Family hopes to create law in honor of murder victim

February 3, 2012 8:33:45 PM PST
Jayna Murray spent much of her childhood in the Houston area and her parents still live here. A week ago, a coworker was sentenced for killing her in an upscale athletic store.

It happened in Bethesda, Maryland and left the community stunned and scared. Now, Murray's father is talking about how he hopes to turn his daughter's murder into something that could save others.

"I miss Jayna more that I can express in words," David Murray said.

They are the words that helped put his daughter's killer behind bars. And now David Murray can read them with relief.

"It's over with. We know what the sentence is now," he said.

Last Friday in a packed courtroom in Maryland, Brittany Norwood was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of Jayna Murray, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University who spent much of her childhood in the Houston area. She died a violent death last March in the Lululemon store where she worked. Norwood worked there too, killing her, prosecutors say, after Jayna discovered a pair of stolen yoga pants in her bag.

"If this person did not have the money to buy the yoga pants, Jayna would have bought them for her," David Murray said.

Instead, investigators said Murray struck Jayna more than 300 times with five weapons, including a metal display holder, and initially tried to pretend she had been a victim, too, of two masked men.

In a scathing pre-sentence statement, the judge called her one hell of a liar. To Jayna's father, she's a monster.

"Well, I know she is the most evil person I've ever had enter my life," he said.

But he tries not to think about her and in fact has seldom said her first name. Jayna was his only daughter. She was active, kind, and her smile was infectious.

"I will miss her smile, her hugs; she was very free with her hugs," David Murray said.

With the court part of the case now over, Murray hopes Jayna's murder could one day help other victims. During the trial, a manager from the Apple store next door testified they had heard his daughter's cries for help.

A law needs to be written that you and I need to obey that if we find someone, hear someone, see someone in distress, we need to give a hand.

Meantime, he and his wife are still struggling.

His hope for this victim impact statement he read in court last week is that those listening would learn more about the daughter he will never forget.

David Murray and his wife--Jayna's mother--live in Montgomery County. They will start working soon, Murray says, to get a member of congress on board to establish what he's calling the Good Samaritan Law.

Jayna moved to Maryland, after working for Halliburton in order to pursue her love for health and fitness. To honor that, her family created the Jayna Murray Foundation, which gives scholarships to students also passionate about healthy lifestyles. It held its first 5K benefit run in September.