Brittany Norwood Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder in Lululemon Slaying

Brutality of crime convinced jury of premeditation

A Montgomery County jury has found Brittany Norwood guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her Lululemon Athletica coworker, Jayna Murray.

"Today has been an unbelievably stressful day," Hugh Murray, Jayna's brother, said tearfully. "I actually wish that I never had to hear any of these words, but hearing that we got a first-degree murder verdict was very pleasing."

The jury returned the verdict in about an hour after receiving the case Wednesday evening.

"We first took a vote when we went and there and we were unanimous in our initial assessment of the situation," juror 15A said. "And then we discussed if there was anything that could give us reasonable doubt that it wasn't premeditated, but we couldn't come up with anything given how long the attack took, how many different weapons there were and how they were in a different location, they were brought to where Jayna was ultimately found. ... It had to have been premeditated because she had more than ample chance to stop and she had chance to change weapons."

Defense attorney Douglas Wood did not call any witnesses and relied on his closing argument.

State's attorney John McCarthy called Norwood an actress and manipulator. She changed weapons when one didn't do the job and lied to throw off investigators. McCarthy called Norwood's actions cunning, calculated and premeditated, News4's Chris Gordon reported.

In his closing argument, Wood admitted his client killed her coworker inside the store last March but insisted the murder was not premeditated. He said an argument escalated into a fight and Norwood lost control.

Outside the courtroom, Wood said he thinks Norwood has been remorseful since Murray's death despite reports of her showing no emotion in court.

Juror 15A said the lack of emotion from Norwood was a minor factor in the verdict.

Closing arguments Wednesday afternoon followed the prosecution's last witness, medical examiner Dr. Mary Ripple. Murray was still alive when she suffered the last of at least 331 wounds in a brutal slaying at the Bethesda Row Lululemon Athletica store in March, Ripple testified Wednesday.

Murray's family left the courtroom Wednesday morning, as prosecutors presented graphic pictures from the autopsy. Norwood's mother and sister also left the courtroom, but her father stayed and listened.

The photographs illustrated to jurors the wounds inflicted on Murray's body, about 100 of them defensive. Ripple testified that Murray was alive through the entire attack, until she was stabbed in the back of the neck, the knife entering her brain and killing her within a minute.

The prosecution argued that the prolonged attack with at least five weapons -- a knife, a hammer, a wrench, a rope and a box cutter -- indicated premeditation.

"More than anything, I know the trauma our family's been through," said Phyllis Murray, Jayna's mother, after the verdict. "I want no other family to go through this. I felt the brutality was indescribable."

Murray was found dead inside the store March 12. Norwood was at the scene injured and bound by a zip tie. She told police two masked men dressed in black, one tall and one short, attacked and sexually assaulted Murray and herself the previous night after closing. On March 18, police charged Norwood.

Investigators said Murray found store property in Norwood's bag and accused her of shoplifting.

"My sister was fighting for what was right, and that helped us through this trial to make sure that what was right was done in the end," Hugh Murray said after the verdict.

Norwood called Murray back to the store after she left, saying she'd left her wallet inside and needed to be let back in to get it. That's when Norwood attacked Murray, authorities said.

Two employees at the Apple Store next door testified to hearing the attack from 10:10 p.m. until 10:19 p.m. They heard yelling, screaming and two voices, one calling out, "God help me. Please help me."

Investigators testified that Norwood bound herself -- an investigator demonstrated in court tightening a zip tie around his hands with his teeth -- and staged the scene, putting on men's size 14 sneakers to make large bloody footprints in the store. Both her blood and Murray's blood were found in Murray's car, which police said Norwood moved because it was double parked outside the store.

On Tuesday, the lead detective in the case testified, telling the court he believed Norwood was a victim -- until her story began unraveling. Prosecutors also showed jurors tape of a lengthy police interview with Norwood. During the interview, Norwood admitted moving Murray's car. She said she went back to the store because the men said they knew where she lived and she feared for her life.

Juror 15A said some of the most moving testimony came from Murray's mother. Phyllis Murray took the stand Tuesday and identified her daughter's car, BlackBerry and black jacket found at the scene.

"That's what made it feel the most real and to see the family and imagine what they were going through, and you try not to," juror 15A said. "I think all the jurors agree that was worse than all the gruesome photos and all the bloody, broken bones and all the other stuff that we had to look at."

Norwood faces sentencing Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. The prosecution is seeking the maximum sentence -- a life sentence without possibility of parole.

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