The real mystery in this case isn’t what happened at CERVI 319, it’s the crime scene at 2825 Saratoga Trail. That’s where all three victims [and the unborn child] were murdered, wasn’t it? This will also be the epicenter of the defense case. What did Chris do versus what does he say Shan’ann did? Where did the actual homicides play out? In the house or outside in the real world?
She’s no longer here to defend herself, so Chris Watts could field any plausible story in court, roll the dice and hope for a good outcome for himself.
What does he say Shan’ann did?
In a recent episode on HLN Ashleigh Banfied describes potential breakthrough evidence regarding the Apple watches, and their ability to “track” their users. Banfield suggests that if Chris Watts went up or downstairs at a particular time, the watch will confirm – or contradict that.
While it’s an interesting line of inquiry and fairly new to true crime, in legal terms it’s probably neither here nor there. In his affidavit he doesn’t specify when Shan’ann strangled the two girls. He doesn’t specify when he went downstairs either.
If Chris Watts went up or downstairs, or if Shan’ann did, well, they both lived there didn’t they? So whether the recording [if there is one] is of any incriminating movement, the handy counter is that the defendant lived in the crime scene, so obviously he or she moved from A to B – even a few times – for whatever reason. Ditto fingerprints, DNA and other evidence.
Where murderers actually live in their crime scenes, and where there are multiple victims and multiple murderers [or the suggestion of the latter], the case suddenly becomes far more complex. How does one know when evidence is evidence or just random debris from ordinary domestic comings and goings?
A classic example of just how unfathomable a homicide inside a large house can be, is the still officially unsolved Ramsey case. Not only did the sheer volume of evidence overwhelm the investigation, but the size and scale of the crime scene did too. More than 20 years later we’re still not 100% sure of the basics in the Ramsey case – was the murder weapon a torch or a golf club, a softball bat or a hammer? We’d have some handle on at least this aspect if we knew where in that damn house the crime was executed, and by whom.
The Ramsey mansion, 749 15th Street in Boulder, was a four story labyrinth. 2825 Saratoga Trail has the makings of that too. Instead of the basement, in the Watts case there’s the labyrinth of CERVI 319 to distract us from Saratoga Trail.
If the basement was meant to distract the investigation from somewhere else in the house [or someone else], what are we being distracted and distanced from in the Watts case – by the CERVI 319 site?
What are we really dealing with here, legally speaking?
This is a case that involves one murderer and three victims [plus Niko], or two murderers, murderer A with one victim and crime scene [plus Niko], and murderer B with two victims and crime scene/s.
In theory, if Shan’ann did kill her two living children, Chris might claim she killed her unborn child as well. Perhaps she intended to kill herself too, in his argument? He might argue that he was trying to save her as she did whatever she did to kill the unborn child, and accidentally killed her. See how complicated it’s becoming?
So how do we figure it out? True Crime Intertextuality.
Since this is a crowded crime scene with four people plus an unborn child inside it, we can exclude other crime scenes where there was a sparring match between a single murderer and a single victim.
Crime scenes that aren’t a match are Oscar Pistorius and Jodi Arias. But there are at least three reference cases that reveal the legal complexity we’ll be dealing with in the Watts case. Let’s deal briefly with just one.
If you want to skip through this section, it ends after the italicized text.
In the clip below, Knox defends herself by saying “my DNA is not there”. Where’s there? A few seconds after saying “my DNA is not there” she’s saying “well of course our DNA was there, we lived there…” And then, moments later: “But I’m not there, and that proves my innocence.”
See the problem?
Now regardless whether we believe Amanda Knox is guilty or not, this was a crime with an unknown number of assailants inside her little home in Perugia. Even if we’re adamant that that’s not true, let’s go back to the case as it was before it went to trial. There were three suspects. There was uncertainty if it was one, two, or all three involved.
Even so, it should have been a pretty open and shut case, right?
