TCRS assessment of DEATH AT THE MANSION [Part 2 of 2]

The finale of the 4-part series is by far the best, basically because the presenters finally quit pussyfooting around the main suspect – Adam Shacknai – and finally get to grips with the idea of Rebecca’s death being a homicide, not a suicide. Why it takes these documentaries so long just to get up to speed is just plain sad. If each of the 4 episodes was as solid as the last, it would have been a damn good package.

One aspect touched on in the final few minutes of the finale was the same limiting aspect I discovered writing the first book and second in the Red Rope series. There is a heck of a lot of information that the public and the media simply don’t have access to. This restricts the scope of documentaries and to some extent written narratives too. That being said, episode four provides some useful glimpses at items of evidence from the crime scene that haven’t been seen before. So, without further ado, let’s deal with seven significant evidentiary aspects.

1. Rebecca’s Bed

For some strange reason it’s been very difficult to locate images of the bed besides where the rope is connected to it. It’s obvious from the image that no one lay or say on the bed. This is a weakness in the sexual assault theory. It’s certainly indicative that the sexual assault a) didn’t occur on the bed and thus b) was likely brief.

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2. The Orientation of the Room 

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In a scenario where the suicide is staged, we can imagine Rebecca’s killer standing behind her and lifting her already dead body over the railing, and letting it descend in a relatively controlled motion. The obvious point to clarify is if we impute a killer in the room and on the balcony [or even simply his foot on the balcony], why wouldn’t he be in front of Rebecca? It’s obvious right. The upstairs balcony was very visible through line of sight from very many vantage points, an issue I clarified and illustrated in detail in INTO THE BELLY OF THE WHALE. Greer actually mentions as part of his theory that the killer stood behind her, basically just off the balcony and maneuvered Rebecca’s body over the railing. The balcony isn’t very wide at all, around half a meter, so this would be fairly easy to pull off.

But the mere fact that the doors were closed calls into question the entire suicide hypothesis. Did Rebecca close the doors with her hands tied behind her back, and while the heels of her feet were right against the door? If she did, why on Earth would she do that? Meanwhile, we can see clearly why a murderer would want the door or doors closed. Firstly to hide behind while lowering her, but secondly, and importantly, to hide behind while staging the bedroom [including painting the message on the door].

3. The Candle

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The candle on the grass is one of the seemingly inexplicable idiosyncracies of this case. Although I will be dealing with this aspect in more detail in AT THE EDGE OF CIVIL, for now it’s worth mentioning that the candle may have been used for “low light” illumination late at night, not only in Rebecca’s room but outside on the lawn. It’s also possible, but unlikely that the candle was used to “cut” the rope by burning through it. As unlikely as this scenario is, we nevertheless have to ask why the candle is where it is? What function did it serve? Was it only illumination?

And that raises the issue of the rope. Why is the length of rope so long behind Rebecca? Why is it in a virtual straight line?

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Why are Rebecca’s legs bent inwards, and her face turned upwards? Were her legs bent when she “fell” when she was cut down? Or was she cut down and carried, placed on the lawn and this “bent” her legs? The position we see here suggests the position she lay in when she was struggled at some other location. Note, her knees also appear slightly open.

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If the injury to Rebecca’s middle finger is rope burn, it suggests that she was lowered fast enough to inflict the injury – post mortem – but slow enough that she suffered no significant trauma to her neck vertebra. Since this would be the riskiest manoeuvre of all for her murderer, he had to do it quickly but also not too quickly. Too quickly would jolt the bed, perhaps breaking the leg that was ultimately anchoring the entire rig, and limbs might dislodge out of their bindings.

Oxygen provides useful analysis on this particular point in this post on their online blog.

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It’s very clear that Greer is quite correct and the Defense witness [Williams] judgement on the nature of the wound is questionable, to put it mildly. It also beggars belief that the cops didn’t test the blood for vaginal epithelial cells, but if the San Diego cops were trying to fuck up this case, and their forensic technicians trying to frustrate the prosecution of it, they were doing a great job in that department.

5. “Blood Imprint” on Rebecca’s Left Inner Thigh 

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We know there was also tape residue on Rebecca’s legs, possibly from duct tape. It does make sense if she was murdered and then a suicide was staged that the original device used to bind her wouldn’t be the lengthy ski rope.

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In episode four Greer suggests a bloody imprint fits the size of a knife handle with the blade facing outward and handle facing inward. This impression, frankly, reminds of the blade impression left on a sheet in the Amanda Knox case.

imagesDoubleDNAKnifeMap6. Two Pairs of Gloves were Found at the Crime SceneFullscreen capture 20190629 144850

I will deal with the gloves and additional analysis in a follow-up post at CrimeRocket II. But the issue of two pairs of gloves raises the possibility of a killer and at least one accomplice, an aspect Oxygen provides some reinforcing evidence to support.

