8-year-old helps police arrest killer

Last month, court records show that Stephen Watts has been charged with first-degree and third-degree murder, as well as two counts each of theft by unlawful taking and unauthorized accessing of a device issued to another in connection to the death of Jennifer Brown.
According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the investigation began when Watts reported Brown missing on January 4. Watts told police that Brown’s 8-year-old son had been staying at his house to give Brown a break, but she had failed to pick him up from school the next day. This was unusual for Brown, who was reportedly an attentive and loving mother.
After searching Brown’s home, it seemed that the only thing missing was her cell phone. But when a cadaver dog was brought in, it indicated the presence of human remains both inside the house and outside near a dumpster.
When authorities investigated further, they discovered several black-and-white marble-patterned pieces of plastic embedded in the carpet, which were later found to be pieces of a hair clip that had been buried in the shallow grave where Brown’s body was discovered.
A dog later indicated that human remains had been in two vehicles driven by Watts, as per the police. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, on the 19th of January, conducted an autopsy on the body of Brown and a toxicology analysis, determining that her cause of death was a homicide through unspecified means, prosecutors said. The autopsy report also reported three broken ribs prior to her death.

Investigations revealed that on the afternoon of January 3rd, Watts had picked up Brown’s son from the bus stop and told him that his mother had gone to the grocery store and he would be staying at Watts’ house that night. They drove to Brown’s home and Watts went inside while Brown’s son stayed in the car. Upon Watts’ return to the car, the child said he noticed Watts had his mother’s cellphone, which he recognized as his school photo was on the lock screen.

Moreover, cellphone data showed the two phones travelling away from Brown’s home at that time before returning a short while later. Then again the next morning in the area of North Lewis Road and West Ridge Pike at around 7:00 am before Brown’s phone became inactive.

Authorities also investigated the business venture between Watts and Brown, finding a number of red flags. On August 28, 2022, Brown had agreed to invest money in Watts’ restaurant, Birdie’s Kitchen, which they planned to open last month in Phoenixville.

Investigators found two cash transfers to accounts controlled by Watts that had been made on the afternoon of January 3, 2023. CashApp records showed a transfer of $9,000 and a second transfer of $8,000 via Zelle to ‘Birdies’. This total of $17,000 had never been made a part of the written agreement between Brown and Watts.

When police spoke with the proposed Phoenixville property owners , they said that they had met with Watts last year to discuss a lease but had not signed any, received money from Watts or given him a key to the property. On December 28, 2022, one of the owners told Watts they would not be proceeding with the lease, to which Watts allegedly responded by threatening to sue. However, on January 4, 2022, the property owners told police that Watts had showed up at the property unannounced, ‘now saying he had money to put down on a lease’.

In a statement, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said that for 37 days since Brown’s disappearance, detectives had been gathering evidence to find out what had happened to her and who had murdered her. He said that evidence showed Watts had murdered Brown on January 3rd, moved her body and then buried her in a shallow grave. Watts is currently being held without bail in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility as he awaits his preliminary hearing.

When asked about the suggestion of his involvement in Brown’s disappearance, Watts told NBC Philadelphia that he felt like he was being ‘poked at’ and that it was frustrating as he had been one of the first people to call the police, try to find Brown and make sure her son was taken care of. Watts’ attorney Christopher D. Mandracchia told reporters in a statement that Watts was innocent until proven guilty and was intending to fight and prove his innocence, adding that it was a shame that the District Attorney’s Office was attempting to taint the potential jury pool by stating allegations as facts.