In a case with a crime scene as small as the cottage on Via della Pergola, it’s tempting to see it as a slam dunk. But as soon as the number of prime suspects increases, that automatically increases the size of the crime scene, not just doubling it in size, or tripling it, but inflating it by orders of magnitude.
Instead of looking for evidence for a single specific person, there are now multiple layers of evidence, each set, each criminal layer, must be sequestrated from everyone else’s and tied directly to the suspect. For normal criminal cases there’s just one set of criminal data. In a case like this there were three. Again, it’s not just how the individual layers tie in with the victim, but how do the perpetrators tie in to one another?
How does A tie into B and A tie into C. Also, from B’s lawyer’s perspective, how does B tie in A and C. And then the same for C. Then there’s also the defense lawyer’s counters to how others say the other parties knew each other…
When you have an intruder, this process is easier. When you have a boyfriend, as Knox did with Raffaele Sollecito, suddenly the evidence has to be cross-referenced and excluded from other random visits. And when you have the person who lives there, it’s most complicated of all, because what evidence matters and what doesn’t?
An additional dimension that adds to the complexity is that by separating the evidence of two or more individuals from themselves inter alia, one is effectively isolating their narratives. And yet criminals and their victims, or criminals in concert, are never operating in a vacuum.
The dynamic between murderer and victim, or the murderers and their victims, is the key to unlocking the crime scene, and solving the case. So by the very process of isolating evidence, we tend to do the thing that hurts our intuitive analysis the most – we isolate the individual from the reality they experienced while living there.
What was Chris Watts’ reality inside that house? That’s the real crime scene, and it goes beyond the time and space constraints of the crime scene itself, if that makes sense.
In my own analysis of the Knox case one of my arguments was to say: where does the crime scene begin in this case, and where does it end? It’s an exceedingly simple question, but the boundaries of crime scenes are often impossible to establish in fact, especially when there are digital breadcrumbs to follow, social media, cellphone data, social obligations etc.
But the issue remains, besides all that, in the pure physical dimension, where is the crime scene? Where does it begin? Where does it end?
In my latest book on the Ramsey case Black Star Over Bethlehem III, I deal with this question directly. Where in that labyrinth on 15th Street was the Ground Zero of the crime scene?
The Ramsey case is a good analogy for a crime scene that ought not to extend beyond the walls, ceiling and basement of the Ramsey residence. And physically that’s true. Whatever happened, probably happened inside the house.
But the Ransom Note breaks that virtual barrier, and the child beauty queen pageantry does so, in a way, as well. If you believe the Ransom Note is real, or that the pageantry attracted an infinite number of pedophiles, then suddenly a limited crime scene becomes infinitely complex, and perhaps that was the idea.
In the Knox case, the Ransom Note comes via the allegation of a break in. This is important, because it means someone who doesn’t live there enters the scene and that’s the explanation for the murder. Now instead of looking at the obvious suspect, the obvious suspect becomes the clearly pointed out intruder. It has to be him!
How do we apply this to the Watts case? Well, the Ramsey case feels like it doesn’t involve an intruder. But if we throw away the Ransom Note as a fabrication, then we’re faced with an inescapable conclusion – that something went wrong late on Christmas Night, and led to the little girl’s murder by someone who lived there.
But even if that’s true, then someone living in the house went from being a trustworthy companion and blood relative to an intruder [and then back to being a trusted member of the family]. How does that happen?
Well, that’s the real question, and that’s the real mystery in this case. This is the stuff that won’t be revealed at the crime scene, in part because that stuff is the secret reason the crime happened in the first place.
In the Watts case there seems to be no question of an intruder but there is. There is an intruder at 2825 Saratoga Trail. It’s the mistress and the effect she had on Chris Watts’ heart. Think about what impact adultery has on a marriage, on a pregnant wife. It absolutely is an intrusion.
And where is she now? Has she been visiting him in jail? Are they both lovelorn, and desperately missing each other? Does she have any feelings of guilt? The heart is the real crime scene.
TWO FACE is available on Amazon Kindle at this link.