Lululemon Murder: Store Employee Suffered Over 300 Blows, Severed Spinal Cord In Fatal Attack
Brittany Norwood killed her coworker Jayna Murray during a possible dispute over shoplifting, according to authorities.
A woman was slain and her coworker tied up in what initially appeared to be a violent attack on the pair at a suburban Washington D.C. Lululemon Athletica store.
On March 12, 2011, a manager arriving to open the shop in Bethesda, Maryland, phoned police after finding coworkers Jayna Troxell Murray, 30, lying dead in a pool of blood and 29-year-old Brittany Norwood with her hands bound with plastic ties but still alive.
Norwood later told investigators she and Murray had closed the shop together the previous evening. The two left around 9:45 p.m. but returned, Norwood said, after Murray realized she had forgotten her wallet. That’s when, according to the employee, two men in ski masks burst into the store and attacked and sexually assaulted both of them.
Norwood said Murray was killed after she attempted to fight back. An autopsy later showed Murray’s horrific injuries included over 300 blows to the head, a fractured skull, stab wounds and a severed spinal cord, The Washington Post reported.
Prosecutors at the time estimated Murray may have struggled with her attacker for as long as 20 minutes before she died.
Police launched an investigation, and detectives began to notice discrepancies between what Norwood alleged occurred in the shop and what the evidence seemed to be indicating. According to former FBI agent Brad Garrett, “Almost none of it matched up.”
The contradictory evidence included footprints made in Murray’s blood. “We were able to determine that there were only two sets of footprints at the crime scene, one belonging to Ms. Norwood, another belonging to a size 14 shoe that was recovered in the store,” Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said, ABC News reported.
The second set, police believed, was the result of Norwood attempting to stage the crime scene.
Medical examiners also determined neither woman had been sexually assaulted in the purported attack. Norwood’s bound hands also appeared to suggest she had something to do with securing her own restraints.
“As we began analyzing the physical evidence and looked at the medical reports, it was not supporting what Ms. Norwood had told us,” Chief Manger noted.
Police learned Murray had called a manager after she and Norwood left the store to report that Norwood had reportedly stolen merchandise. Then, police said, Norwood called Murray and asked to be let back into the shop because she had forgotten her wallet, according to the Baltimore Sun.
At 10:05 p.m., records show the pair reentered the Lululemon Athletica. That’s when, investigators theorized, Murray may have confronted Norwood about the stolen items and the two got into a deadly fight.
Officers spoke with employees of an Apple store next door to Lululemon Athletica and learned workers there heard two females arguing the night of the killing — but they dismissed the shouts as “just drama”, WJLA reported.
Norwood was arrested on March 18, 2011, on a first-degree murder charge.
According to the victim’s mother, Phyllis Murray, her daughter had never talked about her colleague, Norwood. “There were always people that she would have dinner with and go to movies with, but Brittany's name was never mentioned,” she said.
Norwood was convicted of Murray’s slaying in January 2012 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The victim’s father, David Murray, recalled his daughter was “one of the most fearless people” he had ever known, according to ABC News. “I really admired her for everything she did and everything she represented.”
The victim’s mother added her daughter was known for her smile and hugs. “Whether she knew you for two seconds or years, those were her greetings,” Phyllis Murray said. “She wanted people to feel comfortable and happy.”