How Montgomery County Police Quickly Unraveled the Murder of a Retail Store Employee in Bethesda

Investigation Reports. Jayna Murray was found dead of a violent attack in an upscale Lululemon athletic clothing store. Surviving victim Brittany Norwood concocted a story that made no sense. Evidence didn’t support her version of events. Montgomery County Police began to investigate. New details emerged.

There were a lot of twists and turns in this case. The slaying and attack took place along a dense commercial strip in downtown Bethesda. Brittany Norwood’s story wasn’t adding up. The scene and the store showed evidence that someone had tried to clean up, which was highly suspicious.

On March 11, 2011, two employees of a yoga store supposedly fell victim to a brutal attack allegedly carried out by two masked men. At the time, there were no surveillance cameras in the store and no witnesses. 30-year-old Jayna Murray was murdered, while 28-year-old Brittany Norwood survived the ordeal.

Jayna Murray was well known and liked in the busy neighborhood of boutiques and restaurants.

On the morning of March 12, 2011, Brittany Norwood and her co-worker, Jayna Murray, were discovered in the Lululemon Athletica retail store, the apparent victims of a vicious attack.

Crime Scene Photos from the Lululemon Athletica Store in Bethesda

Saturday, March 12 at 8:13 a.m.

911 Operator: Montgomery County 9-1-1 What is the Emergency?

Lululemon Manager: Hi, yes, I just called 9-1-1-, um… to come, and there’s two dead people in the back of my store. There’s a woman that’s alive, and she’s breathing. She’s tied up.

Operator: Okay, and you’re saying that there’s one… one person is dead?

Manager: One person seems dead, and the other person is breathing. I need an ambulance right away.

Operator: Did you see anything, or this is all…

Manager: No, I didn’t. I was too scared to walk back ‘cause it looks like there was a struggle. I knew something was wrong. Hold on, the police are here now. Oh my God, I’m so scared that one of my girls is hurt.

Montgomery County Police Detective: Brittany Norwood, the surviving victim, was transported to a hospital. And Jayna Murray, the deceased victim, was still in the store.

Brittany was found bound and bloodied in a bathroom, and Jayna was found dead, lying in a pool of blood in a back room. Brittany appeared traumatized, had a slit cut in the crotch of her pants, and never opened her eyes or spoke with the first officers to arrive on the scene.

Initially, it was just so bloody that we had no idea how bad her injuries were. And so me and the medical examiner picked her up, and we took her out to examine her in the middle of the store. And once we turned her, it was just like, I mean, I’ve never seen this amount of injuries on a human being. She had all kinds of cutting wounds to her face, her neck, uh, a lot of blunt force trauma to her head. Her skull was fractured (back of the head—37 cutting wounds). So the amount of violence was just unbelievable. It was unheard of. Blunt force—lacerations, bruises, scrapes, blunt edge, and sharp edge; 9 cutting wounds, 5 tears over the eye, 5 tears on the side of the face, fingernail crushed.

Detective Interviews Brittany at Suburban Hospital

Detective Deana Mackie of the Montgomery County Police Department met with Brittany Norwood at Suburban Hospital for approximately forty-five to fifty minutes.

Brittany Norwood Interviewed at Suburban Hospital

Police said Brittany told them that after closing up the store for the night, she and Jayna returned to pick up the wallet she had forgotten at work. Two masked men followed them in, bound them, sexually assaulted them, and when Jayna resisted, they beat and stabbed her to death. She initially said the attackers sexually assaulted her by using a wooden clothes hanger.

Excerpts of the Interview:

Detective (D): Where do you work?

Brittany (B): At Lululemon.

D: And how long have you been there?

B: Maybe a little over a month. I just transferred from our Georgetown store.

D: Are you a worker, or are you a manager?

B: Umm…educator. So just, not a manager.

D: And so you were working last night

B: Mm-hm

D: And so, it was just Jayna and you?

B: Uh-hm, from seven to close. And she gave me her SmartTrips…and when we walked back out onto the floor… she was a little ahead of me… and there was someone who like hit her in the face. I turned to try to, like, leave the back exit door ‘cause it immediately sets the alarm off, and this guy had me by the hair.

