Blair Watts charged with murder

NORRISTOWN – A Limerick Township man is facing homicide charges for allegedly killing a township woman, who he claimed was his friend and business partner, and whose body was found in a shallow grave in Royersford last month.

Blair Anthony Watts, 33, of the 600 block of Hunsberger Drive, was arrested on Thursday and was awaiting arraignment on charges of first- and third-degree murder, theft by unlawful taking or disposition and access device fraud in connection with the alleged Jan. 3 slaying of 43-year-old Jennifer Brown, who lived in the 1400 block of Stratford Court in the township.

Watts will be held without bail at the county jail while awaiting a preliminary hearing on the charges before District Court Judge Richard H. Welsh.

The arrest of Watts was announced by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Limerick Police Chief Robert J. Matalavage.

“As detectives uncovered evidence piece by piece, the picture of what happened to Jennifer has become more and more clear. We believe she was murdered at the hands of her supposed friend and business partner on Jan. 3, the day before Watts reported her missing,” Steele said during a news conference. “And then he tried to cover his tracks and get rid of her body before he reported her missing. This very likely happened in her house and then she was taken to this shallow grave.

“As you piece this together, it all just keeps pointing back to Blair Watts,” Steele alleged. “It doesn’t point at anybody else. It points at Blair Watts.”

Court documents indicate Watts’ inconsistent statements, cellphone analysis and a cadaver dog’s signaling human remains or human biological material inside two vehicles used by Watts linked him to the alleged murder.

Steele said Brown “was a devoted mother, a dear friend to many and a woman who was deeply loved.”

“The community was deeply affected by the disappearance of this devoted mother. The family has had an incredibly difficult time. I know they’ve been heartbroken over the situation. Now, today, I hope that we can give them the first piece of getting justice in this case which is arresting the man that is responsible for her death. We have a long process ahead of us,” said Steele, referring to the court process.

Hair clips belonging to Jennifer Brown are seen here. (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney.)
Hair clips belonging to Jennifer Brown are seen here. (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney.)

Brown’s body was discovered by police shortly after 11 a.m. Jan. 18 in a “freshly dug hole” at the rear of a warehouse in the 200 block of North 5th Avenue in Royersford after being alerted to the site by employees of the warehouse, according to court papers. Detectives said several wooden pallets had been placed on top of the hole.

An autopsy determined Brown suffered three broken ribs. The cause of death was attributed to “homicide by unspecified means,” with compression and asphyxia, a mechanism that would account for the fractured ribs, authorities alleged.

Court documents alleged that cellphone records showed that on Jan. 5, two of Watts’ cellphones spent time in the area where Brown’s body was eventually discovered. Surveillance cameras in the area also depicted a grey Jeep Renegade vehicle linked to Watts “in this same exact area, during the same exact time frame,” detectives alleged.

Additionally, according to court documents, when detectives used a cadaver dog to search the floor mat behind the driver’s seat of the grey Jeep, the dog signaled human remains or human biological material had previously been in that location.

Court documents also indicate that a Jan. 8 search by a cadaver dog of a red Jeep Cherokee vehicle linked to Watts signaled human remains or biological material had previously been in the back seat area, according to the arrest affidavit.

“Meaning human remains had previously been in each of the two Jeeps known to be driven by Watts,” Steele alleged.

Police outside warehouse
Police respond Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, to North Fifth Avenue in Royersford, Montgomery County, near where 43-year-old Jennifer Brown of Limerick Township has been missing since Jan. 3. (Rich Rolen/Special to The Morning Call )

The investigation began on Jan. 4 when Limerick police responded to Brown’s Stratford Court home to conduct a welfare check at the request of Watts, who told police he was a friend and business partner of Brown and had been unable to contact her, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective Mark Minzola and Limerick Detective Sergeant Paul Marchese.

Watts, according to court papers, claimed to detectives that he had last seen Brown at 2 p.m. Jan. 3 when he was at her home. Watts claimed Brown and he had agreed that Watts would pick up Brown’s 8-year-old son at the school bus stop that afternoon and would keep him overnight and take him to school on Jan. 4, which Watts described as not uncommon.

