The Murder of Jayna Murray

On March 11, 2011, Jayna Murray, 30, was beaten, strangled, and stabbed to death in the Lululemon store where she was a manager. Murray suffered 331 separate wounds as a result of the attack. Brittany Norwood, 29, was found guilty of the murder and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The Discovery

On March 11, 2011, at the Lululemon Athletica Store in Bethesda, Maryland, the daytime manager, Rachel Oertli, arrived to prepare for the business day. When she approached the storefront, she noticed that the front door was unlocked, and the interior was in disarray. The Apple Store next door was doing a new product launch and customers had lined up outside, waiting to enter the Apple Store. The manager of Lululemon asked a waiting customer, Ryan Haugh, for assistance because she was unsure what exactly had happened with her own store. When the two entered the Lululemon store, they noticed that the area showed obvious signs of a struggle or robbery. There was a faint moan coming from the back of the store. They found the previous night’s manager, Jayna Murray, face down in the back hallway with a short length of rope around her neck and covered in blood. Brittany Norwood, a store employee, was bound with zip ties and had wounds on her body. Her pants had also been cut in the crotch area. They called 911, who dispatched emergency services and law enforcement to the scene.

Brittany Norwood at the crime scene

The Investigation

Investigators found Jayna Murray lying face down in the back hallway. Her clothes were torn. She and the surrounding area were covered in blood. She also had a ligature (a small length of rope) wrapped around her neck. Investigators searched the merchandise area and discovered various objects scattered around the store that had blood on them. Police determined the objects had been used to assault Jayna Murray. The items included common hand tools, a knife, and a merchandising peg used in hanging clothing. There were also larger sized footprints discovered throughout the store. Police recovered size 14 shoes at the scene.

Brittany Norwood was taken to an area hospital. When investigators interviewed her, she told them an account of what had happened. Norwood explained they were about to close the store when two men entered through the front door. She stated they intended to rob the store, but attacked them instead. She further added the men had raped her and Murray and sexually assaulted her with a coat hanger.

Investigators and law enforcement canvassed the surrounding neighborhood, looking for any signs of evidence or any eyewitnesses. Employees at the Apple Store stated that they had heard a commotion and argument between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. the night before, but did not know they were listening to the fatal attack. In Murray’s vehicle, which was located six blocks from the store, they found DNA traces of both Murray and Norwood, which investigators questioned. When detectives asked Norwood, she stated she had forgotten to tell them during earlier questioning that the two men had asked her to move Murray’s vehicle.

Physicians at Suburban Hospital quickly determined Norwood had not been sexually assaulted, as she had reported. They also determined her wounds were all superficial. The medical examiner determined Jayna Murray had not been sexually assaulted, as Norwood reported.

What Really Happened to Jayna Murray

Over the course of five interviews in the first six days following Jayna Murray’s death, detectives discerned that Brittany Norwood had made up the story about the two attackers and staged the scene. Detectives learned that during the night shift, Murray had discovered that Norwood had stolen an expensive pair of leggings and confronted Norwood about it. Norwood understood the store policy that Murray would have to report it to upper management. The two women closed the store as normal but 15-minutes after they left, Norwood called Murray back to the store with the excuse that she had forgotten her wallet. The women met back at the store a few minutes later. Murray parked her vehicle in an illegal spot, directly in front of the store, because she thought it was just going to be a quick stop. Once inside the store, Norwood attacked Murray. Detectives determined that the attack lasted for over 20-minutes. Norwood’s DNA was found in Murray’s car because, after the attack, she moved Murray’s vehicle down the street. When she returned to the store, Norwood inflicted wounds to appear that she had been attacked, then zip-tied herself in the bathroom so that she would appear as a victim.

The Arrest and Prosecution of Brittany Norwood

On March 18, 2011, Brittany Norwood, in the presence of her attorney, was arrested in a police interview. Norwood’s trial was held in November 2011 and lasted for six days. The jury unanimously found Brittany Norwood guilty of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to life without the chance of parole. Norwood is serving her sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women.

Brittany Norwood

On April 29, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland denied Norwood’s appeal of several points of contention that she felt she needed to address. A very extensive account of the series of events from Northwood’s original trial is addressed in the appeal.

In Memory

Jayna Murray was laid to rest on March 19, 2011 in Forest Park The Woodlands Cemetery in Montgomery County, Texas, near where her family is located.

George Washington University offered the following words regarding Jayna Murray’s death.

“The George Washington University mourns the loss of Jayna Murray, B, B, A,’03, who died on March 11 in Bethesda, MD. Ms Murray graduated from GW in 2003 with a degree in international marketing and business. She was pursuing a Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University, where she received a Master of Arts in public and media relations in 2009. A resident of Arlington, VA, Ms. Murray was a key leader at Lululemon Athletica in Bethesda.”

There have been many reports and coverage of this case. Peter Ross Range wrote a book about the murder of Jayna Murray entitled Murder in the Yoga Store. You can find it here.

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