D: So there are definitely two people?

B: Yeah, he told me that if I said another word, he would slit my throat. And Jayna kept yelling and fighting, and he just kept hitting her, and I think he, like, drug her into the bathroom when she was still trying to fight with him. They, like, hit me a couple of times.

D: With what?

B: Just his hands…he hits me on the side of my head. He just was yanking my hair… then the other one came out, and he had like zip ties, and he like zip-tied my feet together and my arms together and then like he cut me like across the stomach and across the chest, and I just wanted it to stop.

In addition to speaking with Norwood, Detective Mackie spoke with various medical professionals while at Suburban Hospital. Medical examiners found no evidence of sexual assault on either victim.

After her conversation with Brittany, Detective Mackie went to the Lululemon store before returning to Suburban Hospital at approximately 2:35 p.m. to speak with Norwood further. Detective Mackie viewed Norwood as a victim and spoke with her to obtain information in order to develop a suspect. Norwood spoke freely and responded appropriately to Detective Mackie’s questions during both sessions. Norwood told Detective Mackie that she and Murray had been attacked by two men wearing masks. She described an attack by two men in significant detail. Norwood told Detective Mackie that she had been raped and sexually assaulted with a clothing hanger.

MEANWHILE, Police were on the hunt for two suspects involved in the murder of a woman and the sexual assault of her co-worker. Montgomery County Police reported that these two suspects showed up prepared to commit a crime. They were gloved up. They had masks.

Brittany’s story terrified residents and merchants in downtown Bethesda, an area of restaurants and high-end stores that has long been considered one of the safest spots in the region. Stores installed security cameras. Private security guards escorted workers to their cars. Average citizens began asking clothing stores if they’d sold ski masks to anyone suspicious. A reward of more than $150,000 was offered to catch the intruders. A restaurant manager said business was down 50% that week. Foot traffic along the road had been light, and many businesses closed early because employees were nervous.

An NBC news reporter stated that Jayna Murray is described as a valiant fighter who would not have hesitated to protect herself and her 27-year-old co-worker, who was beaten but survived.

It was not an open-and-shut case. There was a lot of confusion in trying to resolve how the murder occurred. Something was not right. There were bloody shoe prints throughout the store that never left the store. There were zip ties that were in the store that were used on the victims as if somebody knew that they would be there.

Bloody Footprints

Was the Lululemon Athletic Store a Robbery or a Staged Crime Scene?

While police officers were out scouring the city for two masked men who had committed this heinous murder, investigators were gathering and examining evidence from the crime scene. There were enormous amounts of blood. The store was in disarray. There were two sets of bloody sneaker footprints throughout the store.

Jayna had sustained 331 injuries from a vicious attack. Her skull was fractured, and her spinal cord was severed by a wound that extended through her neck. She had been cut, stabbed, and bludgeoned to death with multiple tools found in the storage room. The examiner reported that Jayna was alive during these attacks upon her body.

The Murder Scene Where Jayna’s Body was Found

Meanwhile, Brittany Norwood maintained that she and her co-worker had been viciously attacked by two men who had threatened her if she told anyone. She said they had her identification and knew where she lived. She claimed to have been sexually assaulted with a coat hanger.

“Almost none of it matched up,” an FBI agent said as he surveyed the scene at Lululemon, where the windows were full of flowers, notes, and pictures of Jayna.

Over the next several days, authorities investigated the incident and subsequently came to view Norwood as a suspect rather than a victim. Her story was beginning to unravel completely.

When Brittany was found, police said the position she was tied in, with her hands bound above her head, was suspicious, suggesting she might have fastened the bonds herself.

Jayna’s car had also been moved and was spattered with the blood of Brittany, who police said she told them her assailants ordered her to re-park the car and return in ten minutes or be killed. She said the masked men made her take Jayna’s keys and move the car while they stayed in the store. While outside the store, Brittany said she saw a police officer and two other people on the street. But she didn’t ask for assistance and returned to the store through the unlocked door.  It was discovered that Brittany moved Jayna’s car from where it was double parked outside the store to give her 10 hours to doctor the crime scene. The car was found approximately three blocks away in a public parking lot.

