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Suspect’s account of slaying played during Lululemon trial

- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jurors in the Lululemon Athletica murder trial heard Thursday from the woman accused of beating and stabbing a co-worker to death when prosecutors played a tape-recorded interview in which she gave detectives her first account of what happened the night of the killing.

Weaving an elaborate cover-up, Brittany Norwood, 29, described how two men entered the upscale Bethesda yoga-apparel store after closing. She claimed they savagely beat her co-worker, Jayna Murray, while threatening her if she did not cooperate with the robbery.

Sniffling throughout the interview, at one point Ms. Norwood even asked in a weak voice about Murray.

"Can you tell me how my friend is doing?" she said.

Her account of the incident, which detectives later learned was an elaborate ruse, included a detailed description of the attack.

"He was repeatedly hitting her and we were both yelling for help," Ms. Norwood said in the March 12 interview, conducted several hours after a store manager discovered the gruesome scene. "He had me by the hair and told me if I said another word he'd slit my throat. She kept yelling and he kept hitting her."

While unable to clarify details about the attackers, Ms. Norwood described being raped with a coat hanger by one of the men while another beat Murray and dragged her across the floor by her hair.

"They were laughing the entire time," she said in the police interview. "They thought it was funny."

The two women closed the store together the night of March 11, but Ms. Norwood called Murray back to the store about 10 minutes later, stating she left her wallet inside.

Prosecutors have insisted that Ms. Norwood lured Murray back to the store to kill her under the guise she left her wallet, while the defense says the two got into an intense argument and Ms. Norwood "lost it" and killed Murray.

"I kept thinking it was my fault because of my wallet and I couldn't help her," she said.

The horrific descriptions given by Ms. Norwood to Montgomery County Police Detective Deana Mackie initially convinced investigators of her story. However, after being treated for several days as a victim, Ms. Norwood was charged with first-degree murder when the evidence failed to match her account.

Two nurses who had contact with Ms. Norwood early on testified in the Rockville courtroom Thursday that her injuries, or lack there of, were inconsistent with her account.

A vaginal exam used to collect rape evidence concluded Ms. Norwood had no vaginal injuries, forensic nurse examiner Maureen Reges said.

"Along with her account of what happened and the amount of force I would expect with a violent encounter I would expect to see some [vaginal] tears," she said.

JoBeth Hager, a trauma nurse who treated Ms. Norwood at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, said she also found it strange that the young woman had no scratches on her back, though she described being pulled through broken glass on the ground during her struggle.

"There were a lot of things that I found odd," Ms. Hager said.

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