Are you a true crime Rookie or Rocket Scientist? Let’s examine something from the Watts Crime Scene and find out…

I came across a discussion recently that had me scratching my head. It’s around the popular myth that Shan’ann arrived home, her murderer allowed her to enter the house, make herself at home, go to bed and even fall asleep. I’m not sure in this scenario whether they believe she brushed her teeth, took off her make-up and did some online shopping as well, they will know better than I do.

Presumably according to this theory Watts lay awake for several minutes or hours waiting for his wife to fall asleep so he could murder her in his bed after she’d lost consciousness. is that right? But if he moved to get up wouldn’t that wake her too?

And while murdering her, wouldn’t that wake the children and cause the Deeter to go nuts?

A bed of course is like a sponge for forensic evidence. Blood, saliva, sweat, DNA, touch DNA can be perfectly preserved between sheets and the mattresses. So it’s not the perfect place to kill someone, and in terms of a premeditated murder it’s the worst place, because the most logical explanation for a wife murdered at home in her bed with the whole family present is it had to be the other person who shared that bed. And who is the other person in this scenario? It’s the husband – Chris Watts. So why murder her in such an obvious place and have all the arrows pointing to himself?

Oh, you may argue, it wasn’t a premeditated murder, it just happened. Well, that’s a separate argument, even crazier than the murdered-in-bed theory, but let’s deal with theories one at time. Let’s put the murdered-in-bed theory to bed.

If Watts knew he had to be up at 04:00 and Shan’ann only got into bed at 02:00 [or 02:30 if she removed her make-up, bought make-up online etc] then him laying in bed waiting for her to doze off, when he had so little time to work with, had to be agonizing.

Personally, I can’t imagine Shan’ann falling asleep after spending most of Sunday worrying about what her husband was doing while she was away. What was that $62 transaction on her credit card all about?

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Would she really have arrived home and not confronted him about it, when she’d spent the whole weekend distressed, depressed, wrecked and out of sorts about it [and let’s face it, she was right to be worried because he wasn’t at the Rockies game, he was in fact out with his mistress cheating on her just as she feared]?

All of that aside, let’s examine a piece of evidence and see where we’re at when it comes to our standards of perception and analysis when it comes to a crime scene.

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It’s the circled patch of Thrive powder beside the bed. What does it mean?

In true crime we try to be guided by the evidence. That’s our first and best source. The crime scene is the origin, after all, of what happened, where, and how. But a crime scene can be manipulated so that what was originally there appears different. There may be cleaning, removing things, putting things there that weren’t there, even contaminating an area incidental to the crime to throw one off track.

So with that in mind, here’s the question:

What is the significance of the Thrive powder sachet beside the bed in the master bedroom?

Here’s some more footage to provide further context to the question [and answer].

Some have used the picture at the top and the Thrive powder to reinforce the notion that Shan’ann went to bed on Monday the the 13th. But that’s wrong. Chris Watts slept on the right side of the bed.

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Besides that, the crime scene footage in the above screengrabs are all from August 16th, three days after the murders. It seems Watts himself either slept in the master bedroom on the night of August 13th after the murders, or he made the bed after stripping it. Either way, the way it was found on August 16th is nothing like the way it was after the murders.

Remember, officers on the scene early in the afternoon on Monday August 13 found the bed stripped, with sheets and pillows on the floor.

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So if we’re going to play detective, it helps to be working with the original crime scene. it helps to get the basics right. Subsequent photos are helpful, especially where one identifies what’s been changed. It’s not helpful to look at crime scene photos that are a few days old and draw all our inferences solely from those. However, it does appear that the Thrive sachet is beside Watts’ side of the bed on the 13th as well.

So is the sachet irrelevant?

It seems to be irrelevant to whether Shan’ann slept in her bed that night. If anything, we need a good look at the bedside table on her side.

What we can say, however, is there seems to be a mismatch between Watts sleeping in the basement, and the baby monitors and Thrive powder on his side of the bed. This raises a few questions. When did he start sleeping in the basement? Why did he start sleeping in the basement? Did he do so by choice, and if so, was that part of the separation?

