Bethesda Row Businesses Continuing Focus on Safety, Banding Together In Wake of Homicide
Life is slowly returning to normal, but a "sense of sadness and loss" remains.
Even though the Bethesda community is “breathing easier” after Friday’s arrest in the Lululemon homicide case, safety remains a top priority for businesses on Bethesda Row as life in the downtown slowly returns to normal.
In a shocking twist in the investigation, police arrested a woman late last week they initially described as the surviving victim of an attack by two masked men at the Lululemon store on Bethesda Avenue. Lululemon employee Brittany Norwood, 28, told police that she and her co-worker Jayna Murray, 30, had both been beaten and sexually assaulted by two masked men. Murray, Norwood said, was killed in the attack.
Later, police said Norwood’s story started to unravel. In court Monday, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said that it was in fact Norwood who killed Murray and then later covered it up, staging the crime scene to make it appear as though an attack had taken place.
After receiving initial information from Norwood, police characterized the attack as a “random crime of opportunity,” leaving many in the Bethesda community fearful and heightening safety precautions. But after learning of the twist in the case, many in the business community are still describing the homicide as an “eye-opener” in an area many consider to be one of the safest in the region.
Gillian Markert, a manager at Ginger, a boutique on Bethesda Lane, said the shop is considering installing more cameras.
Besides taking extra safety precautions, many of the stores are bonding together in the wake of the homicide, Markert said. Businesses have tied white ribbons on their doors to honor Murray’s memory.
“There’s still such a sense of sadness and loss,” said Megan Hood, a buyer at Urban Chic.
However, learning the crime wasn’t a random one has eased fears to an extent. Hood said she no longer felt the need to look over her shoulder walking to the Metro alone at night.
“Personally, I’m a little relieved, but it’s still horrific and awful,” said Amy McLachlan, of Urban Chic.
If anything, the sense of community on Bethesda Row is even stronger, Markert said.
Following Friday’s vigil for Murray, “I have everyone’s business card,” Markert said. “Some owners who never knew each other, never talked to each other, now do.”
The Lululemon shop remains closed, with paper covering the windows and a makeshift memorial of flowers, cards and well-wishes outside. A spokesman for the company didn't know when the shop would re-open.
In the week following the murder, business was slow, and normally crowded Bethesda Row was unusually quiet after dark. Following the arrest, Bethesda Row boutiques are staying open later after shuttering their doors early in the days following the homicide, and the streets are once again bustling during the evenings.
“We have to carry on, but we won’t forget,” Markert said.