Watts told detectives he picked up the child at the bus stop and claimed that he texted Brown at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 3 and again in the morning of Jan. 4 and never received a response from Brown, according to the arrest affidavit. Watts allegedly claimed he went to the school bus stop about 4 p.m. Jan. 4, found that Brown was not there and picked up Brown’s son and went to her residence but no one answered.

Detectives found Brown’s vehicle parked near her home.

When detectives entered Brown’s residence they initially observed no signs of a struggle and found the keys to Brown’s vehicle inside the residence, as well as her purse, credit cards and a work phone. Brown’s personal cellphone was not found in the home, detectives said.

A Jan. 5 search of Brown’s home uncovered several broken pieces of a hair clip embedded in a carpet and those pieces matched a broken hair clip found in the shallow grave with Brown’s body, according to court documents.

On Jan. 6, detectives searched Brown’s home with a K-9 cadaver dog that signaled to investigators in the kitchen “that a cadaver, human remains and/or human biological material had previously been in that location” as well as at the exterior of the home near trash receptacles, according to the criminal complaint.

Detectives also determined that Watts, who according to court papers was married and also had a girlfriend who lived in Stowe, had a spare set of keys to Brown’s residence.

“He had complete access to her home,” Steele alleged.

During the investigation, detectives contacted Brown’s wireless cellphone carrier and determined the last known GPS location for her personal phone was at 7 a.m. Jan. 4 in the vicinity of Lewis Road and Ridge Pike in Limerick.

Court documents indicate that Brown’s son later told police that he saw Watts with his mother’s personal phone when Watts picked him up at the bus stop on Jan 3.

“Cellphones and the movement of cellphones become very revealing in this case,” Steele said. “The movements of Watts’ cellphones and the movements of Jennifer’s personal cellphone show that Watts was in possession of her cellphone until it became inactive. Watts’ cellphone was in the same vicinity at that same time.”

Detectives described Brown as “a doting mother” or “helicopter mom,” who would never leave her son unattended.

“This fact…led detectives at this point in time to believe that Brown was in grave danger of having been kidnapped or worse, murdered,” Minzola and Marchese wrote in the arrest affidavit.

When detectives interviewed Watts on Jan. 6, he described Brown as a close personal friend and business partner and claimed Brown had a business relationship with a restaurant he planned to open, “Birdies Kitchen,” and that Brown would send him money every six weeks or so and had invested about $36,000 in their business. Watts, according to court papers, added Brown owed about $10,000 to fulfill her obligation.

When detectives analyzed the contents of Brown’s electronic devices they found two cash transfers totaling $17,000 to Watts between 4:23 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. on Jan. 3, according to court documents.

Detectives alleged that the $17,000 was never part of a written agreement between Brown and Watts. Authorities alleged that Brown was already dead when those money transfers occurred and that Watts made them using Brown’s computer tablet.

During the investigation, detectives determined that on Aug. 28, 2022, Brown entered into a business partnership agreement with Watts to invest money in Watts’ restaurant which they were planning to open in Phoenixville by the end of January.

However, when detectives spoke to the owners of the property, they learned that the owners had never signed a lease with Watts and no renovation work had been completed on the building by Watts to ready it for a restaurant, according to court documents.

On Dec. 28, 2022, the property owners informed Watts that they would not be moving forward with the lease and were dissolving the relationship and Watts threatened to sue, according to court papers.

One of the property owners told detectives that Watts showed up at the property on Jan. 4 saying he now had money to put down on a lease, according to the arrest affidavit.

Steele said police from Royersford, Phoenixville, East Vincent and Philadelphia and the FBI assisted county and Limerick detectives during the investigation.

The case will be prosecuted by First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann Jr. and Assistant District Attorney Lindsey T. Mills.

Blair Watts was charged with first-degree murder. (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney.)
Blair Watts was charged with first-degree murder. (Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Office of the District Attorney.)


Jennifer Brown (Courtesy of Montgomery County District Attorney)
Jennifer Brown (Courtesy of Montgomery County District Attorney)

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