Chris Watts: The crime scene at CERVI 319 just got a LOT more complicated

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.

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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.

“Why wasn’t Shan’ann’s body dumped into the oil tanks as well?”

Did Chris Watts feel differently about his pregnant wife compared to his children? Does the fact that he dumped his children into enclosed tanks but buried Shan’ann in a shallow grave reveal anything about his psychology?

The answer, at least in my view, is yes – and no. Dealing with the “yes” aspect would require an entire chapter. For that please refer to my book Two Face.

What I will say here is that it’s significant that in Chris Watts’ own version of events, he didn’t kill his children, Shan’ann did that. We may shake our heads dismissively at that claim, but if we do, we’re missing the point. In his own version of events he admits to being angry at Shan’ann, and he blames her for killing their children. What we have here isn’t necessarily a matter of fact, but symbolism.

In his mind Chris Watts may or may not have rationalized that Shan’ann’s behavior in a particular area/or areas doomed them as a family. That Shan’ann was killing him, in some particular way. In Two Face I go into some detail into how and where this psychology is rooted and what it means in this case.

Now let’s get back to the original question, but dealing with the flip side of it.

Does the fact that he dumped his children into enclosed tanks but buried Shan’ann in a shallow grave reveal anything about how his psychology differed towards her vis-à-vis the children?

No, and here’s why.

If he could have gotten away with it, Chris Watts would have dumped his wife’s body into these tanks. What he was trying to do was permanently erase all traces of all four of his flesh and blood family – Shan’ann, Niko, Bella and Celeste.

Scott Peterson also went to a huge amount of effort to permanently erase Laci and Conner from the world. In Peterson’s case he fashioned several concrete anchors from scratch, and attached these to all of Laci’s extremities. After several months, the anchors still held, but the body broke lose when the tissue underneath had been chewed or rotten away.

When Laci’s remains washed ashore and she was discovered by a couple walking their dog [the dog mde the discovery], it was a headless, handless, legless cauldron of ribs. Scott Peterson intended Laci to never rise from the bottom of San Francisco Bay. The same applied to his unborn child. If the murder is cruel, the burial is arguably just as callous.

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In Chris Watts’ case, the enormous interior of these fuel tanks, warmed by the sun and filled with corrosive, tissue eating chemicals, would theoretically have done the job of making all four of his family members vanish permanently much sooner than a body submerged in seawater, or dumped off the side of a road in a damp tropical forest.

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If Chris Watts could have fitted Shan’ann through the hole beneath the silver access hatch, he would have pushed her down into it.

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A cursory glance at the access hatch makes it appear about a third to twice the size it really is. Although the mushroom-shaped cover is roughly 40 centimeters wide, the inside of the hatch demonstrates how it contours inward to form a plug. The rubber housing on the upper and lower edges are of vastly different widths, indicative of the tapering interior of the tank’s access funnel.

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What this means is that the width of the outer “mushroom” isn’t the width of the interior access point, in fact the mushroom is about twice as wide.

I apologize if the examination below seems insensitive. Obviously what happened to Shan’ann and all the Watts children was heartless, grotesque and horrific. We do this analysis in order to understand what happened to Shan’ann, and why.

When we review images of Shan’ann taken in mid-July and late July, there’s simply no way she would fit through such a narrow opening.37368479_10155567194621935_4924269615061663744_n

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When we examine the hatch and compare it to the human scale [see below], we see the width of the maintenance worker’s thighs. Although they’re reduced because of the angle turned to the camera – he’s still unlikely to fit through the hatch. His shoulders are even wider.

Although one could argue that the maintenance worker might be taller and larger than Shan’ann, what the image with the maintenance tech clearly shows is how very narrow the access pipe actually is. No adult is going to fit through there! That access point is roughly the width of an adult man’s hand opened like a star +- 25 cm. It’s barely wider than a human head.

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Perhaps a more pertinent question is this:

If Nickole Atkinson didn’t raise the alarm on August 13, could Chris Watts have gotten away with murder?

In other words, assuming the bodies were never tracked down to the CERVI 319 site, and if Chris Watts had more time to dispose of evidence [Shan’ann’s purse, cellphone, medication etc] after the murder, and if he was able to cover his tracks sufficiently so that the time of death became more and more stretched out and uncertain, and if the bodies were ultimately never recovered, could he – would he – have beaten a murder rap?

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