Man accused of killing Limerick woman gets new lawyers

Blair Watts has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Montgomery County mother Jennifer Brown. (Courtesy of the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office)

NORRISTOWN — A Limerick Township man awaiting trial for murder for allegedly killing a township woman whose body was found in a shallow grave in Royersford a few weeks after she disappeared has new lawyers.

Blair Anthony Watts, 33, of the 600 block of Hunsberger Drive, will be represented in all future court hearings by defense attorneys James P. Lyons and Benjamin Cooper, according to court documents filed Friday in Montgomery County Court.

Lyons is the chief homicide attorney for the Montgomery County Office of Public Defender and Cooper is an assistant public defender.

Watts was previously represented by a private attorney, defense attorney Christopher Mandracchia.

The change of attorney is an indication that Watts is penniless and can no longer afford to hire a private attorney.

First Assistant District Attorney Edward F. McCann Jr. and Associate Attorney Lindsey Mills are handling the case.

Watts is charged with first- and third-degree murder, theft by wrongful possession or disposal, and access device fraud in connection with the alleged Jan. 3 killing of 43-year-old Jennifer Brown, who lived in the 1400 block of Stratford Court in New York, according to the community Limerick. Watts will remain in the county jail without bail while awaiting trial.

In a separate order issued Friday, Judge William R. Carpenter has scheduled Watts’ formal hearing for April 11. After this hearing, the judge will set a trial date for Watts.

Blair Watts climbs into a waiting police vehicle after his preliminary hearing on the murder charge March 16, 2023. (Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

Brown’s body was discovered by police just after 11 a.m. Jan. 18 in a “freshly dug hole” in the back of a warehouse at Block 200 of North 5th Avenue in Royersford after being alerted to the location by warehouse employees . Detectives said several wooden pallets were placed on top of the hole.

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

Authorities claimed Watts’ conflicting testimonies, cell phone analysis, and signaling of human remains or human biological material by a cadaver dog in two vehicles used by Watts all linked him to the murder.

Alleged cell phone analysis by detectives showed that between 8:27 p.m. and 8:42 p.m. on January 5, Watts’ cell phone was near where Brown’s body was eventually discovered. Surveillance cameras in the area also showed a gray Jeep Renegade vehicle linked to Watts “in the exact same area, during the exact same time frame,” detectives claimed.

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

Additionally, a Jan. 8 search by a cadaver dog of a red Jeep Cherokee vehicle associated with Watts signaled human remains or biological material previously found in the rear seat area, according to the arrest affidavit.

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

The investigation began on January 4 when Limerick Police responded to a request from Watts, who told police he was a friend and business partner of Brown’s and had been unable to contact her at Brown’s home in Stratford Court, to conduct social screening criminal complaint filed by County Detective Mark Minzola and Limerick Detective Sergeant Paul Marchese.

Watts claimed to detectives, according to court records, that he last saw Brown at 2 p.m. on January 3, while he was at her home. Watts claimed Brown and that he agreed that Watts would pick up Brown’s 8-year-old son at the school bus stop that afternoon and keep him overnight and drop him off at school on January 4, which Watts said was not unusual.

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Watts told detectives he picked up the child at the bus stop and claims he texted Brown at 8:30 p.m. on January 3 and on the morning of January 4 and never received a reply from Brown, according to the affidavit. Watts allegedly claimed that around 4:00 p.m. on January 4, he went to the school bus stop, found Brown was not there, picked up Brown’s son, and went to their apartment, but no one answered.

Detectives found Brown’s vehicle parked near her home.

Upon entering Brown’s apartment, detectives initially saw no signs of a struggle and found the keys to Brown’s vehicle in the apartment, as well as her purse, credit cards, and a work phone. Brown’s personal cell phone was not found in the home, detectives said.

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

On January 6, detectives searched Brown’s home with a K-9 cadaver dog, which signaled investigators in the kitchen “that a body, human remains, and/or human biological material had previously been at this location,” as well as the outside according to the criminal complaint, the house near garbage cans.

During the investigation, detectives contacted Brown’s cell phone provider and found that the last known GPS location for her personal phone was at 7am on January 4 near Lewis Road and Ridge Pike in Limerick.

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

On January 6, detectives questioned Watts, who according to witnesses was married and also had a girlfriend who lived in Stowe, and at the time he described Brown as a close personal friend and business associate. Watts allegedly claimed Brown had a business relationship with a restaurant he planned to open, Birdies Kitchen, and that Brown would send him money about every six weeks and have invested about $36,000 in their business. Watts claimed, according to court documents, that Brown owed about $10,000 to fulfill her obligation.

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Blair Watts is escorted out of District Court on March 16, 2023 after being brought to trial for allegedly killing Limerick resident Jennifer Brown. (Carl Hessler Jr. / MediaNews Group)

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 claimed the $17,000 was never part of a written agreement between Brown and Watts. Authorities claimed that Brown was already dead when these money transfers took place and that Watts made them using Brown’s computer tablet.

During the investigation, detectives determined that on August 28, 2022, Brown had entered into a business partnership agreement with Watts to invest money in Watts’ restaurant, which they planned to open in Phoenixville by the end of January 2023.

However, when detectives spoke to the property’s owners, they learned that the owners had never signed a lease with Watts and, according to court documents, no renovations had been completed on the Watts building to prepare it for a restaurant.

On December 28, 2022, the property owners notified Watts that they would not proceed with the lease and would dissolve the relationship, and Watts allegedly threatened a lawsuit, according to court records.

One of the property owners told detectives that Watts showed up at the property Jan. 4 and said he had money to rent it out, according to the arrest affidavit.

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