February 09, 2023
A man who sought to open a restaurant with Jennifer Brown, the Montgomery County mom who was found dead behind a Royersford warehouse last month, has been charged with killing her, prosecutors said.
Blair Watts, 33, was taken into custody Wednesday morning after an unrelated court hearing in Chester County.
Prosecutors allege Watts killed Brown at her home on Jan. 3, moved her body and ultimately buried her in a shallow grave. He later reported her missing on Jan. 4, authorities said.
Brown, 43, of Limerick, never showed up to get her 8-year-old son from his bus stop that day. Her car was found parked outside her home at Stratford Court with her car keys, wallet, purse and work cellphone inside. Only her personal cellphone was missing.
Her body was found two weeks later.
Watts was the last person to have seen Brown on Jan. 3, police said. Her son had stayed with Watts that night after he picked up the boy from his bus stop and stopped at Brown's townhome, where Watts had a spare key.
Watts allegedly had the boy wait in the car while he went inside Brown's house. When he returned, the boy noticed Watts had his mother's personal cellphone, which had a school photo of him as its lock screen, police said.
Watts allegedly told investigators that the sleepover was planned "to give Brown a break," but authorities said the boy didn't have any clothing or his daily medications with him.
Cell phone records showed that during the early morning hours of Jan. 4, two of Watts' cell phones and Brown's personal cellphone traveled in tandem from Brown's townhome to the area where her body was found near North Lewis Road and West Ridge Pike, prosecutors said.
Investigators found traces of human remains when searching Watts' red Jeep Renegade and his wife's grey Jeep Cherokee. The remains were found by the same cadaver dog that previously had found traces of human remains at Brown's home, in the kitchen and by an outside dumpster.
"We didn't know the significance of that when the detectives got those items," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said Thursday at a press briefing.
Steele said Watts' wife is not facing charges in relation to Brown's death or the disposal of her body.
"It doesn't point to anyone else," Steele said. "It points to Blair Watts."
Watts, of Royersford, and Brown had been planning to open a restaurant called Birdie's Kitchen at a property in Phoenixville, police said. They had entered a partnership agreement last August so Brown could invest money in the restaurant. They had tentatively set an opening date at the end of January.
But Watts never signed a lease and never gave the property owners any money, investigators said. Watts did not have a key to the property, but the owners had permitted him to hang a banner on the building and store equipment there in anticipation of an eventual lease signing.
By late December, with no renovation work done and no indication there was any chance of a restaurant opening, the owners of the property told Watts they no longer planned to move forward with the lease, police said. Watts allegedly threatened to sue them.
On the afternoon of Jan. 3 – the day before Brown was reported missing – investigators said two cash transfers were made from Brown's phone to an account controlled by Watts. A $9,000 transfer was labeled "$Birdieskitchen" and an $8,000 transfer was labeled "Birdies."
The $17,000 was never part of a written agreement between Brown and Watts, police said. Brown previously had made smaller cash transfers to Watts using Zelle and CashApp. A $7,000 check made out from Brown to Watts in September had a written memo suggesting that would be her final payment to him, according to the criminal complaint.
The day after the $17,000 was transferred, Watts allegedly showed up unannounced at the Phoenixville property and told the owners he had the money to put down on a lease.
Watts will be charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, theft and access device fraud. He's being held at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.
An autopsy determined Brown had suffered three broken ribs before she died. Her cause of death was found to be homicide by unspecified means, with compression asphyxiation as a contributing factor.