During an interview, she was asked if she had ever been in Jayna’s vehicle. She said she had only seen the car in passing, and she gave several different accounts of events.

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said that there was no evidence of any sexual assaults at all and that Brittany very likely inflicted her own injuries and tied herself up.

Brittany Norwood’s tale, which captivated the region and had shoppers and merchants along Bethesda Row in fear, began to unravel as detectives looked at the evidence. When the investigation began, detectives had only Brittany’s story to go by, but the forensic and physical evidence did not support what Brittany had told the police.

Assistant Chief Drew Tracy said there were some inconsistencies from the beginning, but detectives chalked them up in part to a stressed victim.

One of the unanswered questions involved Brittany’s wounds. The wounds were superficial compared with Jayna’s. Investigators wondered why she didn’t leave the store before another employee opened it the following day. Detectives had little choice but to believe Brittany’s story at first.

Brittany Norwood’s Stomach Wounds

When the Montgomery County Police Department began their probe, detectives aggressively investigated Brittany’s story. They examined surveillance cameras from the area, searching for signs of the mysterious attackers. Tips came in, and officers even followed a man they thought might be a person of interest.

Why Would Brittany Kill Jayna?

MOTIVE FOR MURDER. There were indications that Jayna may have confronted Brittany about stealing store merchandise. An investigation into Brittany’s background revealed an extensive history of theft allegations.

Detectives learned the whole backstory about Brittany. She was fired from another Lululemon store for buying more than she was supposed to on a discount. But then they hired her back and moved her to the Bethesda store. As Brittany started, the store began having all these incidents of shoplifting. Items were disappearing. Cash was disappearing. And she was the only new person, so they all suspected her of stealing, but they could never prove it.

Detectives interviewed another employee.

“I’m part of the leadership team so like we always knew. But we didn’t have concrete proof.  And then I remember I talked to Jayna. She called me at 9:46. She asked me did I sell Brittany some crops. And I was like, “No.” And she was like, “Because I bag-checked Brittany.” She had found a pair of crops in there, still had the tags on. Okay, so we got proof now. Like, okay, we have the proof that she stole something.”

Events Leading Up to Jayna’s Murder

Brittany Norwood and Jayna Murray were co-workers at the Bethesda Lululemon Athletica retail store. They had worked together at the store on the night of March 11. After closing the store, both Brittany and Jayna left the building. At 9:51 p.m., Norwood telephoned Eila Rab, another sales associate at Lululemon, and told her that she had left her wallet at the store. Norwood asked Ms. Rab for Murray’s telephone number so she could call Murray and ask her to meet her at the store to let her in. Ms. Rab sent Murray’s phone number to Norwood via a text message.

Norwood telephoned Murray, and Murray agreed to meet Norwood at the store. Once Norwood and Murray met at the Lululemon store, a violent encounter occurred, which resulted in Murray’s death.

The Apple Store Next Door

Employees at the adjacent store informed detectives that they could hear a struggle around the time of the murder.

One employee said, “Yeah, we heard screaming. So, we go downstairs, and all of a sudden, we hear a scream. Then I get closer to the wall, and I can hear what they’re saying. So, it was two females. One was hysterically crying. And the other one was, like, she was trying to talk to her like, ‘what’s going on?’ The other girl eventually calmed down and starts talking, but I don’t hear… at that point, she’s kind of mumbling, and that’s when I turned, like, oh, seems like there’s drama going on.” The employee left the Apple Store shortly after 11:00 p.m. but did not call the police.

The Morning of March 12

Manager Rachel Oertli arrived at the store shortly before 8:00 a.m. She noticed the door was unlocked and initially believed someone had arrived just before her and had forgotten to lock the door. When she entered the store, the lights were on, and things were out of place, leading her to believe an altercation had occurred. Ms. Oertli called out and heard someone moaning. She left the store and immediately called 911. Ms. Oertli saw a man, Ryan Haugh, waiting outside the Apple Store and asked him if he would accompany her into the Lululemon store. Although he did not know Ms. Oertli, Mr. Haugh agreed to enter Lululemon with her.

