ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — A woman convicted of killing her co-worker at an upscale yoga clothing shop in the Washington suburbs, then spinning an elaborate lie about being attacked by two masked men, was ordered Friday to spend the rest of her life behind bars.
A judge sentenced Brittany Norwood, 29, to life in prison without parole, rejecting defense pleas that she deserved an eventual shot at rehabilitation and freedom.
A jury in November convicted Norwood of first-degree murder for bludgeoning and stabbing 30-year-old Jayna Murray, a co-worker at the Lululemon Athletica shop in Bethesda. Prosecutors said Norwood brutally attacked Murray with at least five weapons, including a knife and a hammer, during a fight March 11 after they closed the shop for the day. They said Norwood then doctored the scene to support her story that intruders had attacked and sexually assaulted them.
Murray was found the next morning in a pool of blood at the back of the store, with more than 330 distinct wounds. Norwood was found nearby, tied up, with superficial wounds on her hands and face. Her pants were slit at the crotch.
Norwood’s allegations set off panic. Montgomery County police went on a manhunt and fielded hundreds of tips. The store is nestled along a corridor of high-end shops and trendy restaurants in Bethesda, an affluent suburb where violent crime is rare. Some residents and shoppers admitted to feeling anxious at night after Norwood’s account of the attack became public.
But the tale unraveled within days as police identified her as their sole suspect. Workers at an adjacent Apple store told police they had heard two women arguing. Investigators found only two sets of footprints in the store. Norwood alleged she was sexually assaulted, but an examination did not back up the claim. And Norwood’s DNA was found inside Murray’s car. Police arrested Norwood six days after Murray’s body was found.
Norwood’s lawyers conceded at the outset of the trial that Norwood had killed Murray, but said she had simply “lost it” in a moment of irrationality and didn’t have the required forethought to be convicted of first-degree murder. A jury rejected that argument after about an hour of deliberation, finding her guilty of first-degree murder.
The jury did not hear a motive for the killing, but investigators previously said the women fought after Murray found what she thought was stolen merchandise in Norwood’s bag.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.