Lululemon is an athletic store known for its passion for a healthy, yoga-based lifestyle, with expensive yet comfortable sportswear. In 2011, everyone was gushing over the store, and they’re supposed good quality leggings. (At $100 a pair, I sure hope they are good quality). But, anyway, that may not have been the case.
The fierce yoga store became the crime scene of a murder. No one would expect such a vicious crime to occur in such a Zen department store. Was this an attempted robbery gone horribly wrong? Or a horrible example of a crime against co-workers?
On Wednesday, March 11, 2011, 33-year-old Jayna Murray headed over to the Lululemon in Bethesda, Maryland, to work her evening shift. The store was located next to an Apple store (which will be important later). Jayna was a master’s student busy earning two degrees at Johns Hopkins University while working at Lululemon part-time.
Jayna was beautiful, and she was also very adventurous. She loved adrenaline-boosting activities like bungee jumping, but yoga gave her a sense of balance, calmness, and happiness. So, working at Lululemon while finishing school was perfect for her. Until one fateful night…
That night, Jayna and her co-worker Britney Norwood were supposed to finish their shift at 9:45 pm. As the manager, Jayna had the keys and locked up. After closing up, Brittany lured Jayna Murray back into the building, telling her that she forgot her wallet inside.
On March 12, 2011, the morning shift manager, Rachel Oertli, arrived at the store a little before 8 am. She noticed the lights were on, and the door was unlocked, which was a little alarming, but she figured the night shift workers forgot to lock up.
When Rachel walked inside, she immediately noticed that the place was a disaster, and something strange was going on. When she called out, she heard the voice of somebody moaning in the back of the store. Frightened, Rachel left and called 911.
As it turned out, Apple was coming out with a new product that day, so people were waiting outside the store, which was right by Lululemon. Ryan Haugh was waiting in line outside the Apple store when he noticed Rachel freaking out and asked if he could help.
Rachel didn’t know Ryan, but she asked him if he could go back inside the store with her because she was obviously scared – and for a good reason. Ryan walked to the back of the store, where he found a body lying face down. He told Rachel to call the police. Then he saw another person who was tied up but still alive.
When police got to the scene, they discovered Jayna’s unrecognizable body. They found Brittany in the bathroom, alive but seemingly injured. She had cuts all over her body, the crotch of her pants was ripped, and her hands were tied with a zip tie over her head. At the hospital, they saw cuts on her chest, legs, arms, and forehead. They also noted a two-inch laceration on her right hand.
When they investigated the crime scene, police found two sets of footprints; one belonged to a size 14 trainer, and the other was of a shoe found inside the store. Since the safes were empty, it looked like this might have been a robbery gone wrong. To put the pieces together, detectives spoke to the only known witness: Brittany Norwood.
Police went to visit her at the hospital later that day, where she told them what happened. She explained that after she and Jayna locked up and went in separate directions, Brittany realized she forgot her wallet and asked Jayna to meet her at the store since she was the one with the keys.
Brittany said that Jayna came back to open the door, and then two men wearing ski masks followed them inside, grabbed them, and bounded them. They sexually assaulted both of them, but when Jayna resisted, they beat and stabbed her to death. Brittany claimed she was raped and sexually assaulted with a coat hanger.
Brittany’s story sounded a bit odd to the cops, so they went back to talk to her a couple of days later. Brittany said one of the guys in the ski masks told her that he didn’t kill her because she was just “fun to f**k.” She also claimed that they pushed her on Jayna’s body.
But Brittany’s story didn’t end then. She claimed she was terrified because the men knew her name and where she lived. They cursed her out, racially abused her, and called her a “dirty slut.” On March 16, police asked Brittany to come into the station.
They wanted to get some DNA samples and fingerprints so that they could eliminate her as a suspect. When she arrived at the station, she seemed unbothered. Police asked her if she knew what Jayna’s car looked like, but Brittany said no. Meanwhile, police had their doubts about Brittany and her bizarre story that didn’t seem to add up.
Police found the two men in masks, or so they thought. Surveillance footage showed two men – seemingly wearing ski masks – walking by the Lululemon store right around the time the murder took place. But it turns out they were working at a restaurant and take that route home every night.
Police felt like something was off about Brittany. They had a strong feeling she was involved, but they couldn’t arrest her without enough evidence. Plus, if she wasn’t responsible, they didn’t want to accuse a victim of such a horrendous crime.
The following day, police received an interesting phone call from Brittany’s brother Chris and her sister Marissa. They said Brittany had some more information that she was afraid to share with them. Brittany said the two men who attacked her asked her to move Jayna’s car.
