The Washington Post

Brittany Norwood willingly spoke to police, prosecutors say

Brittany Norwood, accused of killing a co-worker in a Bethesda yoga shop, willingly spoke to detectives as she tried weave an elaborate cover story that both she and the co-worker were attacked by a pair of masked men, prosecutors said in court papers Friday, urging a judge to allow her statements to detectives to be used at trial.

Defense attorneys earlier had asked the judge to toss out five interviews Norwood gave to detectives, arguing that she spoke under duress or was not advised of her rights. But prosecutors fired back, arguing in court papers that the questioning was proper and that they should be permitted to present the statements at trial.

Norwood, 29, is set to be tried on Oct. 24, although that date could get pushed back. Her attorneys have indicated they will assert Norwood is not criminally responsible for the attack because of mental illness.

The prosecutor’s filing also offers more detail on how the case against Norwood came together.

Shortly after 8 a.m., March 12, police were called to the Lululemon Athletica store in downtown Bethesda. They found the body of Jayna Murray, 30. They found Norwood alive, but she was bound, wounded, “had blood covering her face, was periodically moaning and appeared to be lapsing in and out of consciousness,” prosecutors wrote. She was taken to the Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

About 10:25 a.m. that day, a detective interviewed Norwood at the hospital.

“The Defendant was considered a victim at all times,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy wrote. “She spoke freely and willingly, both responding to. . .questions and offering information on her own initiative. Under these circumstances, the defendant’s statement was entirely voluntary.”

The detective returned to Suburban at 3:22 p.m, and had a similar conversation with Norwood, according to McCarthy.

Within two days, Norwood had been released from the hospital and was at home. Two detectives visited at 8 p.m., March 14, and spoke with her and family members. Norwood “spoke freely and willingly,” explaining her version of the attack, and the detectives left, McCarthy wrote.

As the case moved along, detectives learned more about forensic analysis on evidence taken from the crime scene. Norwood was asked to come to police headquarters in order to provide fingerprints and hair “for elimination purposes,” McCarthy wrote. Detectives spoke to her more, but she was never in custody and was free to leave at all times, McCarthy wrote. In general, suspects do not have to be advised of their rights if they are not in custody.

The next day, Norwood’s sister called a detective, and said Norwood had additional information to share with police. They agreed that Norwood would return to police headquarters the next day. She did, and spoke for nearly an hour, McCarthy wrote. “During this time, she was free to leave and was not in custody. Her statement was made upon her own request to share information and was entirely voluntary,” McCarthy wrote.

Detectives took a break, resuming the questioning eight minutes later. McCarthy wrote that around this time, Norwood should have been advised of her right to remain silent or consult an attorney. He said in the filing that the state is seeking to use statements made after that point only on a limited basis.

Prosecutors and police believe that Norwood injured herself, tied herself up and staged the crime scene as part of her cover-up.

Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.


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