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7. 3D Rendering of Rebecca’s Route to the Balcony

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The animation in episode four is extremely brief – a few seconds – but it’s arguably the best footage in the whole series. The animation seeks to cast doubt of the absence of blood drops in the imputed route Rebecca would have taken if she hopped [bound, obviously] from the bed to the balcony.

But what the animation also achieves is that it provides a context to imagine her attacker. Where is he? Where would he have stood [especially in the final image], and what would he have done with the shutters to avoid being seen? Probably he had one of those shutters [the left] completely closed, while the other was slightly ajar. Did he use a candle to illuminate what he was doing?

That’s seven assessments – that’s enough.  This analysis covers the first 18 minutes of the final episode. The last 20 minutes or so, including some of the insights from the DEATH AT THE MANSION crew and their experts, will be highlighted in due course at CrimeRocket II.

A final point: when the presenters enter Greer’s “Zahau Room” Adam Shacknai’s signature features prominently in the room, along with handwriting analysis taken from that signature as well as other handwriting.

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Although Adam Shacknai has been found guilty by a civil court [where the burden of proof is lower], the producers have been careful to be explicit that the evidence presented is “the opinion” of the prosecutor, and that Adam Shacknai “expressly denies all allegations”. Fullscreen capture 20190629 144537

Interestingly, both Greer and the DEATH AT THE MANSION presenters share a kind of consensus on their four primary person’s of interest. Adam, Nina, Dina [and Max] and Jonah.

We can see why DEATH AT THE MANSION spent a relatively short time dealing with Adam as its “main suspect”. Although a jury and Judge supported Greer’s version, the medical examiner and San Diego cops do not, and most important, Adam’s billionaire brother also still seems to be in his corner.

Thomas Mollett’s Forensic Report on Shan’ann Watts’ Post Mortem Blood Alcohol Level

Immediately following the release of the autopsy reports on November 19th, I contacted Thomas Mollett, a forensic investigator, fellow true crime author and friend, and asked him his opinion on Shan’anns Blood Alcohol Levels. They were found to be three times the legal limit for driving. How likely was it, I asked, that these apparently high levels were from “normal” decomposition?

SUPPLEMENTAL

Autopsy reports show Shanann Watts, daughters were asphyxiated – TimesCall

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Pathology is an extremely complex science, and many factors play into the biological processes that occur after death.

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The three basic pillars one uses to calculate whether the BAC is “normal” or not are related to:

  1. the time the body is exposed to the elements [here time of death is a factor, unknown in this case, but with a relatively short window either way]
  2. the ambient conditions of the body [temperature, humidity etc.]
  3. circumstantial evidence is also a vital tool to gauge alcohol content, including eye witnesses, Shan’ann’s drinking habits, and her appearance in the Ring camera footage when she arrived home [described but not released thus far]

During our first communication I miscommunicated to Mollett that Shan’ann’s corpse was recovered after only 48 hours, which I guessed wasn’t enough time to reflect the high alcohol levels found. This was an initial error on my part; it took closer to 70 hours for Shan’ann’s corpse to be discovered and exhumed.

Based on this initial miscommunication, Mollett also believed the BAC level was likely higher than a natural rate [which as I say, was also what I suspected].

I asked Mollett to investigate the BAC levels and I’m grateful to him for doing so in detail. Obviously part of his thorough investigation corrected the original 48 hour error.

Below is Mollet’s unabridged report on the BAC levels.

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Excellent Footage of the Moment Officer Coonrod Arrives on the Scene at 2825 Saratoga Trail

This footage confirms something that’s been frustratingly difficult to establish for sure. It may seem like a silly detail, but I wanted to know where Deeter was and why no one heard him when Nickole Atkinson came knocking.

Thanks to this footage, that mystery has been solved. Deeter was in the basement, which from the neighbor’s perspective, was virtually soundproof. From someone standing at the front door, you can just barely hear the dog barking when Officer Coonrod shouts Shan’ann’s name [see second Instagram clip below].

What this also shows is the lack of detail and holes in perception even when there are three different people on the scene. None of them made note of the dog because they didn’t think it was important. But locking Deeter in the basement should have been the first sign that Shan’ann wasn’t at a friend’s house. She wouldn’t have left the dog there when she went out, she’d have let him outside in the back garden [most likely]. Or, if she left the house, the dog would have free run of the main level, assuming the motion detectors were turned off or tuned to ignore doggy-sized disturbances.

