8 inches. A petroleum engineer has told HLN that the access hatch in his expert opinion is too small to fit even the bodies of small children through. The crime scene at CERVI 319 just got a lot more complicated.
It makes an enormous difference whether the bodies of Bella and Celeste were dumped through the top of the drum or through the bottom. Much of that difference has to do with time, on the one hand, but if it required a lot of unfastening and fastening of bolts, and Chris Watts stepping inside the tanks, then the possibilities for getting his clothing covered in evidence [including oil] goes up significantly.
Was that why Chris Watts took off his shoes?
There’s also a remote possibility that one or both bodies of the children may have been altered in some way in order to force one or both of them through the narrow thief hatch at the top.
If the head could fit through, then a large amount of force and gruesome crunching of bones may have allowed him to dump the smaller child [Celeste] through the upper hatch.
What’s more, HLN‘s expert believes the opening of the manway hatches could have taken as long as an hour. That would be long, sweaty work that would have gone on until after sunrise. It may also account why Chris Watts effectively ran out of time when he was digging Shan’ann’s grave.
What’s also noticeable, and HLN didn’t comment on this aspect, are the clear residues of oil right outside the manway openings on the ground, especially below the tank on the far side.
The other tank also shows what appears to be a smaller black stain.
These stains could have been made by Watts, or by the cops, when they drained the tanks into order to gain access to them.
The amount of oil found in the drums when investigators arrived on the scene could also indicate whether they were completely or partially drained at the time, based on the rate of filling up over the course of four days.
Since it took a substantially longer period of time to locate/retrieve the bodies of the two girls after Shan’ann’s remains were discovered, it may be that there was a lot of oil in one or both tanks that had to be drained before the tanks could be properly accessed. This could indicate that at least one body may have been dumped through the thief hatch.
On the other hand, the time lapse could have been due to sourcing the appropriate technical assistance at Anadarko, and the red tape involved in getting permission to access a controlled site and system.
The autopsy results could shed some light on the question of whether there was forcing, processing or even dismembering in order to make use of the thief hatch. The continued reluctance of the district attorney to release the autopsy results is making this case more mysterious, compelling and disturbing than it already is.