We also know – and this is important – that while in North Carolina, Shan’ann and Watts didn’t sleep in the same bed. This was witnessed by the Rzuceks, and Shan’ann’s mother told her colleagues that at Hair Jazz that they’d discussed separating. It was no mystery.

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So riddle me this. If they weren’t sleeping together in North Carolina, why would Shan’ann arrive home and get into bed with him? Why would he be there? Why wouldn’t he be in the basement? And if he was in the basement, if that’s where he was living over the last days or weeks, how happy could he have been about that? The house was in his name, and here he is, sleeping in the basement while his wife and kids enjoy the luxury suites!

Do you see how this theory, this asinine insistence that Shan’ann was murdered in her bed with her husband initially asleep beside her actually shoots itself in the foot? It does because it completely ignores the actual dynamic surrounding the crime. That’s part of the crime scene fabric too, the emotional reality they were living, experiencing, feeling.

While I have my daggers out for sloppy armchair detectives, I’d like to raise a few additional gripes. I do so in the hopes of raising the bar of those who visit this site, and also those who speculate about the case without a second’s afterthought. True crime isn’t a simple or easy discipline, it requires second-guessing because criminals are doing their best to mislead you. A lot rides on them doing so successfully. They win their freedom and a happily ever after. So a lot of work goes into making things appear a certain way. But as we well know, appearances can be deceiving.

So, applying these lessons in what-you-see-isn’t-necessarily-what-you-get [which by the way is meat-and-potatoes in true crime], let’s see if the thinking has sharpened. Test you knowledge with three more simple questions:

1. Loading the Bodies

Did the surveillance video capture Watts loading the three bodies into his truck? Yes or no?

You’ve seen the surveillance video, right? Do you need to watch it again to be 100% of your answer?

The answer is no. The surveillance video doesn’t show Watts loading any bodies. It does show activity early in the morning. But at no point can he be seen carrying what looks like a body, let alone three, or loading a body, let alone three. He does appear to load a red gas can into the back of the truck on the camera side at one point, and he’s seen walking to and from the garage a few times, but that’s about all the footage really shows.

During the sentencing hearing, the District Attorney mentioned Watts loading three bodies into his truck. He said this was captured on the neighbor’s surveillance video.

In fact, Rourke’s actual words were, from the Coloradoan:

In the early morning hours of Aug. 13, a doorbell camera [recorded] Shanann coming home from a work trip [at] about 1:45 a.m [actually 1:48]. Chris Watts was seen on a neighbor’s doorbell camera about 5 a.m. backing his truck into the driveway and going back into the house and out to the truck three times, likely as he loads the bodies, Rourke said, though the bodies can’t be seen on the camera. 

Likely is isn’t a statement of fact, it’s an inference, and I’m not sure Rourke saying he went in and out “three times” is even accurate or, for that matter, verifiable.

2. Confession

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This should be an easy one. During his lengthy interrogation on the night of August 15th and the morning of August 16th, did Watts confess to the murders or didn’t he? It’s a yes or no answer.

It appears he only confessed to killing Shan’ann, never to killing his children, and an argument can be made that he didn’t directly confess to killing Shan’ann either. He said he “hurt” her, and that he no longer wished to “protect” her, and by inference, one can say he confessed. The words “killed her” appear only twice in the entire 1960 pages of Discovery Documents.

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This was Chris’ confession:

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The Discovery Documents aren’t a 100% accurate narrative record either. Ronnie Watts’ response wasn’t “Oh my God” but “God Almighty, Son.”

Where Watts does say “And then I killed her“, he says the words “killed her” so quietly the enhanced audio barely picks it up. So we can’t be certain he actually says it. You can hear the clock ticking louder, but you can barely hear what he says to his father. This is why the agents need to come back in, nail it down and make sure.

Even so, the Discovery Documents don’t record Watts ever saying “And then I killed her.”

You can watch that particular moment of the interrogation at this link.

