Chris Watts: His plan to turn blood and tissue to oil and dust

Colorado court records and documents filed on August 20, a week after the murders, showed Chris Watts loaded all three bodies onto the back seat of his work truck and took them to an oil site identified as CERVI 319 with GPS coordinates 40.21624374, -104.36667.

In the same way that the “grave sites” of Caylee Anthony and JonBenet Ramsey provide us with our best clues about their murderer’s long term motives and intentionality, the same is true here. Chris Watts chose this site because it was remote. No one was going to stumble onto or inside this site, and even if they did, it would require specialized tools to open those tanks. NINTCHDBPICT000428067650

As part of ongoing research for Two Face I contacted a friend [and former cop] who rotates regularly on oil and gas sites around the world, including in India, Asia and Africa. I’ll refer to him here as R.  I showed R the oil tanks and described the essentials of the crime scene. R responded with a number of insights off the top of his head.

  1. Oil is corrosive. How long would it take the body of a 4-year-old child to dissolve in liquid oil? By way of example, R mentioned a 5 centimeter stainless steel bolt he’d retrieved once from a pipeline, after it had fallen into one. The thread inside the bolt had worn down. R also mentioned how toxic oil and its byproducts are. It stings the eyes and burns the lungs. [Notice the heavy duty gloves worn by the technician in the image below].Fullscreen capture 20180911 144503So the chemical impact of petrochemicals on corroding mucous membranes around tissue is potent, and if the threads of a bolt can be worn away, imagine how quickly human tissue can be dissolved. It might not take days, but it wouldn’t take months either. A small body might be reduced to oil in a few weeks.copter-tuesday-am2-1052am-anadorko-oil-tanks_frame_51134
  2. Decomposition process is chemical, not bacterial. Although R couldn’t say and wouldn’t hazard a guess on how long human bones might take to dissolve, he acknowledged that sulphuric acid is one of the byproducts of sequestration. Sulphuric acid is one of the most effective destroyers of human tissue, after hydrochloric acid.* Unlike human decomposition in air by bacteria and/or organisms, decomposition in this case would be chemical. Anadarko’s tanks, in his opinion, were used to store crude oil but also to allow it time to settle, thus separating [sequestrating] various products from the liquid – natural gas to name one.copter-tuesday-am2-1052am-anadorko-oil-tanks_frame_48344
  3. Maintenance Schedule. Besides enjoying special access to the CERVI 319 site, R indicated that Chris Watts would also know the particular site’s maintenance schedule. If the tanks had recently been maintained, perhaps recently flushed out with hydrochloric acid, then the contents would be particularly conducive to dissolving a body. On the other hand, if Watts himself was responsible for maintenance and maintenance checks, then he could “maintain” the site by adding or removing chemicals in order to prevent anomalies from occurring. He could also potentially cover up alerts.
  4. Why were the bodies dumped into separate tanks? R dismissed the idea that throwing a body into the tank would set off a “volume alert”. In his opinion the volume would be in constantly flux. Placing the bodies in separate tanks would probably accelerate chemical decomposition.Fullscreen capture 20180911 144601
  5. Sieves. The fuel tanks have an inlet pipe, which receives oil pumped into it. The oil remains in stasis for a long period, during which time it separates into natural gas [which is siphoned off by one outlet pipe], and also sequestrated into various other byproducts. Sieves at the exits prevent obstacles from being transmitted along these. R was unsure whether Chris Watts would have removed clothing, or wrapped the bodies in plastic, but felt it was somewhat likely that the children’s hair might present a problem, and could quickly and easily clog the sieves, and also float to the top of the oil tank and adhesive to it, leaving behind long term human traces. It’s recently been reported that hundreds of strands of hair were found in the toolbox area at the rear of Watts truck. This is important because Watts claims the bodies were transported in the back seat.Fullscreen capture 20180914 211456

Fullscreen capture 20180911 144446

My personal view is that around the time Chris Watts discovered Shan’ann was pregnant, he may also have become aware of the 10 year anniversary of the Casey Anthony case. In other words, this was a case of Criminal Intertextuality.

Think that’s far fetched? May was the month People magazine covered the 10 year anniversary. In the same month, in fact on May 28 Casey Anthony’s Parents Speak debuted on US television. Early May was also when Shan’ann found out she was pregnant.

Now imagine Chris Watts was pissed about this, turned on the television, or walked past a magazine at the local supermarket, and found out about a mother struggling financially who “successfully” disposed of her child and got away with it. While the whole world watched! If he was aware of the Anthony case did he think:

I can do this better.

Taking it further: the Casey Anthony case involved the “disappearance” of a two-year-old child, and a partying mother in chronic financial difficulty who didn’t seem to want her baby girl. Casey Anthony was acquitted of all charges, except lying. In her defense, initially she claimed someone took Caylee, and that Caylee was with this person.

