NEIL-VO: Chapter 8, The Stakeout.
NEIL-VO: Let’s rewind to just a few minutes before we last left off.
Callbox: Your call has been forwarded to an automated voice messaging system.
Neil Strauss: Alright, after all that, there was a message. I’m just gonna call a second time.
Callbox: Your call has been forward to an automated voice messaging system.
NEIL-VO: The apartment I’m buzzing is where Chris Spotts, the boyfriend of Adea Shabani, is believed to be hiding out. Jayden, the private investigator, has started using a service that can track phone pings and he’s traced Chris Spotts’s phone to this block.
NEIL-VO: We’ve zeroed in on this specific apartment because it just happens to be where Chris’s best friend has been staying. For purposes of anonymity, we’re going to call this guy Brian.
Neil Strauss: So I’m outside, I buzz the buzzer, no answer. I buzz the buzzer the next two times, it goes straight to voicemail. Anyway, a guy walks out on the balcony and then walks back in. He looks to be late 20s and I just see him from the back and he’s got kind of black, close cropped hair in the back. Black or dark brown.
Jayden: Did it look like (Brian)?
Neil Strauss: I couldn’t tell if it was (Brian) or Chris. This guy looked like maybe 5’7”-5’10” or something.
Jayden: I mean, that’s Chris’s height. Are you gonna try to get the building, or no? Knock on the door?
Neil Strauss: Yep, you may be right. I’m gonna try to get in. I’ll keep you updated.
Jayden: Alright, yeah, let me know.
Neil Strauss: Thank you.
Neil Strauss: Hello? Hello?
Neil Strauss: Alright, so either nobody’s home or somebody is home and just hiding from me. I’m gonna walk away from the doors. I think probably the best move then is- I just have to wait. I have to wait in my car directly outside the building and see if Chris or his friend show up and then try to talk to them then.
NEIL-VO: So I sit in my car, with my heart beating double time, and wait. Every vehicle that pulls in and out of the garage and every car that stops near me to look for a parking place just looks very suspicious to me. After a while, with no sign of Chris or Brian, my nerves begin to die down and it starts to seem as if it’s going to be a long night.
NEIL-VO: I take advantage of the time by trying to reconstruct Chris and Adea’s relationship to look for clues to Chris’s guilt and his motivation. But, there’s a lot of information that we still don’t have.
Neil Strauss: What’s going on as far as getting access to Adea’s iCloud or a clone of her phone or her text messages?
Jayden: So right now we’re working on that. We haven’t got full access yet. One of the things we definitely do have and I sent over to you is that video of Adea and Chris. Have you seen it?
Neil Strauss: No.
Jayden: It’s crazy, I mean, you gotta look at it.
NEIL-VO: I watch the video Jayden just sent. It’s of Adea and Chris fighting in the garage of her apartment building. It was recorded just 3 days before Adea went missing and is the first evidence I’ve seen of just how violent their relationship had become.
NEIL-VO: In the video, Adea is standing in the bed of Chris’s pick up truck, preventing him from driving away while he stands just outside the truck, filming her while she films him. It’s like they’re both trying to make a case against the other. At one point, and you can hear it in the recording, Chris aggressively thrust his hand out to grab either Adea or her phone and she then retreats to the other side of the truck bed for safety.
NEIL-VO: Here it is:
Chris Spotz: I’m not recording anymore.
Adea Shabani: You have beat me. You have beat me up.
Chris Spotz: Then get out of my truck.
Adea Shabani: You took my Rolex. You took my Rolex. You took my Rolex. You beat me up. Everything hurts.
Chris Spotz: Just get out of my truck.
Adea Shabani: I’m not getting out until I get my Rolex.
Chris Spotz: Please get out of my truck.
Adea Shabani: You have my Rolex and my keys and my iPhone.
Chris Spotz: No.
Adea Shabani: My second iPhone.
Chris Spotz: I don’t have it.
Adea Shabani: Yes, you have it.
Chris Spotz: I don’t.
Adea Shabani: Yes. Even my Find My iPhone shows me the address of your place.
Chris Spotz: Did you think I have it in my house? Show me it. Show me. Open up your iPhone.
Jayden: Unbelievable, right? I mean, he definitely seems to be violent and volatile guy. So, be careful.
NEIL-VO: His words are not very reassuring, especially now that I’ve seen this video of Chris who’s not only scary but also much bigger than me. As I continue to wait outside the apartment, Jayden continues to send me a steady stream of Adea’s data from the family, from texts to WhatsApp screenshots to Instagram messages.