After they entered, Mr. Haugh went toward the back of the store by himself at Ms. Oertli’s request. Mr. Haugh saw a body lying face down and called out to Ms. Oertli to call the police because it appeared as if someone was dead. As Mr. Haugh walked back toward Ms. Oertli, he saw a second person tied up but breathing. Mr. Haugh told Ms. Oertli that there was one person who was dead and another person who was alive and appeared to have been sexually assaulted. Ms. Oertli called the police for a second time.

Several officers arrived shortly after that. When the police approached Brittany, she appeared to be unresponsive. The police found Murray face down in a pool of blood with no pulse. An ambulance arrived at approximately 8:00 a.m. Norwood was placed on a stretcher and transported to Suburban Hospital. Officer Colin O’Brien was working part-time for Suburban Hospital, performing security work as a uniformed police officer on March 12. He met the ambulance carrying Norwood when it arrived and followed her stretcher into the trauma bay. Officer O’Brien observed some cuts on Norwood’s chest, legs, arms, and forehead. In particular, Officer O’Brien noticed a one to two-inch laceration on Norwood’s right hand that ran parallel to Norwood’s thumb. While at the hospital, Norwood was examined by a sexual assault nurse examiner. The examination revealed no evidence of sexual assault.

Over the next several days, multiple police officers engaged in various conversations with Norwood. Brittany’s statements to police officers during conversations were later the subject of a motion to suppress.

The March 14 Interview

At approximately 8:00 p.m., Detective Dimitry Ruvin and Detective James Drewry met with Norwood at her residence. The detectives were wearing plainclothes attire. The meeting had been arranged through telephone conversations with Norwood’s family members. The detectives’ purpose in visiting Norwood was to introduce themselves and inquire whether Norwood remembered any additional details of the incident. Detective Ruvin testified that he still considered Norwood a victim during the March 14 interview.

When the detectives arrived, they met several of Norwood’s family members. Norwood emerged, and the detectives introduced themselves and told her that they wanted to see if she had remembered anything else. At Norwood’s suggestion, the detectives and Norwood went downstairs to her living area and sat around a table in the living room area. Norwood recounted her story regarding the events of March 11–12, 2011, while the detectives took notes and recorded a portion of the interview. The atmosphere of the conversation was very casual, and Norwood was coherent and cooperative. Norwood told the detectives that she was sexually assaulted. Norwood explained that the attacker told her that the only reason she was not killed was because she was “fun to fuck.” Norwood said that one attacker pushed her onto Murray’s body. Norwood told detectives that the attackers knew her name and address, which she presumed the attackers found on Comcast and Washington Gas bills that had been in her purse. Norwood told detectives that the attacker swore at her and called her a “dirty slut” and a racial epithet while sexually assaulting her.

Detective Ruvin testified that Norwood became emotional during the conversation about the sexual assault. She had tears in her eyes and looked down a lot but continued to talk to the detectives. At the end of the interview, Norwood spoke with the detectives about what she was going to do in the future. Norwood told the detectives that her family wanted her to move back to Seattle, but that she had been recently offered a new job in Bethesda, which she planned to begin after she recovered.

The detectives recommended that Norwood inform her family members that the attackers knew her address. She told her family members in front of the detectives. Detective Ruvin testified that Norwood’s family members were “very, very concerned.” The detectives advised Norwood’s family members to contact the police if they saw anything suspicious. Detective Ruvin testified that at the end of the March 14 interview, he still viewed Norwood as a victim.

The March 16 Interview

The detectives met with Brittany a third time on March 16. She came to the police headquarters at the request of Detective Drewry. By this time, Detective Drewry had begun to view Norwood as a suspect. Detective Drewry asked Norwood to come to headquarters to provide elimination fingerprints and hair samples. Detective Drewry testified at the hearing on the motion to suppress that Norwood was asked to come in both to provide elimination prints and because “it was also a ruse to get her to come in” to talk to the detectives. Norwood arrived at approximately 5:00 p.m. with two of her siblings. Norwood’s siblings left to get something to eat, and Norwood was asked to sit in an interview room.