Chris Watts may have imagined he could easily do better on two counts.

  1. By not revealing the identity of the friend. [So no Zanny to debunk].
  2. Making sure the bodies were never found.

Fullscreen capture 20180911 144453

On the second point, Watts had a chance of success. Of course he had three bodies to get rid of, which precipitously raised the odds against him getting away with what he was trying to get away with.

The main difference between the Anthony case and the Watts case was that Anthony had a month of “lead-time” to work with, besides the 5 additional months it took to find the body.

The other aspect was that the police, despite suspecting Casey, thought she would eventually lead them to her daughter. They didn’t arrest her for murder but gave her limited immunity over an extended period, leaving the door open for her to tell the truth about where Caylee was, or what happened to do. They underestimated who they were dealing with, however.

A major asset the Colorado cops had going for them in the Watts case was the combination of cadaver dogs picking up something inside the house and the video surveillance footage showing no one besides Chris Watts leaving the house that morning.

Added to this Nickole Atkinson’s highly unusual and almost premature alerting of the authorities within hours of their disappearance, and Watts’ “perfect murder” quickly went pear shaped.

In Two Face I explore the real reason Atkinson called the police as soon as she did. [In the image below, notice how the bolts are already rusted despite the near mint condition of the tanks].

Fullscreen capture 20180911 144510

Watts may also have been “inspired” if that’s the word, by the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Frederick is literally just down the road from Boulder, and the 20 year anniversary of that case occurred in 2016, shortly after they moved to Frederick.

The inspiring thing about the Ramsey case from Watts perspective was the protracted and spectacular failure of the local authorities to press charges – against anyone, ever. It’s possible Watts considers the Colorado justice system to be toothless.

The Anthony case and the Ramsey case may not have been at the center of Chris Watts’ mind when he committed this crime, but it may have played some role in his thinking.

The longer the period of preplanning and premeditation, the greater the likelihood that he researched what he was doing, just as Casey and the Ramseys – according to some theories researched their respective crimes.

Have law enforcement seized Chris Watts’ home computer yet? Have they analysed the browser history? Have they checked the maintenance schedule for CERVI 319? All these may piece together the puzzle for premeditated triple [quadruple] murder. Then this case becomes a candidate for a death penalty trial.

What seems clear though, is between the birthday party on Sunday at Jeffrey Lindstrom’s home in Erie, the barbecue back home that same evening and Watts leaving supposedly on schedule first thing the next morning, the whole spiel was intended to have the appearance of plausible deniability. Chris Watts made sure he was being seen throughout Sunday, and thought he  made sure he wasn’t seen when it mattered most.


*Hydrochloric acid plays a key role in recovering oil and natural gas from geologic formations. Oil and gas reserves are found in deep sea beds, tight sand formations, shales, and coalbed methane formations. Hydrochloric acid aids in the removal of obstacles that form in the wells during the drilling process.

The oil and gas industry relies on this strong and highly corrosive mineral acid to dissolve contaminants in the well to clear the way for the oil and gas to flow into the well. When mixed with water, the hydrochloric acid solution is successful at acidizing carbonate or limestone formations and removes contaminants such as scale, rust, and carbonite deposits.

Pumping a water/hydrochloric solution into a well is known as stimulation or well acidizing. In new wells it clears the way for the flow to begin. It is also used in existing wells to restore the natural permeability of the rock formation to encourage an increase in flow. Hydrochloric acid can also be combined with mud acid such as hydrofluoric acid to dissolve sand, quartz, and clay from the well. – Continental Chemical USA

39 thoughts on “Chris Watts: His plan to turn blood and tissue to oil and dust

  1. Also as a former car mechanic he would be well aware of the corrosive properties of chemicals coming into contact with the skin as well as their dissolving capabilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe Justice was served today in Chris Watts, by his actions, his disregard towards human life, proves Chris thought about this for some time. Blessings to both families, and all who were involved. It is a tragedy for all and we must love , respect our families and each other, we are human beings, handle with Care
      Blue Velvet


