LIMERICK TWP., Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Tempers flared at the preliminary hearing for a would-be restaurant owner accused of killing his business partner, a Limerick Township mother whose disappearance sparked a two-week manhunt.
Blair Watts, 33, of Chester County is ordered to stand trial on first-degree murder for killing Jennifer Brown.
As he was led from the hearing, Blair Watts was asked who killed Brown.
“I wish I knew,” he replied.
Watts’ lawyer, Christopher Mandracchia, called the hearing “rubber stamp bullcrap,” saying the prosecution’s evidence doesn’t add up.
“Why are they hiding exculpatory evidence? Why was that not in the affidavit of probable cause? You heard that allegedly Jennifer Brown is alive at 5 p.m. They’re saying she’s dead. That counters all their evidence today,” he told the judge.
Ed McCann, Montgomery County’s first assistant district attorney, addressed Mandracchia’s questions, saying, “I understand that’s part of what we’re going to have to prove at trial. I feel confident our detectives did a very thorough investigation in this case. When the time’s appropriate and we have to answer those questions, we’ll do that. Today was not the day to do that.”
McCann argued there’s “a substantial web of circumstantial evidence,” pointing to Watts as the killer, that will be presented at trial.
Brown was reported missing on Jan. 4 when she didn’t get her son off the school bus. Her body was found on Jan. 18, partially buried, near a warehouse in Royersford, not far from where she had lived. Watts was arrested on Feb. 9.
She had paid Watts tens of thousands of dollars for a 25% stake in a restaurant expected to open in early 2023, but prosecutors said that restaurant was nowhere close to opening and he had lost the lease on the building.
Watts was defrauding Brown the entire time he knew her, McCann said, even telling police the day she was reported missing that their restaurant was going to open in the coming weeks.
“And that’s just simply not true,” McCann said. “And he knew it wasn’t true, because on Dec. 28, they told him, the owners of that property, ‘You’re not going to open a business on our property.’”
Prosecutors also allege Watts transferred $17,000 from Brown’s accounts after she was dead.
“How you build a murder case on this type of circumstantial evidence — which is very, very weak — is beyond me, and I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said Mandracchia’s father, Charles, who is also a lawyer and assisting in the case.
Watts has a formal arraignment on first-degree murder, theft and other charges on April 26.