        Like

      • I deal with Monday night in the third TWO FACE book. Your questions are very valid Karen. He was caught between a rock and a hard place though. He thought it would be up to him to call the cops when he was good and ready. He didn’t anticipate Nickole would beat him to the punch. Once the cops were called, the house would have been under surveillance over night. His hands were tied in what he could do, especially since the cops had already had a peekaboo inside on Monday the 13th. Anything gotten rid of after that would raise flags.

        Like

  11. I can tell you why he’s wearing those glasses when he isn’t reading anything. He’s hiding his eyes behind the wide part of the frame. When the camera zooms in they can’t see his eyes and he can’t see the camera. On one of the notices they also don’t want close ups.

    Like

  12. Pingback: Why is there a U-Turn in Chris Watts’ Version of the Murder? | True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s