Opening statements begin in trial of man accused of killing Montgomery County mother

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Trial begins for man accused of killing Montco mom
Opening statements begin in trial of man accused of killing Montgomery County mother

ROYERSFORD, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Opening statements began Wednesday in the trial of a man accused of murdering his business partner 43-year-old Jennifer Brown.

The Montgomery County mother's disappearance rocked her Royersford neighborhood earlier this year.

The tri-state area paid close attention every step of the way for weeks as police searched to find her.

It was the man who is now accused of killing her, 33-year-old Blair Watts, who originally reported her missing to police.

Blair Watts

He has since been charged with first-degree and third-degree murder, as well as other offenses.

On Wednesday, Watts was emotionless as he was escorted into the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.

During opening statements, prosecutors argued that Brown invested thousands of dollars into a restaurant she wanted to open with Watts, only to pay with her life. They argued Watts tried to cover his tracks by reporting Brown missing on January 4, while he was with Brown's young special needs son when he made the missing persons report.

Watts actually spoke with Action News off-camera during the search and said he was stunned by her disappearance.

Watts' defense attorney accused the prosecution of name-calling Watts to draw sympathy from the jury. He asked the jury not to judge Watts by his character but stick to the law.

How police tracked down the suspect

Investigators say Watts was supposedly friends with Brown and was watching her young son when he reported her missing.

The Action Cam was there in Limerick Township back in February just after investigators arrested Watts.

Investigators say the two were planning on opening a restaurant when Watts allegedly killed her.

The Montgomery County district attorney says Watts was trying to cover his tracks when he reported her missing on January 4.

Officers found her car parked outside her home and her keys, purse, computer tablet and work cellphone were found inside her residence, though her personal cellphone was missing and had been silent since the morning Watts made the report.

Watts allegedly told police he last saw the mother on Jan. 3 and had watched her 8-year-old son that night in a planned sleepover with his three children to "give Jennifer a break," according to Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele.

According to investigators, Watts picked up Brown's son from the bus stop the day before she was reported missing, telling the child that his mom was at the grocery store and he was going to sleep over.

RAW VIDEO: D.A. Kevin Steele announces arrest in death of Jennifer Brown

However, Brown, described as an attentive and loving mother, had not sent her son's daily medication with him for the sleepover and her son's teacher could not reach her throughout the day on Jan. 4, which was "highly unusual," Steele said.

That night, Watts and the boy went to Brown's home while the child waited in the vehicle. Detectives say the boy noticed Watts came out with his mom's personal cellphone, which he recognized because his picture was used on the lock screen.

The next morning, police say records show both Watts' and Brown's cell phones traveled out of Brown's home and into the area of North Lewis Road and West Ridge Pike before Brown's cell phone became inactive.

Watts' cellphone activity and surveillance footage allegedly tracked Watts the night of Jan. 5 to the area where Brown's body was found buried, according to the affidavit of probable cause. A cadaver dog was also deployed to search two Jeeps known to be driven by Watts, which also allegedly indicated the presence of human remains in the vehicles, the district attorney said.

Brown's body was found two weeks later in a shallow grave outside a Royersford business.

Investigators believe Watts killed Brown in her home in Royersford after pieces of a broken hair clip were found in her home and her shallow grave.

Pictured: Jennifer Brown's broken hair clip. Image provided by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office.

District Attorney Kevin Steele said the coroner found Brown had three broken ribs and appeared to have died from asphyxiation.

During the investigation, detectives determined that Brown planned to invest in Watts' Phoenixville restaurant, Birdies Kitchen, Steele said. Though the restaurant was slow to move forward and on Dec. 28, three months after expressing interest in a property, one of the property owners told Watts that they would not be moving forward with a lease, according to Steele.

On Jan. 3, two cash transfers totaling $17,000 were made from Brown's computer tablet to accounts controlled by Watts, though the money was "never part of a written agreement between Brown and Watts," the district attorney's office said in a statement. The transfers took multiple attempts and went through after two-factor authentication was disabled, according to Steele.

On Jan. 4, Watts showed up to the Phoenixville restaurant property and allegedly told the property owner that he now had money to put down on a lease, the district attorney said.

Authorities believe Brown was murdered on Jan. 3, before the cash transfers were made, then Watts "tried to cover his tracks and get rid of her body before he reported her missing," Steele said.

There are 12 jurors with four alternates deciding Watts' fate. The trial will resume Thursday morning and is expected to go through next week.