The other aspect is leaving Deeter in an almost soundproof basement shows a) that Watts didn’t want the dog attracting the attention of nosy neighbors [remember, after the murders he was completely on his own for almost nine hours, from 05:00 to 14:00, and if everything had gone according to plan, Watts would only have arrived home at 17:00 or 18:00. 13 hours is a long time for a dog to be left on its own, especially for a dachshund. It also shows b) Watts’ postmeditation. How he “took care of the dog” demonstrates the amount of meticulous thinking [only some of which we’re aware of thus far] that went into the premeditation.

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Notice this outside porch light [below] was left on; unless it’s motion activated, it may be further sign of Watts’ hasty exit earlier that morning.Fullscreen capture 20181205 064717Fullscreen capture 20181205 064956

It’s also worth noting that the neighbor also had a dog, which means if Deeter was barking for a length of time, the neighbor’s dog would start barking “in sympathy”, something Watts would want to avoid.Fullscreen capture 20181205 081724

Even when Coonrod scoots down to peer in the basement, he doesn’t see or hear Deeter. This may be because Deeter was sequestered in the basement stairway, assuming there was a door or barrier of some kind at the bottom as well.

It’s also possible Coonrod simply didn’t see the dog in the darkness and clutter inside. But it’s unlikely the dog didn’t see the officer. If he did, he’d have scampered around and barked at the would-be intruder.

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Final point. Notice how when Watts opens the front door he immediately turns away, towards the wall, and walks quickly to the kitchen. Once Coonrod is in the kitchen he strides quickly to the basement. Coonrod is still trying to get his attention, talk to him and catch up. When Coonrod asks if he can look around, Watts says yes, appears to go somewhere, but then abruptly reappears. Watts had a lot of on-scene cleaning up and picking-up to do that he hadn’t anticipated when he left that morning.

This is another version of what probably happened in the Ramsey home for seven hours while the cops were in the house, and the friends they’d invited into the crime scene, while JonBenet lay dead inside. Crimes aren’t just covered up immediately after they’re committed, when they’re premeditated there is covering up before [removing data from phone and other devices, deactivating Facebook], at the scene with officers present, and Watts was still in clean up mode on the night of August 13th.

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The Suitcase At the Bottom of the Stairs

Shan’ann’s suitcase at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t the same as the suitcases she took to North Carolina.

It was a smaller black case, ideal for a two day trip.

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Another maddening aspect of the tsunami of coverage is that there are only fleeting glimpses of the suitcase. You’d think the cops would start at that point, the last known point where Shan’ann left a trace of herself from the trip, but instead they’re everywhere else except looking at the case at the bottom of the stairs.

These are some of the glimpses I’ve been able to grab of it thus far.

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My impression was that the suitcase was left right at the foot of the stairs, but this case has been placed to the side of it, which would have taken two or three steps. Furthermore, Watts has left something of his own right beside it, a blue container, on the side of the case. It’s not clear what it is exactly.

While we’re on the subject of the suitcase, this footage provides some perspective of the motion detectors in the lounge. There appear to be just two, one in the corner by the couches, and another set higher up.

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When one is standing at the foot of the stairs, the small protruding wall blocks the coverage of the upper sensor. Presumably the sensor can detect movement above the first landing on the staircase.Fullscreen capture 20181204 200152Fullscreen capture 20181204 200203Fullscreen capture 20181204 200206

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There’s a strange moment in the footage where the officer asks Watts for information about the doorbell camera. Watts, who has been one great big disappointment in terms of ideas, interest or contributions, suddenly hits his stride. Literally. To explain how well he understands the system, he jogs at the door and shows – demonstrates – to the officer EXACTLY where the range of the doorbell camera extends to.

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There’s also another moment that was of interest to me, and will be of interest to those who have already read the TWO FACE series.  When detective Baumhover and Watts stand below the staircase shooting the breeze, Watts initially appears relaxed, then darts a few glances at his feet and at the floor. If you view the footage carefully, he does this when the detective breaks eye contact and looks away. Nickole Atkinson is also in the room, on his right.

We know Watts’ key tell when he’s nervous is swaying side to side, curling his lower lip and folding his arms. He starts doing that here too.

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When he is initially interrogated, in the kitchen, Watts is standing – from the perspective of the bodycam – between the view of the suitcase [and the stairs]. He’s blocking it, just as he seemed to do in Trinastich’s home when the officer wanted to view the surveillance footage.

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I won’t go into the reasons here, but I believe exactly in this area where Watts is standing, Shan’ann was murdered. She never made it up the stairs, and she never got into bed. There was also no argument, in fact no communication between them after she arrived home. The murder was the only message Watts wanted to send.

But what about the Vivint alerts showing no activity on the main level for over two and a half hours? There’s a well known saying in law, and in true crime, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, or, as I like to put it: the absence of evidence is also evidence.