In light of this new information, the police set up a meeting with Brittany. She claimed that before the sexual assault, they forced Brittany to move the car. This made absolutely no sense. If she was in the car, why didn’t she speed away to the police station… or literally anywhere else.
Brittany stated that while she was moving the car, she saw a police officer but didn’t seek help because she was “afraid for her life.” She said that she “forgot” to tell them the detail about moving the car because she was in “shock.”
Sure, people tend to forget elements of a story, especially when they are traumatized, but the police didn’t buy it. Brittany’s siblings came into the station with her, so they decided to use it to their advantage. They left them in the interrogation room together and walked out.
While the siblings were alone in the room, Brittany’s brother asked her if she was involved. Brittany’s response was, “I don’t want to talk about it here.” That’s pretty damning. Police were suspicious of Brittany from the start, and at this point, they had enough of her changing story.
The police told Brittany that they didn’t believe her and that the evidence didn’t corroborate her series of events. They told her that she staged the robbery, and her wounds were self-inflicted in order to cover up the fact that she killed Jayna. She was ultimately charged and arrested with first-degree murder.
The prosecution presented the case that Jayna died due to premeditated murder at the hands of Brittany Norwood (premeditated murder could happen within seconds, under Maryland law). They alleged that the ferocious and prolonged murder took place inside the store on the night of March 11.
They couldn’t reveal the motive during the trial due to the suppression of some statements and evidence. However, it was indicated outside of court that this was all because Jayna caught Brittany stealing a pair of leggings from the store.
Reportedly, Lululemon had a policy where the employees would check each other’s bags before they leave the store. During a routine bag check, Jayna was disappointed to find a pair of leggings in Brittany’s bag that she didn’t pay for.
Jayna had to report Brittany, but she didn’t talk to her about the situation face-to-face. Realizing that Jayna was going to squeal on her, Brittany came up with a plan to keep her quiet. The prosecution claimed that Jayna and Brittany both left the store that night but returned after 15 minutes.
The prosecution argued that Brittany didn’t even have Jayna’s phone number and called a different employee for it. She called and told her she left her wallet inside, and she needed her to open the door. When Jayna agreed, Brittany was able to put her plan into action.
They explained how once inside the store, Brittany attacked Jayna and then staged the crime scene in order to make it look like they were both attacked. Even though Brittany claimed she was raped and cut, her wounds were superficial, and there was no evidence of sexual assault.
On the other hand, there was a ton of evidence that Jayna was severely beaten to death. She had over 300 wounds on her body. The body was in such terrible condition that she was unrecognizable, and there was no way the family could have an open casket at her funeral.
They said all the evidence pointed to Brittany. They believed she used a foot-long metal bar (used as a merchandise rack at the store) and chased her around the store, and cracked her in the head with it repeatedly. Jayna’s blood was found on a rope in the store, which leads investigators to believe Brittany tried to strangle her with a rope.
In order to prove that this crime was premeditated, the prosecution focused on how long the attack was. They claimed it took Brittany about 20 minutes to attack Jayna. Some of her injuries were defense wounds (the rest being self-inflicted). Employees at the Bethesda Apple Store, next door to Lululemon, heard noises coming from the yoga store that night, just after 10 pm.
It was so bad that the workers at the Apple store discussed the matter with his manager as well as the store’s security guard. The employee claimed to hear a voice of a woman saying, “Talk to me. Don’t do this. Talk to me. What’s going on?”
The people waiting outside the Apple store heard some yelling but weren’t sure what was going on. Witnesses claimed they didn’t hear the voice of a man and thought it was some sort of “girl drama.” Others said they heard things get heated and knew something was going on.
The Apple employee went on saying that the plea was followed by more screams and then heard what were likely Jayna’s last words: “God help me. Please help me.” At 11 pm that evening, the Apple employee went home. (Why no one called the police is beyond me. The bystander effect at its finest, I guess).
Mary Ripple, the medical examiner who carried out Jayna’s autopsy, gave evidence about the injuries Jayna sustained. She revealed to the court that Jayna had 331 injuries on her body – the most she had ever seen on a person.
She used her arms and legs to protect herself, so up to 105 of those wounds were defensive wounds. “She had a pulse, she had a blood pressure, she was bleeding into the wounds, she was alive.” At this point, things weren’t looking good for Brittany. It was obvious that she was involved.
The injuries on Jayna’s body included cuts, bruises, abrasions, and cutting wounds, but that was the least of it. There were six blunt force injuries to her head and another blunt force that crushed her skull. The beating of her skull caused bruising and internal bleeding in her brain.
The medical examiner went on to say that for her injuries to have been this severe, a “tremendous amount of force” had to have been used. These types of injuries are usually seen in victims who were in a severe car crash.