The interview, which was video recorded, took place in an interview room at police headquarters. The interview room had two doors, one of which was often left open and the other of which was occasionally open. During the first approximately one hour of the interview, Norwood spoke informally with Detective Drewry while waiting for evidence technicians to take hair samples, photographs, and fingerprints. Norwood again described being attacked by two assailants. When asked whether she knew the type of car Murray drove, Norwood replied that she did not know. At the end of the interview, Norwood left the station with her family.

The following day, Norwood’s brother, Chris Norwood, and sister, Marissa Norwood, contacted the detectives via telephone. Norwood’s siblings explained that Norwood had been withholding information from the detectives because she was afraid that the suspects would harm her. Specifically, one of Norwood’s siblings told Detective Drewry that the attackers had forced her to move Murray’s car. An additional interview was scheduled, at Marissa Norwood’s request, for March 18 at 10:00 a.m.

The March 18 Interview

Brittany Norwood arrived at police headquarters accompanied by her siblings, Marissa and Chris Norwood. Norwood went into an interview room with Detectives Drewry and Ruvin. At the beginning of the interview, she discussed her plans for the future, including the possibility of moving back to her hometown of Seattle to move in with her brother, Chris. Norwood told Detective Drewry that her “only concern” with respect to moving to Seattle was that she wanted to be reachable by police during the investigation.

Unprompted, Brittany initiated a conversation regarding Murray’s car, saying, “All right, I’m here because..․” She told detectives that prior to the sexual assault, the attackers made her move Murray’s car to a different parking lot. According to Norwood, the attackers told her they would be watching her the entire time and threatened to kill her if she talked to anyone. She explained that she went alone to move Murray’s car. While moving Murray’s car, Norwood saw a police officer in a patrol vehicle but did not flag down the officer or attempt to contact him because she was too afraid. When asked why she returned to the Lululemon store after moving Murray’s car instead of driving away and attempting to contact police, Brittany explained that she was “afraid for her life” and that the attackers knew where she lived.

At one point during the interview, Brittany said, “we’ve been over this.” Detective Drewry responded, “Yeah, but every time we go over it, something else comes out or changes a little, so I’m just trying to get it as straight as possible.” 

Eventually, Detective Drewry told Norwood that he did not believe her story and explained why the evidence demonstrated that her story was a lie. Brittany’s siblings were brought into the interview room, and Detective Drewry explained to them why he believed Brittany had murdered her co-worker, Jayna Murray.

When left alone with her brother, she told him that she had been doing good. When he questioned her about the situation, she said, “I don’t want to talk about it here. I just want to go home.”

Bizarre Clues in Retail Murder Reveal Shocking Truth (A&E)

An attack on two employees of a high-end shop leaves one woman dead and another scarred by the memory of the events she survived.

Brittany attacked Jayna with multiple weapons, causing approximately 331 individual injuries and, ultimately, her death. Jayna had injuries to her head, face, neck, back, and extremities. According to the medical examiner, Jayna was alive when she incurred the majority of her injuries. A stab wound to the back of Jayna’s head hastened her death.

Brittany Norwood doctored the scene to make it appear that a robbery had occurred and that they both had been victims of an attack. Norwood used a pair of men’s size fourteen Reebok tennis shoes to create bloody footprints at the crime scene. Norwood moved Murray’s car to a parking lot further from the Lululemon store and moved various items in the store in an attempt to make it appear that a robbery had occurred. Norwood opened the safe in the store and removed three bags of money from it. Norwood inflicted various superficial injuries upon herself, cut a slit in the crotch of her pants, bound her hands and feet with zip ties, and laid on the floor. Norwood then waited to be discovered the following morning.

In an after-hours confrontation apparently sparked by Brittany’s attempt to steal a pair of yoga pants, authorities said, she bludgeoned, choked, and stabbed Jayna, using at least five weapons to inflict more than 330 separate wounds. She used weapons from inside the store to kill Jayna in a prolonged and brutal attack. The weapons included a hammer, wrench, knife, and peg used to hold up a mannequin. Then she gave herself a few minor wounds, bound her own hands and ankles in a restroom, and initially fooled detectives with an elaborate tale about a pair of masked intruders.

