- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2011

The co-worker of a 30-year-old woman brutally killed inside a Bethesda clothing boutique was charged Friday with the crime when police determined she lied about being sexually assaulted in the attack, which she told police was a botched robbery attempt.

Brittany Norwood, 27, was charged with first-degree murder for the killing of Jayna Murray, 30, at the Lululemon Athletica store in the Bethesda Row shopping center.

“It was a dispute between the two women,” Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said at an evening news conference outside police headquarters in Rockville. The chief declined to elaborate on the nature of the dispute.

He said that witnesses at an Apple store next to the boutique “heard two females arguing.”

He also said evidence collected by police was “not supporting what Ms. Norwood told us.”

The bizarre story Ms. Norwood told police was that she and Ms. Murray were assaulted in the course of a robbery that occurred at about 10 p.m. March 11 after the two women closed the store roughly 15 minutes earlier, then returned to retrieve something one of them had left behind.

“We do belive that the women did close the store up, that they left, that Brittany called and said she’d left her wallet in the store and that was the reason for Jayna to return,” Chief Manger said.

Ms. Norwood 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.

She told police both the women were sexually assaulted and described their attackers as two men fully cloaked in black and wearing masks and gloves who followed the victims inside the yoga-clothing store.

But Chief Manger’s said Ms. Norwood’s story quickly unraveled.

He said police recovered forensic and physical evidence in Ms. Murray’s car. For a reason unknown to police, Ms. Norwood moved the car, which had been parked in front of the store, about three blocks.

He said the evidence was inconsistent with Ms. Norwood’s story and she was arrested at police headquarters Friday where she was being interviewed.

Chief Manger said there was no evidence to support whether anyone else was involved, but he said the investigation is still “very, very active.”

He said the evidence collected from the store included footprints determined to belong to Ms. Norwood and footprints from a Size 14 shoe that the police chief said “belonged to the store.”

He said it was unclear whether someone else wore the shoe and whether Ms. Norwood had bound herself or had assistance.

The unusual crime set the upscale community surrounding the shopping center on edge for days.

Ms. Murray graduated from George Washington University with a degree in business and was working on a master’s degree at the Johns Hopkins University, according to an online professional profile.

• Matthew Cella can be reached at mcella@washingtontimes.com.

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