    • WOW…great point about corrosive properties of these chemicals.
      Bet he was planning to chop up Shannan and dispose of her body in equal parts into those tanks later that day…also put her purse, clothing, other telltale signs of her “missing” put all inside those crude oil tanks where everything would eventually dissolve and Chris and his miSTRESS could ride each others bones off into the sunset, until HE got tired of her yanking his chain exactly like Shanann did to him their entire married life. She had/has same personality as his wife…a man handler in charge of her monkey, yank his chain, following her commands…do what I say and you won’t get hurt.
      Sick Bastard, very EVIL MONSTER, who didn’t have the balls to stand up to pee! Bet he had to be told where to aim it. They made 1/4 our income, but spending habits were deplorable and crazy bad, but she had to put on a mask…to present to the world a big lie…that they were perfect, no problems what so ever when truth was totally opposite…months behind in mortgage payments, deep in debt AGAIN after filing bankruptcy 3 yrs earlier, she just didn’t learn…ignored warning signs…kept her head in the sand until someone came along and kicked her in the butt…she didn’t see it coming because she was acting like and ostrich…head stuck below the ground…can’t see anything wrong when you’re doing that!
      All is wonderful!…Got my “vision board”…with materialistic junk…and kids doing same!
      THAT was her focus was, teaching her babies about wanting more stuff…JUNK…her ” vision board” full of materialistic junk…TOYS…rather than work.focuse on one’s character and doing good, helping others, focused on SELF…taking SELFIES and POSTING SELFIES non stop.
      Chris Watts and his horrible family…his mama being worst of the worst hating blaming victims…who does that? Mommy dearest with a heart full of hatred…I hope she’ll end up a complete bag lady….walking around the city with a shopping cart loaded with her “Golden Boy” Chris photos…not a single mention or thought of her dead grandbabies…Cindy tWatts is partially to blame as is his horrible father and mistress.
      BTW…notice the babys name, Niko Lee…contains same letters as his mistress, Nicole Lee Kessinger!
      (look at her voters registration info, gives her middle name. Lee) That baby needs a name change so it won’t be connected in any way to Chris tWatts mistress…i’ve no doubt HE named the baby, using his GFs name…betcha I’m right!


    • To make it seem more “thoughtful” or caring of the bodies instead of throwing them in the back of the truck like yesterdays garbage.


      • Really, when he was planning to dump them in oil tanks & bury in shallow Graves!? I don’t think so, once he just “thought” about killing his kids, he forgot about what being human was, & he didn’t think any such thought!!! I hope he suffers immeasureable pain soon!!! He doesn’t deserve to breath the same air as decent folks!


      • Nope. It wasn’t because he wanted to seem “thoughtful” or “caring”. Go back and watch the neighbor’s security videos. You’ll notice that the left backseat door is completely invisible from the camera’s view. You simply CANNOT see what Chris is doing. In contrast, the back area of the truck is completely visible. He seemed to know exactly what could be caught on tape by the security camera, and what could not.


    • We don’t know if he did lie. The advantage of transporting in the cabin is that they wouldn’t be seen. The disadvantage is any DNA, blood, saliva or cadaver liquid would easily soak into the upholstery. If there was blood evidence, perhaps he claimed they were in the cabin when they weren’t in order to throw off the forensics. One way to test it would be to use three models, one adult and two children and see how they could stow in the back seat, especially if inside bags. If there was a strong cadaver odor, that may have been one reason to stow the children’s bodies elsewhere. He wouldn’t want to make the same mistake Casey Anthony made.


  2. Someone on CNN said he thought he may have put the bodies of the girls in the outflow tank, the smaller round tank seen at the base of the stairs leading to the larger heated tanks, due to it being easier for one, and for two the larger tanks have pressurized openings, which he could still maneuver but would take a bit more expertise, as well as having a smaller opening, and he’d have to deal with the stairs.


  3. I would want to hurry up to avoid being seen. He has to dispose of three bodies in one trip, and show up or clock in to work at a reasonable time. Her flight was delayed 3 hours. He didn’t have much time. He tries to dig a shallow grave and either cannot break ground on that soil or just thinks it’s a remote enough area, he will be able to delay discovery for a few days, so he hurries. He puts the smaller “parcels” in a more convenient receptacle, gives up on the grave idea, and heads off to work. So as for me, I would move as quickly as I could and concentrate on my story.

    I also think he could load all three into the back seat as he stated he did, in the cab, although yes, if you can do an experiment to see if this might be possible, allowing for some bulk of a sheet or plastic bags, try it (with 3 willing participants of course). Two little children on the floor, one adult stretched out on the seat. He may have used the bed of the truck to wrap the bodies, or he may have “slid” them in there before figuring out hiding them in the enclosed space of the cab would escape detection as he drove 40 miles to the oil field. Wouldn’t want any pesky plastic or sheet blowing off as well.


    • Wouldn’t this have been a very different story had a neighbor called police to check out suspicious and unusual activities being done in the Watts driveway!
      Cop pulls up while Chris is carrying dead wifes body and 2 dead babies already loaded up, ready to go!
      OMG…bet that would have stopped his heart….oh wait…he doesn’t have a heart OR a brain!
      She jerked his chain far too often and he didn’t have the balls to stand up to her…she had to show him where to point when to pee, and she helped pull up his zipper, just like a mom does to her 2 yr old boy she’s potty training


    • We know he didn’t wrap the bodies back there, because we have the surveillance video of him loading the bodies. He did not manipulative them on video, just drag and dump.