Blood Splatter around the Tool Box

Brittany’s allegations set off panic. Montgomery County Police went on a manhunt and fielded hundreds of tips. The store is nestled along a corridor of high-end shops and trendy restaurants in Bethesda, an affluent suburb where violent crime is rare. Some residents and shoppers admitted to feeling anxious at night after Brittany’s account of the attack became public.

But the tale unraveled within days as police identified her as their sole suspect.

Brittany Norwood

Brittany Norwood’s Trial

Opening arguments in the first-degree murder trial of Brittany Norwood, charged in the horrific killing of her co-worker, provided the most dramatic account of a crime that shocked the region for its viciousness and for the twists and turns of an investigation that ultimately revealed a morbidly staged crime scene.

Prosecutors said that Brittany lured Jayna back to the store after they had closed for the night, and that’s when the murder happened and that it was, therefore, pre-meditated. Prosecutors suggested the motive for the killing could have come earlier in the day when Jayna found what she thought to be stolen merchandise in Brittany’s bag.

The Defense said it was not like that…that it was not pre-meditated. Brittany simply lost it. The Defense said the sloppy coverup that happened after proves that fact that she didn’t have a concrete, well-thought-out plan.

“Jayna was killed by Brittany, but not with premeditation, Defense Attorney Wood said. “During that fight, Brittany Norwood lost it; there is no doubt about that. She lost control.”

According to the medical examiner, at least five tools were used: a knife, a hammer, a wrench, box cutters, and a rope around her neck. Jayna was alive throughout all of this until the last strike of a knife.

Holding the bloody rope found around the slain woman’s neck and a merchandise display rod used to bash her skull, State’s Attorney John McCarthy said a blood trail showed how Jayna tried unsuccessfully to escape her attacker through the back door. The 107 defensive wounds caused when Jayna tried to fend off the attack were the most the medical examiner had ever seen on one person.

“Think about how long this took. Jayna is alive through almost all of this, McCarthy said, describing how eight separate items found in the upscale yoga-inspired apparel store were used as weapons. “The last wounds are from the knives. This was not slow. This was not painless. This woman struggled to survive.”

Following an 8-day trial, the charges submitted to the jury were first-degree pre-meditated murder and second-degree specific intent to kill murder. It took just under an hour for a jury to convict Brittany Norwood guilty of first-degree murder.

In the climax to a sensational murder case that rocked Bethesda’s downtown retail district, Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenberg locked eyes on the diminutive, 29-year-old defendant seated before him in a black pantsuit.

“Cold-blooded…brutal…calculated…deliberate…devious…malicious,” was how the Judge described Britany and the murder she committed in the Lululemon Athletica store.

Brittany, speaking publicly for the first time since the killing, briefly addressed Jayna’s family. “Before I go to prison, I needed you to hear how deeply sorry I am,” she said.

The Judge was unmoved. “I have no doubt, Ms. Norwood, that you are a deeply troubled woman. However, my sympathy for your plight, ma’am, does not begin—does not begin—to approach what I feel for the Murray family.

To try to conceal her crime, Brittany tracked size-14 sneakers through Jayna’s blood to make it appear as if a large man had been there. Then she tied herself up and waited overnight. She was found the next morning, moaning. For days, she lied to the police and her family, weaving the story of the ski-masked attackers. But her account crumbled under the weight of mounting forensic evidence.

A Brutal and Senseless Murder

Jayne Murray was just doing her job when she sustained a horrifically vicious attack that shocked the upmarket area of Bethesda, Maryland. It was a gruesome murder over a pair of leggings or yoga pants.

The Judge said, “I’ve never such a savage killing.”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said, “Norwood’s steadfast lies, coupled with her lack of remorse, speak to the tremendous danger she would pose if released.”  Brittany Norwood was convicted of first-degree murder for bludgeoning and stabbing 30-year-old Jayna Murray to death, a co-worker at the Lululemon Athletica retail store in Bethesda, Maryland.

Jayna Murray

How Montgomery County Police Unraveled the Murder of a Retail Store Employee in Bethesda