NEIL-VO: And through them, along with my interviews and research so far, I’m able to start putting together a detailed timeline of Chris and Adea’s relationship. When I’m finished, I take a look over it and it’s very troubling on a number of levels.
NEIL-VO: Chapter 9: Timeline
NEIL-VO: Wednesday, September 20, 2017. Chris and Adea apparently get together for the first time on this day while working on a scene from a play in her apartment.
Christiane: In acting school, that’s where they work together for the first time and where everything started.
NEIL-VO: For the next two months, he starts visiting her apartment several times a week and they begin dating. Adea is aware that he has a fiance.
Nora: She was emotionally attached to him a lot and what she told me was that he has a fiance.
NEIL-VO: Late December 2017. Adea and Chris break up and she travels to Tulum for New Years with her ex-boyfriend, Ivan.
Nora: And I remember she received a text from Chris saying, “I release you”, something like, “I go back to my fiance.” And she was very cool about it. She said, “Okay, I feel better, finally. It’s not me who has to decide but it’s him.”
NEIL-VO: Friday, January 5, 2018. Adea returns from Tulum and Chris reenters her life. He promises to break up with his fiance, Mary, and to prove how serious he is, he proposes to Adea.
Christiane: He propose her hand. She was asking me how this process was going with a marriage. She was asking me where they have to go. So, they were planning. She asked me which chapel. She was serious.
NEIL-VO: Early February 2018. Chris and Adea decide to move in together. They start filling out a lease application for a two bedroom place. The lease is set to start on March 1st.
NEIL-VO: Around February 12, 2018, Adea drops a bombshell on her friends.
Angel: Adea could have possibly been pregnant. She had spoken to a friend of hers about it and said she told her that her and Chris got intimate, they weren’t using protection, and she was really happy about it. She was happy at the thought that she could be carrying Chris’s child.
NEIL-VO: Wednesday, February 14, 2018. This is nine days before Adea’s disappearance. It’s also Valentine’s day and Chris happens to have two fiances to take out. So he spends the evening with Mary, then leaves her at PM to meet Adea at the restaurant Ysabel in Los Angeles.
Neil Strauss: That night, Adea tells her ex-boyfriend, Ivan, that she had two glasses of wine and blacked out. Then she wakes up and her phone is gone.
Ivan: She told me, “I think I left my phone in the restaurant.” And I said, “That’s impossible because I sent you a Whatsapp around 1 A.M. and it was marked read.” So she said, “Maybe he stole it.”
NEIL-VO: Adea searches for her phone on Find My iPhone and discovers it’s in Chris’s house. She contacts him and he claims that she must have dropped it in his car. This is the first indication of apparently suspicious behavior on Chris’s part toward Adea.
NEIL-VO: Thursday, February 15, 2018. Here are some disturbing texts from the next morning between Adea and Chris. Adea wakes up and she texts Chris trying to remember what happened the night before. He tells her, “You put my hand on your neck and then I choked you. Your eyes rolled back. For a second, I didn’t know if I killed you. So I just put on my clothes and bounced.”
NEIL-VO: “But your DNA is all over,” she texts back, apparently going along with what she thinks is a joke.
NEIL-VO: “If I came today and you were dead,” he responds, “I was gonna burn that motherfucker to the ground. That’s the kind of love we have.”
NEIL-VO: When Chris comes over the next morning, things escalate. Adea’s upset that Chris still hasn’t filled out his application to lease the apartment together. They start fighting about it. She accuses him of never leaving Mary. He gets into the truck while they’re still fighting and locks the doors. And Adea, still arguing with him, dives into the bed of the truck and Chris, in a panic, drives off with Adea as she puts it in a text, like a dog in the back.
NEIL-VO: This is very likely the source of the tip that we received earlier.
Jayden: He saw, what fit the description perfectly of Chris, throwing her into his truck.
NEIL-VO: Chris eventually pulls over and lets Adea into the car. Here’s what happened next in Adea’s own words from a text to her friend, Boyana.
NEIL-VO: “I took his car key and we’re going back and forth. Give me the keys, give me this, give me that. Eventually, he returned my keys and I didn’t notice that from both pairs he took one out: one upper lock, one lower lock. And I enter my apartment and notice. I call him and tell him, “Return them this instance.” He says, “Later.” He made a copy. I’m certain.”
NEIL-VO: Monday, February 19. Adea and Chris start arguing again in her apartment that night. This time, the fighting escalates to physical violence.
