Family asks for a chance at parole for yoga-store killer

In 20 pages of impassioned pleas, family members of Brittany Norwood urged a judge to give her a chance of one day being free — the family’s first sustained public comments since the 29-year-old was convicted of killing a co-worker in November.

They do not claim to understand what triggered the violent attack at the Bethesda Lululemon Athletica store, nor Norwood’s extensive lies as she spun a tale of masked attackers and rape.

(Courtesy of Montgomery County Police) - Brittany Norwood

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In their letters to the judge made public Wednesday, they write of the daughter, sister and teammate they once knew. For the Norwoods, in advance of sentencing set for Friday in Montgomery County, they take up the best argument left to them: Give her a life term but with a chance at parole.

The raw, heart-rending memos now sit at the top of three fat folders of legal records in the Norwood case. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that life in prison is the appropriate sentence. The battle is whether Norwood should be jailed forever.

Prosecutors contend that Norwood has shown no remorse since the body of her co-worker, Jayna Murray, was found March 12 in the yoga store. She is beyond rehabilitation, prosecutors say.

Not so, writes the relatives who know her as a competitive soccer player and a teenager who ran a babysitting service. They also write of an aunt, who, the day before the killing, walked through rain to pick up her nephews from school when their physician-mother had to work late in an operating room.

“I love my daughter more than words can say and I know she is worthy of a chance,” Earl Norwood wrote. “No one should ever have to experience” the pain the Murray family is enduring, he wrote. But the sixth of his nine children “has always been a person of a true caring nature and I know she still is.”

Norwood’s mother, Larkita, wrote that “this terrible tragedy is incomprehensible to me” but that her love has not wavered. “From the day the doctor told me I was with child and through all her life to this day, I have loved her as I love her now.” Given a chance, she can again be an asset to the community, her mother wrote.

Under current law, that chance at parole could not come before 25 years at the earliest, Norwood’s attorneys say.

Norwood’s attorneys argue that she is “neither a calculating killer or a deranged psychopath” and did not meet the legal definition of insane. A psychiatric evaluation of Norwood done at her attorneys’ request and filed with the court says that she has a case of major depression that would benefit from medication.

The motive for the attack that left Murray, 30, with more than 330 injuries was not stated at trial before Norwood’s conviction in November. The prosecution’s suggestion that Murray had caught Norwood shoplifting “was hardly a motive for murder,” Norwood’s attorneys wrote in their memo, which was filed along with the letters from the Norwood family.

The position they took at trial, they wrote, “provides the best explanation . . . Norwood became overwhelmed with emotion during a confrontation, and before she could regain her composure, she committed the unthinkable.”

Norwood “understands the severity of the situation,” wrote one of her older sisters, Heather Norwood, who said her sister has “a heart of gold.”

She also wrote: “As much pain as I feel for my sister, I feel a deeper pain in my heart for the Murray family. . . . There isn’t a day that goes by that every time I pray for my sister I say a prayer for their family as well.”

 
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