Trial underway for man accused of killing co-worker

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The trial of a man charged with killing his co-worker and stuffing her body parts in a bag began Monday.

Virginia Beach Police charged Justin Cornell with second-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Brianna Armstrong. Cornell and Armstrong worked together at the Knuckles and Knots Massage Parlor off Newtown Road.

Brianna Armstrong (Credit: Facebook)
Brianna Armstrong (Credit: Facebook)

Armstrong disappeared in May of 2015.  After a month of searching, someone found her dismembered body in garbage bags in the Great Dismal Swamp in Chesapeake. According to court documents, police found the same trash bags and blood in Cornell’s apartment. He also admitted to seeing Armstrong on the day she disappeared.

Family of friends of both Cornell and Armstrong packed the courtroom Monday morning for the start of the trial. Cornell pleaded not guilty to his charges.

Both the defense and prosecutors have finished their opening statements.

During the prosecution’s opening statement we learned Brianna Armstrong and her husband had been married three years when she went missing. Prosecutors say after Armstrong went missing detectives went to Justin Cornell’s house and inside his house they found dozens of knives and swords, a stain on the rug in the bathroom, and a bra on the floor. Cornell admitted to detectives the bra belong to Brianna.

Prosecutors say investigators found Armstrong’s body in the Great Dismal Swamp. Near her body they also found what later turned out to be Justin Cornell’s clothes and underwear, shower curtain, and a medical receipt belonging to Cornell. An autopsy revealed Armstrong was disarticulated, meaning a knife went through her joints. Prosecutor say Cornell was the last person to see Brianna alive. They say all evidence points to the fact that he killed her.

The defense opened by saying there is quite a bit the Commonwealth’s Attorney does not know. The defense attorney said the Commonwealth’s Attorney did not mention that Armstrong and Cornell were in a relationship.  She was having an affair. Employees at Knuckles and Knots did not know Brianna was married and that her husband is a convicted sex offender. The defense attorney said Cornell cooperated and spoke to police four times. He said the day after Brianna was found her husband got an attorney and told police they need a search warrant to look over his house.

The attorneys questioned 35 potential jurors for this trial. The final jurors include: a school nurse, a retired postal supervisor, a mechanic, a retired mechanic, a CPA, two bartenders, an engineer, a professor, a shipyard worker, someone retired, an office manager, a trade manager, an administrative assistant and a DOD civilian employee.

10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cumming’s was in Virginia Beach for the start of the trial. Get the latest updates on WAVY News 10 at 4 p.m.

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