Christiane: They were fighting. She fell. She hit the table. I don’t know. She said, “There is this, on my hand, I cut myself.” Somehow, or he cut her here. I don’t know what happened. It was a fight with a knife.
NEIL-VO: Chris’s father accounts what happened this night from Chris’s perspective.
Chris Merez: She went to her apartment and she chased him with a knife and she goes, “You’re never gonna leave me. I’ll own you. I will kill myself and I’ll say that you did it.” And that’s what he said.
NEIL-VO: What we do know is that there are two calls to 911 on Adea’s phone just after midnight. However, she hangs up before speaking to an operator and the police never show up. The fight continues out of Adea’s apartment, down the hallway, and into the parking garage, where the audio you heard earlier was recorded. This time, if you listen carefully, you’ll actually here Chris saying, “I have all the videos of you chasing me with a knife.”
Chris Spotz: Well then get out of my truck.
Adea Shabani: You’ve beaten me up. You’ve tooken my Rolex.
Chris Spotz: I have the video. I have all the videos of you chasing me with a knife.
Adea Shabani: You took my Rolex.
NEIL-VO: After this fight, Adea returned to her apartment and messaged Chris’s fiance, Mary, on Instagram and wrote, “Hi, Mary. I would like to talk to you urgently. It’s about Chris. Please give me a call if you can.” She then drives to North Hollywood and parks outside the house where Chris and Mary live.
NEIL-VO: She stays there for hours, calling Chris 22 times but never seeing him or Mary.
NEIL-VO: Tuesday, February 20. Three days before Adea’s disappearance. To the best of my knowledge, Chris does not see Adea all day and presumably, they are done.
NEIL-VO: Wednesday, February 21. Two days before Adea’s disappearance. Despite everything that’s happened, Chris and Adea somehow get back together and he comes over to Adea’s apartment that afternoon and takes her to a movie at the Arclight Hollywood Theater. However, halfway through the film, Chris says his uncle has had a heart attack and is in the hospital in Sacramento and he leaves. That’s when Adea notices that her phone is missing again.
Nora: I was really arguing with her saying, “You have to be responsible about the phones. It’s not the first time.” I mean it’s not the first time in the sense that it happened twice during the month of January and February. And I even have a text from her saying, “I think it’s him who’s taking the phone from me.”
Angel: I think he had it planned out from a week prior when he originally took her phone in the cinema. And from whatever we were able to retrieve from her deleted stuff on her iCloud, it looked like there was a lot of stuff that were deleted at the time. So, it’s almost like he was trying to cover his tracks before it even started.
NEIL-VO: On Facebook, Adea reaches out to Chris’s father, Chris Merez, identifying herself as Spotty’s girlfriend. She asks for his phone number and Chris Merez covers for his son’s lie.
Chris Merez: I called him up and I said, “Dude, what did you tell her?”
Chris Merez: “Well I told her Uncle Sam had a heart-”
Chris Merez: I said, “Dude, you can’t be doing that shit.”
NEIL-VO: Thursday, February 22. One day before Adea’s disappearance. Things appear to be going well between Adea and Chris. They spend the evening together with Adea’s friends and afterward he tells Adea that this is the weekend he’s going to pack all his stuff and move in permanently. She believes him. I know this for a fact because she texts Christian and tells her that everything is going great with Chris.
NEIL-VO: Christiane and Adea discuss traveling to Mexico together the following day.
Christiane: And then I invited her to Mexico to come with me on the weekend. She told me, “Let me ask my mom.”
NEIL-VO: Friday, February 23. The day of Adea’s disappearance.
Christiane: And on Friday morning, I texted her, “Are you coming to meet with me to Mexico. I’m leaving in a second.” And then she’s like, “No, I fell asleep.” And I asked, “Are you okay, did you fix things with Chris?” And she said, “Yeah. When the fiance’s not in the picture, we’re all la-di-da-di.”
Newscaster 1: That’s when she went to the Rise-and-Grind coffee shop and vanished.
NEIL-VO: This is the afternoon when Chris comes to Adea’s apartment for the final time. There’s no actual evidence that I’ve seen, or even that newscasters have seen, that they actually went to the Rise-and-Grind coffee shop.
Jayden: In terms of proof that I’ve seen, no.
NEIL-VO: However, surveillance cameras in Adea’s building do show Chris and Adea leaving her apartment around 1:20pm that day and getting into the elevator. They look happy together. They’re wearing matching blue baseball caps and Adea has a red pillow around her neck, a red blanket over her arm, a red roller bag, and a Gucci purse, as if prepared for a long road trip.