So did Watts confess to murder? No. He confessed to “killing”, which is theoretically a justifiable homicide in the circumstances that he sketched. Even so, his confession was likely not true anyway, so in fact it wasn’t a confession.

3. “Framed” letter

What is the significance of the “framed” letter?

[I’ll leave you to figure that one out on your own].

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More: Lie Spotting: Test your true crime lie detector nous with the Chris Watts case

42 thoughts on “Are you a true crime Rookie or Rocket Scientist? Let’s examine something from the Watts Crime Scene and find out…

  1. Haven’t got thru your whole article yet but noticed that you’re including a comment on CW sleeping on “Right side of the bed” He means he sleeps on right hand side when he is lay down. He has said in the past that the monitor is on Shan’s side. As is the diffuser, also next to it on the night stand in the pix.

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    • He means he sleeps on right hand side when he is lay down.>>> Actually there are photos and video taken by Shan’ann when she’s in bed, showing which side of the bed she’s on. If you read the highlighted text closely, and this is my point about lazy attention spans, he mentions lying in the side facing the wall. One side of the bedroom has a wall, the other has a comforter. The right side looking at the bed is the side facing the wall.

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  2. Additionally you ask “Would she really have arrived home and not confronted him about it”

    Well she did tell Nicole Atkinson at dinner, just a few hours earlier that she intended to get in bed with him and put her arms around him, so yes, she may well have decided she did not want an immediate confrontation at 2am.

    ( 1892 real page of the release: “nicole said shan told her she wasn’t going to speak to chris when she got home because she knew he’d be sleeping…she was going to put her arms around him because they had nit been touching lately. In the PDF it’s two paragraphs down from your comments from Nicole on this page.)

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    • So even in her version, Shan’ann doesn’t intend speaking to him when she gets home. And yet Watts’ version is that they did speak, and they had an argument [which no one heard] in the middle of the night or in the early morning when there wasn’t a sound.

      In any event, if you want to continue arguing the going to bed thing, go for it. There was just zero evidence of a murder found in the sheets, and you know, it’s like committing murder on ink paper covered in ink, but not leaving a fingerprint. So essentially your argument is that you believe Chris Watts version over Shan’ann’s and the evidence, when he lied repeatedly. It just shows a complete and utter failure not only of the imagination, but to actually reason properly with a lot of information at hand.

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      • But if she was murdered when she came in, did he then go to the trouble of stripping her and putting that long t-shirt (ie her sleepware) on her body? Sorry if you have dealt with this elsewhere and I have missed it.

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  3. I wondered about his pulling up to the garage and the assumption that he loaded the three bodies into it, a gas can, then zoomed off to work. If I were to load three dead bodies into my truck I certainly wouldn’t do it with half of my truck out of the garage and half of it in, with the garage door open. He may have known just how much would be captured on Nathan’s video camera but what if someone was walking by or looking out their house windows? So that just doesn’t jibe for me. I’d like to see Nathan’s videos from the early evening of the 12th all the way through to 6 a.m. on the 13th. Was his truck parked the whole time at the curb on the 12th?

    Also Watts kept repeating that he knew it was all over for him when he killed Sha’nann. Wouldn’t it be the other way around, that it was all over for him when he killed the children, if they went first? Was he coerced into a signed confession because he just didn’t have good representation? It was his own court appointed lawyers who went to Rourke with not one but two plea deals. It’s despicable to think this way but did they just think they couldn’t win?

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  4. Each time I see the video of the gas can, I am left wondering what he was actually doing with it. It appears that he carries the can out with him. He places the can inside the truck, but then starts moving something around in the back of the truck shortly after. He then picks up the gas can and acts as if he is going to walk back into the garage, but turns and walks around the front of the truck. He appears to be moving something around on the other side of the bed of the truck. So, no he doesn’t walk out with the bodies of his family. He knew that camera was on him. He probably had a foot or two of the back end of his truck inside the garage. He slid his family onto the bed from inside the garage. When he comes out with the gas can, it was a ploy for the camera. He wanted to rearrange the bodies further towards the front of the truck; ensuring that they were covered up properly. He turns too quickly, afterwards, to go back in the garage. He hesitates with the gas can, and he walks around the truck. He knows that camera is watching him.

