While researching ANNIHILATION [published on April 8th, 2019], I stumbled across a few additional insights in the Chris Watts case.
Officer Coonrod and Detective Baumhover were in a unique situation when they arrived at 2825 Saratoga Trail on that fateful Monday in August. They had a witness there who had been with Shan’ann hours before she disappeared. Not Chris Watts, Nickole Atkinson.
Although they turned to Watts as the most reliable source on the whereabouts of his wife and children, they ought to have focused more on Nickole especially when Watts started behaving strangely.
It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback, but just for the sake of arguments, let’s see what happens when we do.
1. Search the house for Shan’ann’s Clothing
Firstly, the cops could have asked Nickole what clothes Shan’ann was wearing when Nickole dropped her off at 01:48. Nickole could have given them an exact description of Shan’ann’s jeans and shirt.
One of Watts’ earlier versions was that Shan’ann left in the evening. In any event, by locating these items the cops would be able to ascertain if Shan’ann had changed, if she had slept that night and the location and state of the clothing could have told them something about her last movements. They may also have been able to find evidence on the clothing of a struggle. The shirt itself may have been ripped, and may have had traces of sweat, blood and touch DNA on it.
It’s not clear what happened to Shan’ann’s shirt. It appears the jeans she wore were removed, washed and placed into the laundry basket.
When Officer Coonrod did his check early in the afternoon at the Watts home, Watts made no mention of jeans or the laundry basket, even though he walked past that area and into the walk-in closet several times.
The laundry basket or a portion of it appears to be visible at 39:19 in the clip below.
At 2:01 in the clip below, taken on Tuesday morning when the K9 unit was looking for items to scent, Watts of his own accord picked up Shan’ann’s jeans [out of the basket]. This was an interesting move because the K9 handlers had specifically asked Watts which items they could scent off that Watts had not touched. So Watts lifting the jeans out of the basket was almost a way for him to say, “Look, see, I’m touching her jeans. Gee, so I guess you can’t use these…”
The question is, had they been washed earlier, immediately after the murder and prior to Watts heading off to work? It seems unlikely. It seems more likely that he would wash Monday night and then place them in the laundry basket to make it seem as if Shan’ann had changed [slept] and put them there herself.
Interestingly, as Watts is asked by Officer Lines on Tuesday, August 14th, if there are any other items of clothing they can scent off, Watts leads her to the laundry. She asks if he has touched the clothing and he smiles wryly, answering:
I may have.
2. Watts Should Have Been Arrested Based on Trinastich Surveillance Video
Was there probable cause to arrest Watts based on the video of him backing up his driveway and loading unknown objects at 05:18? Everyone who knew Watts said he never backed his truck into the driveway. Trinastich never saw him do it, and the Rzuceks, when they lived with the family for over a year never saw him do it either. So him doing it on that night of all nights was suspicious.
It turns out now there was probable cause, but an argument can be made that even based on what we know now the video was simply not clear enough to establish anything. One might argue there was possible cause, but not probable cause.
We also know the prosecution referred to the video, saying Watts went back three times to collect each body, but the prosecution were sort of bluffing, implying they knew more from the video than they actually did. The prosecution and the cops have to observe strict protocols in terms of evidence, and executing arrests. Often, if these protocols are exceeded or violated, a defense can argue that an arrest was procedural illegal and that there was a “rush to judgement”.
In the Casey Anthony case, Casey was arrested when her explanations didn’t make sense and the nanny stuff didn’t add up. On that occasion the little girl had been gone for a month, and Casey’s car smelled of cadaver odor. Even then, Casey wasn’t arrested and taken into custody until the next morning. It may be that during these additional hours prior to her arrest someone deleted her browser history on the family computer. Interestingly, in the Anthony case she was also seen backing her car into the garage…
Like Casey, Watts would have had time to do similar polishing of the crime scene during his extra night of freedom, especially after the scare of cops trampling through his house, looking for something but of course only Watts would have known what was potentially incriminating. That night he would have ample opportunity to take care of those things.
But what sort of behavior counts as strange, and what qualifies as probable cause? This is a tough one. In hindsight we know Watts’ behavior was odd because he was guilty, but at the time it could simply have been because Watts had argued with his wife [and not necessarily done anything].
At 1:08:52 in the clip below Coonrod asks Watts if he has any idea where Shan’ann is. Watts pulls a face, shakes his head and attempts a convincing answer.
WATTS: All the friends that I know…that I know…if there’s other…
And then Watts gives up answering, pretending to be on his phone.
WATTS: That’s the only ones that I know of….Th-there could be people that I don’t know of…
And then, standing directly opposite Coonrod, Watts does his swaying thing.
But the mosaic of evidence – including the fact that Shan’ann’s phone was phone, her car, and the medication – probably did add up to probable cause. Nickole could have impressed this upon the cops then and there, rather than talking to Sandi the whole time on the phone. Nickole could have let them know Shan’ann would absolutely not have left home without her phone, because it was what she used to do her work and was always on it. Although this was mentioned to Coonrod, it wasn’t emphasized. Watts also interferred with what the cops were thinking and checking by suggesting other possibilities – that Shan’ann may have left through the back entrance, and may have simply gone to a friend. The going to the friend narrative, which he said he told her, took a long time to disprove. And how does one disprove a negative?
It’s also worth mentioning one YouTuber who seems to have identified the second blue nitrile glove, lying under the pillow on the bedroom floor, and possibly a Yankee blanket tossed into the corner.
None of these observations are certain. And in keeping with uncertain observations, here’s mine. Is that Oxycodone on the counter in Shan’ann’s office?