March 19, 2011

Lululemon Bethesda slaying arrest announced; Brittany Norwood being charged with murder

By Dan Morse and Maria Glod, Friday, March 18, 11:37 PM

The woman portrayed as the brave survivor of a brutal attack at a Bethesda yoga store has now been charged with killing her co-worker. The victim-turned-suspect was found inside the Lululemon Athletica store bound and bruised, and she convinced detectives that two men in ski masks and gloves raped and beat her and her fellow employee. But it was all a lie, police now say.

Brittany Norwood, 27, was charged late Friday with murder in the March 11 death of Jayna T. Murray, 30, who was beaten and stabbed. Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said that there is no evidence there were any sexual assaults at all and that Norwood very likely inflicted her own injuries and tied herself up.

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 the story of Ms. Norwood to go by,” Manger said. But “the forensic evidence and the physical evidence was not supporting what Ms. Norwood had told us.”

The suspect’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 moved to install 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 lined up to catch the intruders. But in the end, Norwood, who went to high school in Washington state and college in Long Island, N.Y., couldn’t keep her story going, police said.

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, Tracy said, involved Norwood’s wounds. The wounds were superficial, compared with Murray’s. Investigators wondered why she didn’t leave the store before another employee opened it the next morning.

A big break in the case was provided by evidence found in Murray’s car, Manger said. Norwood had gotten into Murray’s car, which had been parked in front of the store, and drove it to a parking lot a few blocks away off Wisconsin Avenue, the chief said. He declined to specify what was found in the car. SOURCE: Washington Post

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