Lululemon: Fashion Craze turned Killing

by Lucy Pruitt

Diet Coke, oversized sweatshirts, and Lululemon “athleisure” apparel. These are the trends and conventions that are beginning to define the culture of our generation as female American university students. But whether we support or simply tolerate these passing customs, how much do we know about the scandals of the apparel we sport? While listening to an episode of the true-crime comedic podcast My Favorite Murder and stretching on my leggings for the day, I was stunned to hear the two hosts name that very brand as the stage for a murder.

In early March of 2011 in Bethesda, MD, Lululemon sales clerks Brittany Norwood and Jayna Murray were attacked by masked men in the store after closing time. The next morning, another employee of the store came in for her shift and quickly realized something was wrong. After asking a man nearby if he would accompany her inside the store to be safe, the two walked in to a scene out of a horror film. Norwood was found tied up and bloodied in the bathroom, while Murray lay dead in a back room. A traumatized Norwood reported that after closing the store, she and Murray walked back in to retrieve a forgotten item. When they re-entered, two men with masks followed them inside, sexually assaulted both women, and proceeded to murder Jayna Murray. But much like the proclaimed quality of the Lululemon company, this story is not what it seems.

After further investigation and a full manhunt for the killers, police found that Norwood’s story simply could not explain the situation. Crimes this violent are rarely committed by complete strangers, and the shopping center in which this store was located had very little history of crime and was considered particularly safe for all shoppers and employees. In addition, the only footprints in the crime scene were Norwood’s, and her wounds as well as the rope that bound her appeared self-inflicted. Medical analysis later revealed that neither woman had actually been sexually assaulted.

Arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Norwood recounted the true happenings of that night. While the two women were working earlier in the store, Murray had witnessed Norwood shoplifting a pair of Lululemon leggings. Murray confronted Norwood about what she had seen after they had closed the store that evening. Claiming she had forgotten something inside and needed to go back, Norwood convinced Murray to enter into the store again. This was when the attack took place. The astounding level of violence ended in 331 separate wounds to Murray’s body and her eventual death. In a clear-minded aftermath, Norwood inflicted wounds on herself to match the story she had concocted of being an innocent victim. She waited, self-bound, in the store with Murray’s body all night, waiting for the next employees to show up and find her.

Though we might never understand the mental state of people like Brittany Norwood, we can always care for the families of victims and reach out to those in need. Whether from a sinful apathy or time priorities, I am not much for obsessively investigating the brands I buy; but in this case, I just could not help myself.  Maybe this story is an example of why we in this capitalistic society we should know the companies we support on a deeper level. Or maybe we could see this as an example of what happens when you worship a certain company or lifestyle so much that some of us could be led to steal and kill. Regardless, stay safe out there and may your athleisure wear always have more leisure than athleticism.