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Lululemon jurors hear Brittany Norwood’s lies unravel on tape

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Six days into the coverup, Brittany Norwood’s story fell apart.

It happened inside a dank interview room at Montgomery County police headquarters. For days, veteran detective Jim Drewry had been deeply suspicious of Norwood’s account. But he listened to her latest lie: The two masked men who had slipped into a Bethesda yoga store and killed her co-worker actually took a break from their assault to ask her to move the co-worker’s car by herself and walk back to the store.

“Did they say why they wanted you to move the car?” Drewry asked. “Because it doesn’t make sense.”

Norwood cried. She told Drewry that the masked men somehow knew where she lived and that if she didn’t come back, they would find her and kill her. She admitted that she was bleeding — trapped as she was in an earlier account — but explained that she was too scared to seek help from passersby as she returned from parking the car.

“And how many people do you think you passed?” asked Drewry.

“Two,” Norwood said.

“Did they look at you funny, like, ‘Wow, what’s she doing all bloody’?” Drewry asked.

The exchange between the two, captured on video and audio recordings, was played for Montgomery Circuit Court jurors Tuesday in the fifth day of Norwood’s murder trial. She is accused of savagely killing co-worker Jayna Murray inside the Lululemon Athletica store and then launching an elaborate cover-up.

The trial appears to be drawing to a close. On Tuesday, attorneys in the case discussed the instructions jurors would be given before deliberations. And prosecutor John McCarthy said he would call his final witness Wednesday morning — the medical examiner who performed Murray’s autopsy.

McCarthy has said Norwood inflicted at least 322 wounds and probably used an array of items from the store, including a hammer, wrench, rope, knife and a metal peg used to hold up merchandise.

Norwood’s attorneys concede that their client killed Murray. They say that the two women got into an argument and that Norwood snapped in a way that wasn’t premeditated murder. If the jury convicts her of second-degree murder, she could be released from prison in as few as 15 years. Premeditated murder in this case carries a sentence of up to life in prison with no chance at parole.

During the trial, which began last Wednesday, prosecutors stressed all the lies that Norwood told detectives as she tried to blame the killing on two masked men.

They hope jurors will see Norwood as cunning and manipulative, someone who knew what she was doing. Defense attorneys cast the lies as inept, saying they were an indication of someone not thinking clearly.

Drewry was heading up his final case as a member of the department's homicide section after 23 years. His partner in the investigation, Dimitry Ruvin, testified Monday that detectives started off thinking that Norwood was also a victim but eventually began to doubt her story.

On March 12, the detectives were called to the Lululemon store, where Murray was found dead and Norwood was found bound on a bathroom floor. Norwood told another detective her story: One masked man attacked Murray and the other one attacked her and raped her with a hanger.

Ruvin, aware of that account, testified that they visited Norwood at her home on March 14. At first things clicked with what detectives saw at the scene: A wooden hanger, a dropped purse, blood marks. Ruvin said video from an outdoor security camera showed two men walking behind the store.

But Ruvin and Drewry grew suspicious. Norwood knew about bloody shoes in the store and suggested that the men pushed her onto Murray’s body. Things weren’t adding up, and forensic evidence was starting to cast more doubt on Norwood’s story.

At police headquarters on March 16, Drewry gently asked Norwood whether she had ever been in Murray’s car. Norwood said no, and as Drewry knew, that could contradict blood evidence found in the car.

Norwood realized she had some explaining to do and two days later wove the story about the men asking her to move the car. While she never admitted to killing Murray, her repeated lies were played Tuesday for jurors, who could begin deliberations as soon as Wednesday afternoon.

Michael S. Rosenwald contributed to this report.

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