CRIME

Brittany Norwood arrested in Lululemon murder case (photo)

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A whodunit that has captivated the Washington region took a twisted turn Friday afternoon when police arrested Brittany Norwood for the murder of her co-worker, Lululemon Athletica employee Jayna Murray.

(Brittany Norwood - photo courtesy Montgomery County police)

When another employee arrived at the store last Saturday, March 12, she found Murray dead at the back of the store. Norwood was also on the floor, tied up.

Norwood said she and Murray, 30, had been attacked by two masked men wearing gloves. She said the men had sexually attacked both women, tied up Norwood, 28, and killed Murray.

But Montgomery County Police say forensic evidence and inconsistencies in Norwood's story led them to conclude that she was the attacker—not one of the victims.

According to a police affidavit, officers had doubts from the beginning about the stories Norwood told them as she described the attack

While Norwood told police she had been sexually assaulted and she had cuts on her body, there was no indication that she had been raped and her wounds were superficial and had all the characteristics of self inflicted injuries.

ABC7 breaks the story of the arrest in the Lululemon murder case

When police found Norwood Saturday morning on the floor at the store, her hands were tied above her head and her feet were bound. But they believed that she had posed herself in that position.

Murray's car was found approximately three blocks away in a public parking lot on March 15. When it was examined, blood was found in various areas.

On March 16, Norwood was interviewed again and asked if she had ever been in Murray’s vehicle. Norwood said she had only seen the car in passing and she gave several different accounts of events. But the stories didn’t fit with the physical evidence, police say.

On March 18, at police headquarters, Norwood offered what police called an “unbelievable account.” She said that before she was sexually assaulted, the masked men made her take Murray's keys and move the car while they stayed in the store.

While she was outside the store, Norwood 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.

Police say Norwood couldn’t explain the inconsistencies in her interviews.

In a 7 p.m. press conference on Friday, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger reported that they had charged Norwood with the slaying.

He said the two women had a dispute prior to the incident but didn’t go into detail about it. Witness interviews revealed that in a neighboring stores employees heard two women screaming at each other at about 10:30 p.m. that night.

Manger said that there was also no evidence that either woman was sexually assaulted.

Manger described the case as having many twists and turns. The police at one point had several promising leads. However, statements from Norwood and the forensic evidence didn't match up. "We went where the evidence led,” he said.

Police recovered two sets of bloody footprints inside the store. One set belonged to Norwood. The other set was made by a pair of shoes that were used by the store to measure pants.

The scene and the store shoes showed evidence that someone had tried to clean up, a fact that was clearly suspicious.

Police suspect Norwood caused her own wounds after killing Murray, who died from blunt force trauma and stab wounds.

Norwood is from Washington State, but has ties to Virginia and New York. After graduating from high school she attended Stony Brook University in New York and was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player on the school soccer team in 2003.

Records show that Norwood has lived in several places in Virginia and moved to a Columbia Heights apartment in the District. According to D.C. Superior Court records, she and her roommate, Erin McManimon, were sued by their landlord over failure to pay rent in 2008. Public records indicate that she left the building in June of that year.

The slaying took place along a dense commercial strip in downtown Bethesda, a circumstance that gave police some optimism that surveillance footage from nearby businesses might yield some leads in the case.

After examining such footage, however, police indicated that there was nothing helpful in the tapes.

The slaying and attack sent shockwaves through the Bethesda community.

A reward exceeding $150,000 has been offered for information about the slaying. Business groups, as well as the police, planned a security meeting within the week to discuss the slaying.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett praised police and reassured residents that the region is safe.

“Anywhere in the region we take crime seriously,” he said. “I am delighted that we were able to move so fast.”

Murray was well known and liked in the busy neighborhood of boutiques and restaurants. People continue to offer prayers and gifts in front of the still-closed store.

County Council Member Roger Berliner says when "when police made the arrest, people started breathing again."

"It is a gruesome tragedy," he says.

Norwood is due to appear at a Monday court hearing where she is expected to be charged with first degree murder.

Visitation services took place Friday in The Woodlands, Tex. The memorial service was set for Saturday in Texas.

A memorial guestbook has also been created for Jayna Murray.

Christine Day, CEO of Lululemon Athletica, released the following statement: 

“We are grateful for the dedicated members of the law enforcement community who have been working diligently to solve this crime and apprehend those responsible. We also want to express our gratitude for the overwhelming expression of support and generosity from so many over this past week. Our first priority remains with the families and team members affected by this horrible tragedy and supporting them through the next stage of the recent developments. All of the three local stores will be closed through tomorrow, March 19. We are asking the media to please respect the privacy of our educators (employees) as we help them deal with the latest developments. We are unable to comment further as this is an ongoing police investigation.”

Related coverage from the Lululemon case:

Reactions to murder arrest (Video)

Who is Brittany Norwood? (Videos)

Latest on arrest of Brittany Norwood (Videos)

Montgomery County Police probing death inside Bethesda clothing shop

Video: Police examine forensics in Lululemon murder

$150K reward for info on Bethesda Jayna Murray slaying

Memorial grows for Bethesda slaying victim 

Video: Police examine forensics in Lululemon murder

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