It’s tempting to imagine that truly shocking and brutally violent murders are the sole domain of the male killer. And, for the most part, they are. When women kill, invariably far less blood is spilt. It’s just one of the many differences between men and women that kill.
Women are more than capable of extreme savagery, though. Ask the surviving relatives of Jayna Murray. They lost their beloved Jayna in a fatal attack that saw the kind of barbarity and sadism the likes of which few people could even imagine. 30-year-old Murray’s sickening murder was as ferocious as it was senseless.
This disturbing story’s real hook, however, is the killer’s quite literally unbelievable version of events. Let’s start with that…
It's the morning of March 12th 2011. Police arrive at the Lululemon sportswear shop in Bethesda, Maryland - effectively a suburb of Washington DC. They'd been called by the store manager who’d arrived to find employees Jayna and 29-year-old Brittany Norwood, tied up and beaten. Murray's injuries were far more severe than Norwood’s, however. By the time emergency services could examine her, she was dead. Extensive head trauma saw to that.
Police were able to quiz the surviving woman, though. Brittany Norwood's injuries weren't fatal. In fact, they weren't serious at all. A few scratches at best. Norwood was only too happy to explain what had happened.
Her story went that as the two women were closing the store the previous night, a pair of men wearing black ski masks burst in, robbed the store and then beat and sexually assaulted Murray and Norwood while using racist slurs. The men then tied the women up and fled the scene.
Detective on the scene Dimitry Ruvin didn't believe a word of it from the start.
'The amount of trauma that Jayna suffered wasn't normal," he said. "It's just this little voice in the back of my head. Something's just not right. The way Brittany's describing these two guys — they're racist, they're rapists, they're robbers, they're murderers — it's like the worst human being that you could possibly describe, right? It doesn't say two crazy people off the street. That screams an inside job.'
Ruvin's instincts were right.
Examinations on both women soon found an absence of evidence to suggest rape or indeed any kind of sexual assault. Bloodied footprints appearing to prove that men had been at the crime scene were quickly explained when the size 14 training shoes that made the prints were found in the shop. The scene appeared to Ruvin to be staged. The footprints were not convincing and nor was the heavily-trashed shop.
The police did their jobs, though. They followed up on Norwood’s story and looked into local ski mask purchases and investigated as best they could. They got nowhere. One week after the attack they arrested Brittany Norwood for murder.
Jayna Murray suffered a quite incredible 331 wounds
It turned out that Norwood had attacked Murray with a veritable arsenal of improvised weapons in what was a prolonged attack involving no random robber rapists from the street. That arsenal included a hammer, a knife, a wrench and a heavy iron bar. In total, poor Jayna Murray suffered a quite incredible 331 wounds before her untimely death. The attack was sustained, brutal and took a considerable amount of strength, effort and determination.
107 of those wounds were defensive wounds, indicating that - quite horribly - Jayna was alive throughout a good deal of the sustained and vicious onslaught. Her face had at least 25 notable injuries. The killer injury appeared to be a stab wound to the back of her head. Jayna had also suffered severe bruising and bleeding to the brain.
At the trial, her defence attorneys conceded that Norwood had killed Jayna Murray, but claimed it was not premeditated. The fight had apparently begun when Jayna confronted Norwood over some yoga pants that she’d stolen from the shop.
It took the jury less than an hour to decide that Brittany Norwood had committed a truly wild and shockingly violent murder.
In January 2012, Norwood was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to a maximum term of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.