By doing this analysis of Coonrod’s bodycam video again, what are we looking for and why does it matter? We’re looking for Shan’ann’s phone. We suspect it wasn’t inside the house when Chris Watts first arrived arrived home on the 13th. But we could be wrong. It could have been inside the house.
In the analysis posted five days ago [Officer Coonrod’s Bodycam appears to show Watts tucking something under his arm…] we explored the possibility that Watts snuck something, possibly a phone, under his arm when he opened the passenger door of his truck. Watts had two phones, so it could be that the one under his arm was one of them.
In time we’ll do a more thorough analysis, looking for instances where Watts has his phone, and we’ll see what that looks like.
One of the commenters on this site, MattyB, has suggested Watts retrieved Shan’ann’s phone not in his truck, but in the passenger area of Shan’ann’s Lexus.
Let’s take a look.
It’s worth looking at the the whole manoeuvre in real time a few times to get a sense of how he’s moving relative to the camera behind him. MattyB has a point. Watts does appear to scootch down towards the floor mat of the Lexus passenger seat, and retrieve something there, something inside the Lexus.
It may be a case of visual bias – we may be seeing what we want to see, rather than what’s really there, but it does seem like Watts is retrieving a flat, pinkish object with his right hand. The same can’t be said for the object from the truck, tucked under his arm [it may be a phone, but it’s definitely not pink].
As soon as Watts gets what he came for, he turns away from the camera. He skedaddles through the garage’s rear interior door just as Nickole starts to advance on his position at the passenger door. Nickole then inadvertently blocks Officer Coonrod’s video view of the suspect.
What does this mean?
Again, this could be reading way too much into fuzzy video images, and we saw how some folks got carried away seeing a phantom Ronnie Watts or Nichol Kessinger accomplice in Trisnatich’s surveillance video. We don’t want to do that here.
So let’s just say tentatively, there could be two possibilities here.
1. Watts left Shan’ann’s phone in her car
Taking her phone with him presented an enormous risk. If he was seen with it, or caught with it, he would be in deep trouble, and if he turned it on, then a cross-reference for his phone and hers would implicate him directly.
It just wouldn’t be a good idea to take her phone with him, unless he could be in two places at once. If he had an accomplice, he or she could impersonate Shan’ann and leave a bogus message. But that didn’t happen.
It makes sense that Watts would leave the phone in her car, because that’s what Scott Peterson did as well. When Laci’s phone was found, it was plugged into her 1996 Land Rover SUV’s cigarette lighter, but had virtually no charge on it. Shana”n’s phone, when found, was also off.
The phone is a vital piece of evidence, because it locates both the victim, and in the case of a cover-up, provides insight into where the murderer doesn’t want an inquiring mind to go. If Watts did move the phone first to the car before he left, then from the car when he got back, why put it on the couch and not next to her bed, or suitcase?
The answer is, Watts probably preferred it if the phone wasn’t found, because it could incriminate him. But he couldn’t have the phone be completely irretrievable, as that would raise serious suspicions that Shan’ann wasn’t simply missing, but had come to harm. That scenario wouldn’t be good for him. But that’s precisely what Nickole Atkinson thought when the phone appeared but Shan’ann didn’t.
Putting the phone in the car delays discovery. Putting it on the couch under cushions also delays discovery, but confuses the location of the crime scene.
Unfortunately the phone wasn’t seized immediately as evidence and dusted for prints. Chances are Watts wiped traces of himself from the phone both times when he placed it in the car, and under the cushions.
2. Watts is a cagey bastard
Let’s assume that Shan’ann’s phone was in the Lexus when Watts pulled up. Let’s also assume that foremost in Watts’ mind was a sense of, “Oh shit, I’ve got to get hold of that damn phone…”
I’m not sure why he’d think that, perhaps because the mismatch of the bed sheets on the floor and the phone in her car, would implicate him more directly. But looking at Watts arrival the first thing he does – making for the garage and the Lexus – it does seem Watts was intent on staging the phone, and we know Watts knew that her phone had some utility in exonerating him in terms of his call to her phone and the staged message [Scott Peterson did the same thing on the way from his fishing trip].
If Watts’ first thought when he got out of the truck was to retrieve her phone, then if did that, he achieved it virtually without being seen even though he was on camera. That’s stealth. If true, I think it also reinforces the notion of a stealth attack when Shan’ann arrived at 01:48. This is a guy who is acutely aware of his surroundings, and the digital eyes and ears of his world.
But as savvy as he was to all these signals, what he was attempting to do was insane. What he was trying to pull off reminds one, quite frankly, of the scene in Entrapment when the cat burglar [played by Catherine Zeta Jones] tries to outwit a spider web of cotton strands with bells on them [symbolizing a security systems of laser beams]. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. Watts thought he did until one bell after the other started going off, only he was the only one who couldn’t seem to hear them.