- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2011

Employees at the Bethesda Apple store that shares a wall with Lululemon Athletica heard 10 minutes of thudding, yelling and grunting on the night an employee at the yoga boutique was slain in March.

“Talk to me. Don’t do this. Talk to me. What’s going on,” Apple employee Jana Svrzo said she heard a woman yell from the neighboring store. Ms. Svrzo testified Friday in the first-degree murder trial of Brittany Norwood.

She said the noises that initially caught her attention around 10:10 p.m. March 11 were heavy thuds.

“It sounded like something heavy was being thrown or dragged,” Ms. Svrzo said, describing sounds that came from the rear of the store.

Ms. Svrzo said she asked both a store manager and security guards to check out the source of the noise. Jurors were shown a surveillance video from inside the Apple store, in which she and two others were seen standing close to the wall and listening.

“I couldn’t pick up anything ‘cause all I could hear was crying. Kind of like when you can’t breath and you are trying to talk,” said senior store manager Ricardo Rios, describing sounds he heard when the video read 10:16 p.m.

Ms. Norwood was charged in the death of coworker Jayna Murray, 30, who was found bludgeoned and stabbed to death inside Lululemon March 12. Staging the crime scene to look like both women were attacked, Ms. Norwood was also found bound and bloodied. Her defense attorney admitted she attacked Murray during a fight, but said she never planned to kill her.

After testifying, the Apple store employees ignored questions from reporters about why they didn’t report the noises they heard to police that night.

“If they would have said ‘help,’ you would have?” asked defense attorney Douglas Wood, confirming whether Ms. Svrzo heard one of the voices say “help.”

“It’s hard to say what I would have done,” said Ms. Svrzo, who clocked out of the store at 11:11 p.m. that night. 

Two security guards on duty that night were fired the next day, prosecutor Marybeth Ayres said while questioning Mr. Rios. Jurors were told to disregard the question, but Mr. Rios confirmed one of the guards was wearing headphones.

“So he was inattentive to the situation,” he said.

Two Lululemon employees who knew Ms. Norwood and Murray also testified Friday, and one stated that the pants Ms. Norwood was found in March 12 were not the same pair she wore to work.

Shown a photo of the way Ms. Norwood, 29, was found inside the women’s bathroom, employee Chioma Nwakibu described her coworker’s pants as “loose and long,” adding they were not the “type” that Ms. Norwood would typically wear. The previous day when the two worked together, Ms. Nwakibu noted Ms. Norwood had worn legging-like pants that were “short and fitted.”

During opening statement’s in the trial, State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Ms. Norwood’s pants were one of several pieces of evidence that were never found.

Immediately following Ms. Norwood’s arrest, prosecutors said the two women fought when Murray confronted Ms. Norwood about stolen items from the store found in her bag. However neither the defense nor prosecutors have questioned witnesses in the case about the relationship between the women prior to Murray’s death.



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