By the time Celeste’s body was recovered, her skin and fingernails had peeled off – she was unrecognizable [34th Tranche][WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT]

Chris Watts’ plan was to make his family disappear. Quick as law enforcement were to respond to the crime, by the time they recovered the remains of the two little girls, they had been chemical altered beyond recognition.

As the excerpts below illustrate, when Celeste’s body was removed Detective Daumhover noticed something floating in a puddle of oil right beside the tank. It was Celeste’s “degloved” hand, a glove of skin stripped from the child’s hand that still had her small fingernails attached.

Bella’s body was so altered the detective assumed was an adolescent. This was likely because the body had begun to tear apart from itself, and thus appeared larger than that of a 4-year-old child.

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10 thoughts on “By the time Celeste’s body was recovered, her skin and fingernails had peeled off – she was unrecognizable [34th Tranche][WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT]

  1. I was hoping to find more about the stomach contents. However the autopsies stated “Bella: stomach contents – green and black fluid suggestive of oil and particulate matter from oil tank”. Same with Celeste: “the stomach is empty.” Odd don’t you think? Since Watts said he fed them dinner and put them in bed. Yet when Sha’nann calls and requests a picture Watts re-sends her the pictures he sent the day before, of the birthday party. We could assume that the oil destroyed the stomach contents but in both cases stomach contents are empty. No mention of food in the digestive tracts. What would you make of this? What I make of it is that they were not given dinner Sunday night.

    Few other autopsy oddities: “Sha’nann: identifying marks and scars: none visualized” – what about the scar on her neck from neck surgery? If they didn’t notice it upon removing her body from the ground surely the ME would have noticed it for his report?

    Last – “Bella was wrapped in the bed sheet.” If Bella was wrapped in the bed sheet then it puts new meaning to where they were killed – at least where Bella was laid, and where Sha’nann was not killed.

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    • I’d have to cautiously agree. On the one hand, the lack of food in the stomach contents suggests they weren’t given dinner. On the other hand, I have limited experience and knowledge of the impact of crude oil on cadavers. I heard that the temperature in those tanks is 300 Fahrenheit, which is meant to keep the product liquid and easy to sequestrate. Whether it was that hot I don’t know, but those tanks are in the sun in Colorado all day and heat speeds up digestion and decomposition. Just imagine it as 4 days of simmering in hot bleach. So after 4 days even if there was food, the heat alone would easily break down food in the digestive tract, almost like an external engine working on the inside of the body. If the little girl’s skin and fingernails could be removed, you can imagine what would happen to partially digested food.

      The food contents is a tricky one. I don’t think Watts made a barbecue that day for his children. It was in any event late to be doing that. I do think they ingested something prior to their deaths. Not dinner necessarily, but something they ate or drank. That’s one aspect we will never know for sure unless Watts tells someone about it.

      I was surprised the autopsy made no mention of lupus.

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  2. For reference the mention of the sheet is found on page 3 of the autopsy report under Bella;
    “Clothing: the deceased is received in an unsealed bag, wrapped in a bed sheet from retrieval process.” And here all along I thought it was Sha’nann who was wrapped in the bed sheet, stuck down in the ground. I’m going to put this together in bits. He sends Nichole K. a picture of himself lying on an unmade bed – a mattress she said which appears to be light blue late Sunday night. She hears the television in the background playing on a phone call and assumes he’s waiting up for his wife . But she does think it’s odd that he’s up so late (with television noise in background) since he has to work the next morning. She said he’s wearing a black “wife beater” t shirt (those sleeveless tank tops). Anyway he’s already stripped the bed and wrapped Bella in the contour bed sheet, top sheet goes into the trash.

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    • No, the sheet was used as a substrate to place the body on. This is common practice when conducting autopsies or retrieving human remains. Only one sheet from the Watts home was recovered at the dump site.

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  3. Don’t mean to keep harping – but if he fed them cold pizza 8/12 at 1700 hours – that’s 5 p.m., that would be right at the time he’s texting Roberts that he’ll take care of the Cervi work site. It takes the body 6-8 hours for food to pass through the stomach and small intestine, then it goes to the large intestine. The stomach contents for both children was empty at autopsy. With JonBenet undigested fruit fiber was found in her small intestine, and greenish matter in her large intestine indicating she had dinner earlier, and a fruit snack shortly before death. But nothing found in Bella and Celeste’s stomach except oil in Bella’s stomach. Bella was face down in the oil tank, Celeste face up.

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    • It’s not an exact science. After death there is a gradual period of digestion because the body is still warm, the bacteria and acids are still present in the body. As the body cools down so the digestion slows as well. The heat and chemicals in the oil tanks is like being inside a monster’s stomach. So anything ingested is also being digested by the tanks.
      The big question is if someone eats a huge meal, say steak, and is immediately killed and dumped into an oil tank, if any of their meal will be recoverable after 4 days. It probably depends on the external heat, the chemicals and also where in the body the food is. If it’s deep in the digestive tract it may be sequestrated, but on the other hand, then it’s already going to be fairly broken down. If it’s not, then the chemicals may reach into the gullet and burn away this evidence. Overall, very tricky and probably the only way to know would be to conduct trials and test actually evidence.

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  4. Thank you for the explanations. I think everyone was hoping for stomach contents to reveal time of death – and sequence of course. I have a difficult time believing he went from one homicide to the next, three in a matter of an hour when he had plenty of time early evening – he’s already knowing what he’s going to do the next day by texting Roberts and that text was very early – 1706 hours.

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  5. True. The Van Breda axe massacre occurred in rapid succession, but the victims deaths were separated by hours.

    I don’t think the children were killed by strangling or smothering to be quite honest. The DA says smothering, but I don’t see any evidence to back that up.

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