It was Saturday, March 11, 2011, in Bethesda, Maryland. An employee of Lululemon Athletica, arriving for work, encountered a gruesome scene.
In the back of the sports apparel store lay two bloodied bodies. Jayna Murray was dead. Brittany Norwood was still alive but injured and moaning. She said they had been attacked by two masked men wearing gloves who sexually abused them, tied her up and then killed Murray. The tracks of a man’s athletic shoes could be seen in the blood on the floor.
Fear quickly spread through the affluent D.C. suburb that vicious killers were on the loose. Residents unaccustomed to violent crime became wary of venturing out at night. Stores installed cameras. Private security guards were hired to escort workers to their cars. Shoppers even asked clothing stores if anyone suspicious had purchased ski masks. And a reward in excess of $150,000 was offered for information leading to the intruders’ capture.
Patrol Office Colin O’Brien was already at Suburban Hospital on the morning of March 12 when Norwood arrived in an ambulance. As she was being treated, he helped place her bloody clothing into evidence bags. And then he noticed a distinctive cut on her right palm. A former Army medic, O’Brien recognized the pattern as one often caused when a person is wielding a knife and it slips.
Norwood spoke with detectives at the hospital and her apartment. And the more she said, the more they became suspicious. But they didn’t let her know.
On March 16, she was summoned to police headquarters – supposedly to provide fingerprints and hair samples to aid in the investigation. When she arrived, she was asked to go through the story yet again.
Perhaps sensing that she hadn’t been consistent, Norwood asked for another interview two days later so she could amend her statements. Meanwhile, evidence began to poke holes in her story. Detectives found only two sets of bloody shoe prints in the Lululemon store, and one belonged to her.
The position she was in, with her hands above her head, aroused some initial suspicion that she might have tied the restraints herself. And there were indications that someone had tried to do some cleaning up of the crime scene. Workers at an adjacent Apple store reported hearing two women arguing Friday night. Examinations revealed no signs that either woman had been sexually assaulted. And Norwood’s DNA was found inside Murray’s car.
Six days after the incident, police placed Norwood under arrest for murder. As details of the crime were revealed, people were stunned by its shocking brutality.
On the night of the killing, the women had closed the store together. But then Norwood lured Murray back. She unleashed a frenzied attack that lasted about 20 minutes, bludgeoning, choking and stabbing the victim with at least five different weapons and inflicting more than 330 wounds. There were too many blows to Murray’s head to count. Her skull was fractured, and her spinal cord had been severed.
A rope had been found around the slain woman’s neck. There was a blood trail showing how she tried in vain to escape out a back door and 107 defensive wounds testified to her attempts to fend off Norwood. And she remained alive the whole time and aware of what was happening to her.
Afterward, the killer went to great lengths in an effort to conceal her crime.
First, she moved Murray’s car, which was double-parked outside the store. That gave her about 10 hours to set an elaborate scene to support the story she would fabricate. Then, she put on size 14 sneakers and walked through the blood to leave what looked like a man’s shoe prints. Finally, she made some superficial cuts on her own body, tied up her hands and feet, and waited overnight for someone to arrive.
In January of 2012, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Robert Greenberg stared at Brittany Norwood, 32 years old and dressed in a black pantsuit.
His voice at times rising in anger, he pronounced a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.
“Cold-blooded . . . brutal . . . calculated . . . deliberate . . . devious . . . malicious,” was how the judge described the defendant and the murder she committed. As she was sentenced, the courtroom erupted in applause.
Norwood addressed Murray’s family before learning her punishment.“Before I go to prison,” she said, “I needed you to hear how deeply sorry I am.” “You’re one hell of a liar, ma’am,” Greenberg responded. The savagery of the killing, he later said, is “nothing short of astounding to me.”
Prosecutors believed the sole motive was a confrontation earlier the same day, when Murray found what she thought to be stolen yoga pants in Brittany Norwood’s bag.