    I am still trying to make sense of where he strangled her at, and why her body was positioned the way it was found.

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    • That’s a good theory tbp, that he wanted to be seen with a gas can, but it’s more likely that he was planning on using it. This is someone else’s theory – that he was going to use rope he brought and the gas to ignite the oil tanks so that the bodies would be burned, but when he saw that there wasn’t enough oil in the tanks he couldn’t do that. Why else take the gas can.

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    • I think she was curled up on the couch sleeping. Her phone was later found down in those cushions. I also think that Chris has become accustomed to sleeping closest to the monitor while home with the children that week.

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  5. What is your take then on the stuff they found on the master bedroom bedsheet that they were fairly sure was makeup? They submitted the sheet with her makeup kit to CBI for testing. Of course, we haven’t seen the result of that testing, but it appears the sheet was not clean. Something had rubbed off on the bed. I doubt it was Dieter—that dog couldn’t jump up that high.

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    • I was referring to the discovery doc, pp. 1142 to 1144. The detective felt strongly that it was makeup on the bedsheet and pillowcases and provided her makeup kit for confirmation. If not makeup, what else could it have been?

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      • Felt strongly isn’t evidence. If you have a bedsheet in trash, there are any number of things in the trash that can cause stains. If there are make-up stains on the sheets it would be quite easy to verify this, you test it. So why wasn’t it verified? The District Attorney was unable to say where the crime happened or when. Even if there was make-up on the sheets, like a towel or a cloth, it can be used to wipe away or clean away evidence. So what moved, the victim against the sheet, or the sheet against the victim, or the sheet against the trash? A sheet would be a useful thing to use to move a body or to cover it up while cleaning around it. Coroners use them all the time.

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  6. So in your opinion,why did he strip off bed sheets and more importantly why did he just not took new bedsheets from wardrobes so he wouldn’t leave beds undone? It is obvious he didn’t expect police so soon and was expecting to come home and make bed,but I just didn’t understand the bedding.If he killed her downstairs or upstairs in loft,why does he need bedsheets from bed ????? This one thing no one understands and is not explained logically.

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    • If he killed her downstairs or upstairs in loft,why does he need bedsheets from bed ? > for 2 reasons. 1. He used a sheet to transport her body in. The sheet served the purpose of being like a bag [a garbage bag isn’t sturdy enough, or large enough]. Also, this is the same sheet as the design on the bed. So if the sheet is found, it can be traced back to his bed, so he must get rid of the other sheets. 2. To muddle whether she went to bed or not. If she went to bed it wouldn’t be necessary to muddle. The fact you’re confused means he’s succeeded in muddling you. It’s much worse if she arrived home and is murdered, than if she arrives home, sleeps – something happens – and she is murdered.

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      • Yes I completely get it/sheets=transportation.What I was trying to say,it’s a very sloppy crime.He is not trying to confuse us but hide the crime and sheets have drawn attention that something has happened.Something sinister has happened and is very unusual beds are not made.Every single person including her friend and police thought it was strange they were stripped and ofc rest of the sheets found in the trash too(he could have taken all to the oil side)The murderer who plans it so well, in my opinion wouldn’t leave beds undone. If needed sheets for transportation, I would take the new ones from wardrobe (unless they only had one set of sheets for their bed which I doubt)and nobody would notice and draw attention to them. And also I would imagine carrying an adult body in sheets is very hard, but just throwing her on your shoulders would be easier to move her.It makes sense to move girls in sheets as they are light. If he did kill her straight away,he hasn’t thought it through as he has plenty of time to get everything in order before he left the house,especially if he killed girls before she arrived. I am trying to put myself in his position to understand what he was going through as he commited a crime .I am not trying to disputes your theory because it is probably the correct one,giving the evidence we have leading up to it,I am just trying to point out details around it that could give a different scenario. I get that him killing her unexpectedly from behind would probably mean she couldn’t find back or reach him,so it is possible she wasn’t killed in sleep and she wouldn’t be able to scream out of shock and surprise and it is consistent with autopsy report. It is fascination breaking down all the details and picturing never ending puzzle. I just purchase your first book to read :).

