ROYERSFORD, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- An arrest has been made in the death of Jennifer Brown, a mom from Royersford who was reported missing after she never arrived to pick her son up from a bus stop last month.
Blair Watts, 33, who was a business associate of Brown and the last person to communicate with her, was taken into custody on Thursday morning.
Watts is charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder and other offenses. He is being held without bail.
During a news conference Thursday, District Attorney Kevin Steele said investigators believe Watts killed Brown, 43, and tried to cover his tracks before reporting her missing on Jan. 4.
Brown's body was found in a shallow grave outside a Royersford business on Jan. 18.
Steele said pieces of a broken hair clip were found in Brown's home and in her shallow grave, leading investigators to believe Brown was killed in her home.
The D.A. said the coroner found Brown had three broken ribs, and she appears to have died from asphyxiation. She had no indication of gunshot or stab wounds, Steele said.
Watts talked to Action News off-camera back in January. He said at the time he was helping detectives and was "stunned" by her disappearance.
MISSING PERSON REPORT
The investigation began after Watts reported Brown missing on Jan. 4, saying she never arrived to get her 8-year-old son off the school bus that afternoon.
The boy had spent the previous night at Watts' home for a sleepover to "give Brown a break," the D.A. said.
"Yet Brown, who was described as an attentive and loving mother, had not sent any clothing or the boy's necessary daily medications with him for the sleepover," Steele said.
According to investigators, Watts picked up Brown's son from the bus stop on Jan. 3, telling the child that his mom was at the grocery store and he was going to sleep over.
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 is used on the lock screen.
The next morning, police say records show both Watts' and Brown's cellphones traveled out of Brown's home and into the area of North Lewis Road and West Ridge Pike before Brown's cellphone became inactive.
During the investigation, a cadaver dog indicated human remains were in the backseat of both Watts' car and his wife's car.
Steele said Watts and Brown went into a joint business venture to invest money into Watt's proposed restaurant, "Birdies Kitchen."
They were planning to open the restaurant by late January in Phoenixville.
Detectives say that, on the afternoon of Jan. 3, two cash transfers were made to accounts that Watts controlled. One was for $9,000 and a second was for $8,000. The money was never part of a written agreement between the two, Steele said.
Furthermore, Steele said the owners of the Phoenixville property told detectives that while they met with Watts in August about renting the property they never signed a lease with Watts, received money from him, or gave Watts a key to the property.
They did allow Watts to hang a banner on the building and store some equipment there, Steele said. No work had been done on the building to prepare it to open as a restaurant.
On Dec. 28 one of the property owners told Watts they would not be moving forward with the lease, Steele said, and Watts allegedly threatened to sue.
Then, on Jan. 4, Watts showed up at the property unannounced, Steele said, saying he now had the money for the lease.
"For 37 days since this devoted mother was reported missing, detectives have been accumulating evidence, piece by piece, bringing into focus what happened to Jennifer and who murdered her," said Steele. "That picture shows Blair Watts murdered Jennifer Brown on Jan. 3rd, then moved her body and ultimately buried her in a shallow grave."