Was Brittany a victim or a murderer?
Jayna Murray, 30, was weeks away from completing a Masters Degree, and had a close-knit circle of friends.
Brittany Norwood, 27, once a talented soccer player, never graduated from college, and had recently fallen on hard times. She struggled with debt, and with an unpaid student loan, it wasn’t long before cracks began to appear.
Both girls worked at a yoga-wear shop in Bethseda, Maryland.
On 11 March 2011, Jayna discovered Brittany had stolen a pair of tracksuit bottoms. She called a company manager to report it, but didn’t confront Brittany.
And, at 9.45pm, she and Brittany locked up for the night and went their separate ways. But, 15 minutes later Jayna’s mobile rang. It was Brittany, asking her to go back to the shop to get her wallet. As Jayna had keys, she agreed to meet Brittany back there.
At 8am the next morning, another member of staff arrived to open the shop. But the door was already unlocked – and inside the shop was a mess, and a moaning sound was coming from the back room.
Police officers arrived and discovered Brittany, in the shop’s bathroom, lying on the floor, her hands and feet bound by zip ties. She had slash wounds to her body and the place was covered with blood.
Brittany was still alive – but tragically, Jayna had been killed in the frenzied attack. She’d suffered over 300 cuts and blows. Her skull was crushed, her spinal cord severed.
Brittany told police that two masked men had carried out the horrific 20-minute attack.
They’d found in the shop – a hammer, rope, knife, even a foot-long metal bar that held up merchandise. And Brittany said both she and Jayna had been sexually assaulted.
Inside the store, police found a key piece of evidence. A pair of size-14, bloody shoe prints on the floor, leading from the murder scene.
But, as police examined them, they found a smaller print underneath – of Brittany’s trainers.
And, inside Jayna’s car, parked a couple of blocks from the yoga store, they found traces of Jayna’s blood and Brittany’s DNA. Initially, Brittany denied she’d been inside the car, but a few days later, she changed her story.
She recalled that, mid-attack, the men demanded that she move Jayna’s car. The police weren’t convinced.
They found no evidence that either women had been sexually assaulted, and there were no leads for the suspects.
Brittany herself became the suspect of the killing. Would she really have killed Jayna over a pair of tracksuit bottoms?
Brittany Norwood was arrested, and charged with first-degree murder. Detectives believed her wounds were self-inflicted.
In October 2011, the case began.
Jayna had suffered 331 stabbing and beating injuries. The prosecution admitted that Brittany and Jayna had had a horrific fight.
That Brittany had ‘lost it’. But did she intend to kill Jayna that night?
Brittany Norwood was convicted of first-degree murder.
On sentencing her to life in prison without parole, the judge said he’d never seen such a savage attack.
By Rachel Tompkins