Suspect arrested for alumna’s murder

Montgomery County Police arrested a suspect Friday for the murder of alumna Jayna Murray, who was beaten and stabbed to death earlier this month in a Lululemon Athletica store in Bethesda, Md.

Police arrested 28-year-old Brittany Erin Norwood, a co-worker of Murray’s, for first degree murder after detectives found inconsistencies in the story Norwood told police about the attack.

Norwood appeared in Montgomery County District Court Monday and is being held without bond. Seth Zucker, a spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday that a preliminary hearing for Norwood is set for April 15.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said Friday that the analysis of the forensic evidence didn’t support Norwood’s story.

“After finding physical and forensic evidence inside the deceased victim’s car, Ms. Norwood became a suspect in the case,” Manger said.

Norwood was found bound and injured the morning of March 12 in the back of the Lululemon store with Murray, 30. The two women had closed the store the evening before and left around 9:45 p.m., but Norwood told police she left her wallet behind and phoned Murray to help her open the store to retrieve it.

Norwood said two masked men entered the store after them, sexually assaulted both women and killed Murray. Manger said there wasn’t evidence to support that either woman was sexually assaulted.

Police said they later uncovered a dispute between Norwood and Murray, details Montgomery County prosecutor John McCarthy revealed in court Monday.

McCarthy told District Court Judge Gary Everngam in open court Monday that Norwood attacked the victim after an argument related to Murray finding stolen merchandise in Norwood’s bag.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore determined the cause of Murray’s death to be blunt force trauma and stab wounds.

Manger declined to say what the murder weapon was, but in court McCarthy said Murray’s skull was crushed in the attack.

Alan Drew, the attorney from the county public defender’s office who represented Norwood Monday, didn’t return a request for comment.

Last week, the case received daily coverage from local news outlets as police searched for the two men Norwood claimed attacked the Lululemon employees. The award for information in the case grew to more than $150,000.

Manger said detectives originally took Norwood’s story as the truth, as she was the only witness when the investigation began.

“You have to work on that assumption in the beginning. As the investigation went on, we went where the evidence led us to go,” Manger said.

Murray graduated from GW in 2003 with a degree in international marketing and business. She was a part-time graduate student at Johns Hopkins University working on a joint master’s degree in communication and business administration when she died.

She worked at Halliburton for almost five years before attending Johns Hopkins and taking a position with Lululemon.

Murray spent two years as an undergraduate at St. Louis University’s Madrid campus in Spain and then took a Semester at Sea through the University of Pittsburgh, according to her LinkedIn page, before transferring to GW.

Mira Siegel Sperling, Murray’s roommate at GW, met Murray in a human resources management class.

“She was super friendly right from the start,” Sperling, a former Hatchet reporter, said.

Sperling said she and Murray quickly became friends and decided to room together.

“She was just so free-spirited. She was always smiling, moving, laughing,” Sperling said. “She didn’t have a bad attitude about anything.”

Murray loved to go down to the National Mall to play Frisbee and to go out dancing, Sperling said.

Numerous comments from those who knew Murray, as well as those who never met her, can be found on a Facebook page in Murray’s memory.

“Everybody loved her,” Sperling said.

A statement was released from Murray’s parents, David and Phyllis Murray, through the Montgomery County Police Department March 14. Murray’s parents could not be reached for comment.

“The family of Jayna Murray greatly appreciates the many expressions of concern from the community. They currently wish to privately grieve their tremendous loss and are asking for the media’s cooperation in respecting their privacy during this traumatic time.”

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