In the same way Watts was able to hide data on his phone using the Secret Calculator, he knew how to outwit his own home security system. The 01:48 motion alert in the lounge probably came from the overhead sensor, while the one in the corner was neutralized [either digitally turned off, or rendered blind with a piece of paper] until he was finished with his nocturnal work.

Watts was painfully aware of the intricacies of the Vivint system because, while Shan’ann was away, she asked him to repair the dodgy garage sensor.

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Part of his dodgy explanation for Shan’ann leaving was that she left through the garage door. His point being, if she’d left that way, he’d have no way of knowing.

Maybe so, but he’d forgotten about the other sensor spying on his garage: Trisnatich’s.

First Look Inside Chris Watts’ MAN CAVE

The K9 unit bodycam footage is abysmal. It’s so bad it’s almost unwatchable. Much of the jerky footage appears zoomed in and oriented towards the roof. This means the audio is probably more useful than anything else.

There is virtually zero footage of the actual dogs, so its hard to see where they are reacting, which is a crying shame.

What the bodycam footage does show, albeit in fleeting jerky, very poor quality glimpses, are snapshots of Chris Watts’ Man Cave. Compared to the rest of the house, this subterranean area is a complete mismatch. A black garbage bag is stuck against one window near a makeshift bed, which reminds somewhat of Adam Lanza’s bedroom.

The rest of the basement is a mixture of neat packaging, housing and ventilation pipes, wires, innards and clutter that invokes the Ramsey basement.

Immediately below are screengrabs from the K9 bodycam.

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Fortunately we do have another source for footage of the basement. Although it’s also pretty bad, it’s significantly better than the k9 bodycam. Interestingly, even while in the basement, the officer comments about how “everything is in its place” and how neat “these people” are.

What’s also frustrating about the officer’s search downstairs is that he opens the large white refrigerator and looks inside, but doesn’t open the large black one right beside it.

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And then there’s this…

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BREAKING: First Crime Scene Footage INSIDE #2825 Saratoga Trail [UPDATED] #TCRS

The video below has incredible footage from August 13th at around 14:00, actually capturing Watts returning from CERVI 319 [actually he was at another well in the area, but relatively close to the dumping site], and rushing inside ahead of the cops.

Notice how he runs ahead down the basement while everyone else is on the main floor?

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Notice below how Nicolas Atkinson starts eyeballing Watts…

More on Nicolas Atkinson – the Unacknowledged Hero of the Watts Case [36th Tranche]

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Screengrabs below are from the bodycam worn by an officer on Tuesday, August 14, the day after the murders, and shortly before Watts’ infamous Sermon on the Porch.

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Above: The upstairs loft lounge area where Shan’ann’s phone and iwatch were found beneath two cushions.

 

More: Shan’ann’s Phone Was Left HERE – and what it means

Getting to know the Watts Home as a Crime Scene: #1 Original Floor Plans #2 Upstairs Landing, #3 The Balcony, #4 Revisiting the Windows

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And then detective Baumhover arrives. Notice Nicolas Atkinson doing his own investigation on the side while Watts is distracted talking to the detective.

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Here Watts appears to be almost jogging up the stairs.Fullscreen capture 20181201 144305-001Fullscreen capture 20181201 144622Fullscreen capture 20181201 144630Fullscreen capture 20181201 144647Fullscreen capture 20181201 144700Fullscreen capture 20181201 144713Fullscreen capture 20181201 144718Fullscreen capture 20181201 144413Fullscreen capture 20181201 144426Fullscreen capture 20181201 144739Fullscreen capture 20181201 144439

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Notice how the open basement door just over Watts left shoulder [right side of image] jutts out, potentially blocking the Vivint motion sensor to its immediate right.

As Watts is questioned here, he repeats the curling in of the upper lip thing, folds his arms and sways while he’s being asked a few questions. He has his head slightly down, like a naughty child not wanting to make eye contact. Even here his demeanor is so completely, it;s not even close. All those Thrive videos had perhaps given Watts the false idea that he could perform in front of the camera if he had to, and that he was a good actor.

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#ChrisWatts Crime scene.

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#Chriswatts Crime Scene Upstairs.

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#ChrisWatts Crime Scene Master Bedroom.

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#ChrisWatts Crime Scene Dining Room and Lounge

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#ChrisWatts Crime Scene Kitchen

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Cadaver dog search – August 14:

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The screengrabs below are from video sourced at this link. In the video one has the impression of a chaotic crime scene with the alarm blaring, Deeter barking the cops stumbling and bumbling about, filling in forms on the kitchen counter etc.

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More: Excellent Video Footage of the Moment Officer Coonrod Arrives on the Scene at #2825 Saratoga Trail

This last image wasn’t photographed at Saratoga Trail. It’s unclear where the photo was taken. Fullscreen capture 20181130 041605