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      • Yes it is fascinating. When putting together a narrative you have to try to get all the information and reconcile all the information, and it has to make sense. In some ways the Watts crime is clumsy, especially leaving the sheet in the open like that, but in other ways it was deviously clever. I think what let him down most was his own poor social skills. Had he been a Casey Anthony level liar, and a little smarter, and had his mistress not turned against him, he could well have gotten away with this.

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  7. Still mulling over everything you’ve written here Nick, but I’m the meantime, I have a couple points to make. Number one is that Shan’ann was supposedly notified via email at 2:30 AM that her credit card used to purchase hair dye was rejected. That means she could’ve put that order in way before that notification, we don’t know what time she did it! Could’ve done it while in Arizona that night. So for now, I’m going to put the hair dye situation aside and ignore that in the timeline.

    Number two. It takes time to murder three people, package them (morbid, I know!), them take them down the stairs to the basement or put them out on the front porch to load. Shan’ann arrived home at 1:48. From 1:48 until 4:23 the Vivint security system shows NO MOVEMENT on the main floor. To me that would put the murders occurring upstairs. I just don’t think there is enough time to start murdering everyone and having them all ready to go from 4:23 to 5:15 when he gets the truck into the driveway. So until I come up with why there was no movement or motion on that main floor from 1:48 to 4:23, murdering Shan’ann upstairs somewhere seems to make sense. I only say possibly she was in bed while murdered due to no defensive marks which says “sleeping” to me. I saw where Chris was sleeping in the basement since they returned from North Carolina, but I don’t see Shan’ann sleeping down there. But I’m trying to keep an open mind since I’ve made no bones over the fact that I’m very opinionated and a lousy detective.

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    • I agree, I think being he didn’t get to clean up scene better means he killed her later on. I read as well there was no motion on main floor between those times. The stripping bed makes no sense either unless he was planning on cleaning more later on, would have been better to take sheet from closet and leave her bed looking like she was taken from bed by someone else. I can see her not removing makeup, she had not been sleeping well, was very late and maybe skipped it. It’s only Chris saying they had a conversation about separating and he lied about everything. He had already told her his feelings, why go over it at that time. There were two retired FBI analysts on a program and they laid out why they believed he killed her in her sleep, it was very convincing all the investigative analyzing of the scene.

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  8. Whoops, forgot to add that Shan’ann could’ve very well been killed on the couch in the loft where her phone was found. Also, due to NK’s suggestion to Chris that once he separates from Shan’ann he could pawn her wedding rings, I’ve always felt that Chris took the rings off her dead body.

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  9. I’m just going to throw this out there. The cadaver dogs “hit” on a spot underneath the basement stairs. He was laying In wait under the stairs in the dark. She gets home, leaves her stuff at the front door goes downstairs looking for him and he grabs her from behind and strangled her.

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  10. I read that on those Vivint cameras you can set them on “privacy mode”, which allows you to temporarily disable the camera viewing and recording capabilities. Once he knew she had arrived, he could have disabled it.

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    • Thank you Sylvester, I wondered if that could be done. If that system was disabled though, why would he have done that? I bet the police could tell if it had been disabled if it was an issue though.

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      • He would have done it because he probably knows it would record something, like motion. When it gets put on privacy mode what he gets is a blue screen, it’s not permanently disabled. I wish I was a techie geek but I only know from reading about it.

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      • I’d also like to understand the technical aspects better. I’ve been on the website but nothing beats having actual experience of the system. I do know you can disable motion sensors when you’re home, or if you have pets, and set them back to “on” when you leave.