  4. Questions -Do we know for sure the large tanks were where he disposed of the girls? Or that he put one in one tank, one in another? Why not put them in the same tank? I see that the opening is narrow, but the oil reservoir would be deep. What kind of tools are required to turn the top open? Just sheer muscle and a pair of work gloves? Time was of the essence.


    • I realize this comment is old, but figured I’d give a bit of expertise on this. I’ve worked in the oilfield for the last 4 years.

      It sounds like you may have mistakenly thought that the tanks are where the well is drilled ? Like the tanks sit on top of the hole and collect the oil that comes out or something ? That’s not how these locations work. The actual well is usually in the center of the pad, and has 2.5”-3” diameter steel tubing running down the complete depth of the well. There is no possible way to have put anything even remotely close to human sized (even a child) in the well bore.

      Then the oil is transferred from the well at the center of the pad to the tanks at the edge of the pad through more 2.5”-3” pipes. The oil is then stored there until an oil hauler (18 wheeler) comes and pulls it out, or if it’s connected to a pipeline, until it is pumped into that pipeline.

      As far as what it takes to gain access to the well bore, it takes an entire oil rig (like a workover rig) because you have to remove the rod string as well (solid steel rods that move the pump at the bottom of the well up and down) which weighs tens of thousands of pounds.

      If you’re asking about the opening at the top of the tanks, they are what’s known as a “thief hatch”. They don’t require any muscle or turning to open. They simply have to be pushed downwards, flip a latch and then opened. You can google “thief hatch” to see what im talking about. The issue with these for him though was that they only have an opening that is 8” in diameter. So there was no possible way to fit his wife in there, without perhaps dismembering her. There ARE however access hatches on the side of the tank at the bottom for cleaning the tank out, making repairs, etc that are approximately 36” wide by 48” tall, but that presents a lot of problems also – it’s at the bottom of the tank so it would have to be empty to open it, which takes days and logistics to empty. That is something he definitely could not do without drawing attention. The access doors are also bolted into place with something like 75 bolts that must be individually removed. So shallow grave was really his only option for his wife.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Did he keep the girls hair short on purpose because it would clog sieves? Bella’s hair was always cut so short. Why? Did CW cut/keep her hair short in preparation….maybe sayin he liked it short so the wife didn’t protest? He didn’t put them in backseat….neighbors camera would have recorded him loading them in doors. He put them in bags that looked like his tools. He precisely told police he backed truck up to load tools before he left. (Cops must have said “gotcha”. At that point of interview). Irrelevant info. First sign he was a liar.) He left the corner of the sheet uncovered by dirt so he could find grave in the dark the next night to finish his horrid plan. Also…he told the girlfriend about the separation when she called because that was his planned story. Shanann left suddenly because she freaked out that he wanted a divorce. She vanished with daughters. Problem was he ran out of time and didn’t account for Nicole caring enough not to accept his story and not to just go home. His lack of empathy or understanding of human compassion was his downfall. He probably figured Nicole would go home as he rushed home to clean up evidence. Police beat him there.

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  6. Pingback: Bella and Celeste Watts: how were they murdered? | True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

  7. Pingback: Chris Watts: What Rocket Science got right – and wrong | True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

  8. Wouldn’t this have been a very different story had a neighbor called police to check out suspicious and unusual activities being done in the Watts driveway!
    Cop pulls up while Chris is carrying dead wifes body and 2 dead babies already loaded up, ready to go!
    OMG…bet that would have stopped his heart….oh wait…he doesn’t have a heart OR a brain!
    She jerked his chain far too often and he didn’t have the balls to stand up to her…she had to show him where to point when to pee, and she helped pull up his zipper, just like a mom does to her 2 yr old boy she’s potty training


  9. It still seems to me that the bodies of Celeste and especially Bella would be too large, if intact, to be squeezed through the 8″ openings in the respective tanks. Did Watts’ additional charges of “tampering” with a body indicate that the bodies we’re partially dismembered? I cannot get this thought out of my mind.


  10. Please offer your comments regarding the disposal of the Watts children into two oil tanks through 8″ openings. As stated, the latter scenario does not seen tenable to me. Perhaps this disposal of the bodies required intense, bone breaking force or some degree of aggressive tampering with the remains. I am a retired criminologist and have been wrestling with this aspect of the crime from the discovery of its alleged details.


  11. If it was so obvious Casey killed her child, why wouldn’t a court have found her guilty? I think it’s more of a case how USA has the most serial killers and wife and family killers in the world, but instead of using them as an example to compare, they try to find a rare case of a woman doing something wrong, even if she wasn’t found guilty.


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