The blows to Jayna’s head were countless. There were stab wounds to her shoulder, one to her lower back, and two to the back of her head. The blood on the rope, along with ligature marks around her neck, indicated that she was strangled.
But it was a knife stabbed into Jayna’s neck that ultimately caused her death. After that kind of injury, you have less than a minute to live. The blood trail in the store also proved that Jayna was desperately trying to escape.
The prosecution told the jury: “Think about how long this took. Jayna is alive through almost all of this. This was not slow. This was not painless. This woman struggled to survive.” At this point, no one felt bad for Brittany. She deserved to be punished for viciously killing Jayna in cold blood.
But that didn’t stop the prosecution from presenting further evidence about the murder. There were traces of Brittany’s and Jayna’s blood found inside Jayna’s car, which was parked a couple of blocks away from the store.
Remember when police asked Brittany if she knows what Jayna’s car looks like, and she said no? Then she suddenly concocted this strange story about how she was forced to drive the car but didn’t drive away for whatever reason.
Prosecutors believe that she came up with this driving story to explain why her DNA would be in the car, especially since she already told police she never saw Jayna’s car. Unfortunately for Brittany, what she was doing was very obvious. It was clear that she was lying to make herself look like a victim.
But this wasn’t the only thing Brittany didn’t tell the truth about, and soon enough, all her lies caught up to her. We mentioned the two sets of footprints found in the store. One was from a pair of shoes that were at the crime scene, and the other was Brittany’s footprints.
Based on this, the prosecution believed that Brittany used the shoes from the store to stage the crime scene. She wasn’t as smart as she thought. As much as she wanted everyone to believe she was a victim, nobody bought Brittany’s story.
The prosecution was able to debunk more parts of Brittany’s elaborate story. Brittany claimed that they were both raped by the men in ski masks. As it turns out, this fact could be checked, and there was absolutely no evidence that either woman had been sexually assaulted.
Also, the ropes, knives, hammers, wrench, and metal pole were all items from the store. So, you’re telling me, two rapist murderers didn’t think to bring any of their own weapons? And they just happened to know where the store kept sharp objects. Once again, her story made no sense.
According to the prosecution, this is what really went down at Lululemon on the night of March 11, 2011. Jayna got a phone call from her co-worker asking her to let her back into the store because she forgot her wallet. But that’s the only part of Brittany’s story that was true.
Jayna thought she was helping a fellow employee, not walking to her death. Brittany claimed that two men wearing masks followed them in. What really happened was that the co-workers started fighting in the store, and saying that it quickly “escalated” is an understatement. One of them ended up dead within 20 minutes.
In November 2011, after a six-day trial, the jury found Brittany guilty of first-degree murder. She was sentenced to life without parole. Although the evidence of the stolen yoga pants was dismissed, the jury was unanimous. They made the right decision.
Jayna’s heartbroken family was relieved, but the verdict wouldn’t bring their daughter back. Her parents were in such an incredible amount of pain. Not only did their daughter die, but it was in such a horrific way. Her mother, Phyllis, said, “I want no other family to go through this. The brutality was indescribable.”
Even before the murder, Brittany Norwood wasn’t as innocent as she appeared. Sure, she had no actual criminal record, but she did have a reputation. No one goes from zero to murder. She wasn’t the most popular worker at Lululemon, and there were rumors about her stealing.
Along with stealing store merchandise, she reportedly stole from co-workers’ bags and lockers. Apparently, she worked at a different location but was transferred to the Bethesda, Maryland location because her co-workers in the other store kept accusing her of stealing. Since this was all alleged, they couldn’t use it in court.
It appeared as though Brittany wanted to get rid of Jayna before she told on her, but other reports state that she called the store manager and allegedly said, “we caught the bitch.” But again, all of the alleged stealing was dismissed from the trial. Luckily, the prosecution had a mountain of evidence without the stealing reports.
Journalist Peter Ross Range wrote a book about the Lululemon murder and included details that weren’t used in court. According to a review of the yoga store crime, “police and prosecutors believed Norwood was a working call girl but chose not to disclose that fact in open court.”
Jayna Murray, on the other hand, was the opposite. From all accounts, she was an amazing person. She was finishing up her MBA degree from John Hopkins Business School and already got her B.S. in international marketing and business along with a Master of Arts in Public and media relations. She was a skilled dancer, a wonderful daughter, and a dear friend to many.
She was sporty and fun. She was one of those people that everyone loved being around. She was a trusted and beloved mainstay at Lululemon until that tragic incident when an evil, conniving co-worker named Brittany Norwood ended her life.