        With Vivint I see in STAY mode motion sensors, including interior doors, are all deactivated. Since Shan’ann entered through an exterior door, this could explain why there’s an alert at 01:48 and then once she steps inside she’s invisible again.

        http://blog.vivint.com/2017/05/red-means-stop-green-means-go/

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  11. Nick do you truly believe that letter is the real deal? I know Prosecutor Rourke addressed it at the post-sentencing press conference. Rourke said he never heard of that letter and if it existed, he would’ve heard about it from the defense. Some have stated that letter only proves the murders were premeditated, that’s if it’s real and was written a week prior to the murders on August 6th. So here’s my take on the letter. I do not believe anything having to do with the two shady women who do Murder Rap Sesh. I have had personal experience with one of them and I know for certain how hell bent she’s been since Day 1 that Chris did not kill his kids and she won’t stop at nothing to prove it. They’ve also insinuated themselves into this case by first establishing communication with Cindy Watts, which is fine, but they’re too prejudiced to present any facts and I’m too predjudice against them to believe anything they’re involved in. As for Rourke, I’m aware of how you feel about him. You seem to feel about him kind of similar to how I feel about the Murder Rap Sesh women. I could be wrong though. Lets just say I know you don’t like the way Rourke handled this case. If that letter is even real, do you believe the defense kept it quiet?

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  12. Sylvester, what I’d like to know is if there are certain “dead spots” in terms of those sensors. I doubt whether they can see through walls or pillars. Guess it depends on how many there are.
    I don’t think there are any on the staircase.

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  13. There are photos of Chris sleeping on the right side, facing out, as you are lying on the bed. Bella is lying in Shanann’s place (left side, facing out) and Shanann said she had to sleep at the foot.

    Any video Shanann made of herself in bed, the image is reversed. Selfie mode. Like all her videos of herself.

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    • What do you think he means when he says he sleeps facing the wall?

      The convention here is left and right is based on you standing looking at the bed from the front of the bed.

      Irrespective of the mode of the camera you can see what is on the camera and match it to the interior and layoutof the room.

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      • I have no idea what he means, he has a different way of seeing and saying things. Presumably there is a wall on both sides of the bed, not open space into infinity on one side. But there are several selfie videos, one is with her showing her diffuser. And the right side, as you are looking at it, is her side. Would be left side, facing out.

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    • Well, he did the laundry and re-covered the bed. He also spent 20 minutes digging a grave and dumped his children into two separate tanks. He also set up a Secret Calculator app on his phone to hide images of his mistress. He deactivated his Facebook. So yes, really.

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    • I think she wore the old tee shirt on the plane since her flight was going to be so late so she could rest. All that was missing from her body was pants. I’m guessing she took off her leggings when she came in to be comfortable or Chris did after his attack because his DNA got on her pants. Either way, he threw the pants in the laundry.

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    • Hi Carol, are you familiar with true crime? What he had to gain by changing her clothes was removing evidence of himself from her clothes. Many high-profile cases involve the victim’s clothes being changed, including JonBenet Ramsey and Meredith Kercher. This is especially true when the victim dies in the “closed” and secure setting of a home, where laundry can be done and evidence cleaned and vacuumed up.

      Watts more than likely also changed out of the clothes he wore when he committed the crimes. It’s not just DNA evidence that can transfer, but hair and fiber too.

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      • Ahhhhh, ok….I’d think all their DNA would be mixed being they live in the same house but I can see him thinking of that….this case just gets me, I have grandchildren and specifically a blonde 3 year old granddaughter, I can’t imagine how Rzuceks feel about this guy.

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      • He sure did go into a cleaning frenzy. Cleaning the house from top to bottom, vacuuming lines, laundry. Constantly looking around when someone was talking to him as if something he missed was going to jump out at him

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  14. Regarding the position her body was found in- couldn’t this be because of the size of the hole he dug? He was rushed and dug straight down instead of wide, so he had to fit her in somehow. ( don’t we all dig depth first if planting a plant, for example, and then work on width?). It also looks like he actually dug 2 deep holes in the picture but they were not joined together so he couldn’t lay her flat in the grave. I am disturbed writing this but wanted to pass along for your thoughts.

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