Jayden: We were walked through the video with L.A.P.D. of her getting into his truck downstairs and leaving. So, that was it. Whether they went to Rise-and-Grind before or not is kind of irrelevant to us.
NEIL-VO: They leave the building in his truck and Adea is never seen again, leaving behind her one very significant clue as to what her intentions were at this time.
Jayden: The last thing we saw on the phone on the morning of the 23rd; it was just a note. All it was, was Mary’s phone number.
NEIL-VO: As I review all of this, and it’s a lot of information, what’s clear is that Chris’s affair of Adea was spiraling out of control for both of them and turning violent. The most telling thing to me in this whole timeline occurs two days before Adea disappears.
NEIL-VO: All of a sudden, she and Chris are getting along and not fighting. And this occurs immediately after Adea shows up unannounced outside Chris and Mary’s home in the middle of the night.
NEIL-VO: It seems at this point like he’s either trying to cover up his affair or the extent of the affair from Mary. Or maybe Mary does know and is an accomplice after the fact.
NEIL-VO: One thing I wanna point out here is that if Adea’s behavior sounds extreme, or even obsessive to you as you’re listening to this at a distance, imagine being in Adea’s shoes. And you’re in love with someone, you’re engaged to them, but they’re in another relationship and every day they’re making promises they don’t keep, lying to you, and continuing to lead a double life. If this is you, I can guarantee all your emotional buttons are gonna constantly be pressed.
NEIL-VO: After four hours outside Brian’s apartment, hope soon turns to doubt soon turns to exhaustion.
Neil Strauss: Hey man, it’s getting late and I don’t think anyone’s coming out here. I don’t think he’s coming out.
Jayden: Okay, I guess go ahead and take off. I’ll put a surveillance unit on it. How long are you gonna stay? How long can you stay?
Neil Strauss: I can stay as late as possible but literally, nobody’s coming out of the building, no one’s coming out of the garage, nothing is happening.
Jayden: Okay, I can get somebody there in 30 minutes. I just don’t wanna miss him. Is that cool?
NEIL-VO: We’ve chased Chris from Los Angeles to Colorado and back to Santa Monica. And, at every turn, he’s somehow given us the slip. I don’t know if he’s upstairs sleeping in that apartment right now, or if he’s escaped out the back, or maybe he was never even here. I’m not even relieved that I won’t have to confront him. I’m disappointed. I wanna be able to provide answers for Adea’s mom, or just something that will move this investigation forward.
NEIL-VO: When I speak to Jayden the next morning, he tells me that there’s still been no sign of Chris outside that apartment. Making matters even worse, Jayden is no longer able to get Chris’s phone pings. Chris may be using a different phone now, which basically means we have no idea where he is anymore.
NEIL-VO: I ask Jayden if at least the police know his whereabouts.
Jayden: I don’t think they’re searching for Chris. I just got off the phone with L.A.P.D. Apparently they got 200 people searching an area off the 5 Freeway called Lake of the Woods. And, apparently, they got cellphone pings that showed that Chris stopped at that location for 40 minutes. So I think that they feel that was a location where there was a possible body disposal.
NEIL-VO: To Live and Die L.A. has been a production of Tenderfoot TV and me, Neil Strauss, in conjunction with Cadence13. The executive producers of this podcast are myself, Donald Albright, and Payne Linzey, along with producers Alex Vespestad and Mike Rooney.
NEIL-VO: Because this is an open case, anything you know about Adea Shabani or anyone mentioned in this podcast, we want to know. Please email us at livedieLA@tenderfoot.tv or call us at 213-204-2073.
NEIL-VO: The music and score you’ve heard in this podcast is by Makeup and Vanity Set. Our theme song is ‘Love and War’ by Flurry and our show art and design are by Trevor Eiler. You can follow us on social media at livedieLApod or you can find our website with bonus content at livedieLA.com. The editing is by Alex Vespestad with additional mixing by Resonaid recordings.
NEIL-VO: Special thanks to Rich Burner, Kevin Richter, Chris Corkorin, Warren Seagle, Brian Fishbach, Oren Rosenbaum at UTA, Eric Lynn at Shangri La, and the Nord Group.
NEIL-VO: It helps a lot when you subscribe, rate, and review the podcasts that you enjoy listening to. Our hope is to expose these stories so the missing can be found and so the perpetrators can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Thank you for listening and for your support.