Montgomery County police said Monday they have solid leads into the botched robbery attempt in Bethesda this past weekend in which two female store employees were sexually assaulted and one was killed, but residents of this upscale community remain shaken.
“It stunned the hell out of us,” Judy Infante, a 50-year Bethesda resident, said outside the Bethesda Row shopping center where the crime occurred. “I would feel safe at 10 o’clock at night down here. It’s tragic.”
The suspected robbery occurred at about 10 p.m. Friday after the two women closed the Lululemon Athletica store roughly 15 minutes earlier, then returned to retrieve something one of them had left behind.
“It’s normally busy, so there’s a lot of potential for witnesses,” police Capt. Paul Starks said. “We’ve received some tips, but we need to hear from more people.”
Investigators have not said exactly what happened next except that two males began to rob the store, then at some point sexually assaulted both women and killed one, in what has been reported as a horrific and bloody crime scene.
The woman killed has been identified as Jayna Murray, 30, of Arlington. Ms. Murray graduated from George Washington University with a degree in business and was working on a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University, according to an online professional profile.
Beyond the brutality of the robbery, residents are also scared because the crime happened during such a busy time in such a popular hub for shops and restaurants, in the 4000 block of Bethesda Avenue.
“This is not a place that you would expect this type of thing to happen,” said Judd Barakove, a Rockville resident and friend of Ms. Murray. “It’s just sad.”
Some details of the crime resemble those of one in 1998 when three employees of a Starbucks in Northwest were shot during a failed robbery. The store manager, 25-year-old Mary Caitrin Mahoney, had graduated from Towson University and like Ms. Murray was just beginning her adult life.
The crime horrified residents of the relatively safe, upscale Burleigh neighborhood and remained unsolved for 20 months, until police received a tip that led to the arrest of Carl Derek Cooper of Northeast.
Cooper, 29 at the time of his arrest, entered the Starbucks, in the 1800 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW, just north of Georgetown, on Sunday, July 8, after a busy Fourth of July weekend and demanded the keys to the safe. When Ms. Mahoney refused and attempted to escape, Cooper shot her, then killed the other two employees — Emory Allen Evans, 25, and Aaron David Goodrich, 18. Cooper told police he shot Mr. Evans a second and third time to “put him out of his pain,” according to reports.
Cooper pleaded guilty to charges in the slayings and was sentenced to prison.
The second victim in the attack Friday has been released from the hospital, police said Monday. Though investigators have tips and have been trying to get surveillance video, the 27-year-old victim remains the only eyewitness. They confirmed Monday that Ms. Murray also had been sexually assaulted.
The suspects are being described as two men fully cloaked in black and wearing masks and gloves who followed the victims inside the yoga-clothing store, which is next to a busy Apple retail store.
“It’s not random,” Capt. Starks said. “They came here with some sort of preparation.”
Police have further described them as 6 feet tall and 5 feet 3 inches tall, respectively. However, they have not said how Ms. Murray was killed or identified the weapon.
The surviving victim was found bound and conscious the next morning after an employee opened the unlocked doors, noticed a mess and heard faint noises coming from the back.
Lululemon Athletica has offered a $100,000 reward for the suspects’ capture, and a Bethesda bank has also offered a $10,000 reward.