The Mysterious Death of Norwood 'Fixture' Billy (Peanut) Murphy

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Born premature on Aug. 25, 1962, Billy Murphy was a tiny baby who looked like a little “peanut,” one of his older brothers said at the time. The name stuck. Even as a grown-up, everyone knew him as “Peanut.”

Last Wednesday night, a gimpy-legged “Peanut” Murphy walked out of Whalen Park, on the corner of 205th Street and Perry Avenue in Norwood, where he drank Cobra malt liquor – on most nights and days for the past two decades – to pick up some more beer. Probably from the Family Grocery, near Rochambeau Avenue, where we worked for a time (and was paid in beer and cigarettes, according to a friend).

The next day, Murphy lay brain dead at St. Barnabas Hospital, his face and head swollen to the point that he was nearly unrecognizable. Vicar Bob Rainis of Epiphany Lutheran, where Murphy often slept and received the sacrament, said Murphy was so badly beaten and bruised, he mostly identified him by the shamrock tattoo on his forearm.

Rainis read Murphy his last rites on Saturday and he died early Sunday morning, at the age of 47, just 10 days before his birthday.

While most believe Murphy fatally hit his head as the result of bad fall, many believe that even if he did fall (which he was prone to as a heavy drinker with bad legs, the result of a scaffolding accident that left him permanently hobbled.), he was savagely beaten beforehand. In other words, Murphy was murdered.

Police could not be immediately reached for comment, but we'll keep trying.

McKeon Funeral Home, located just a block from Whalen, is taking care of all the funeral arrangements. There will be a wake starting at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Epiphany Lutheran on E. 206th Street, just down the street from Bainbridge Avenue.The funeral service will begin at 7 p.m.

By all accounts, Murphy was a nice guy who struggled mightily with alcohol and stubbornly refused any public assistance aside from the kindness of friends and the congregation at Epiphany Lutheran.

“He's the sweetest man I ever met,” said Jeanie Brady, one of Murphy's friends, who lives near Rochambeau and 206th Street. “He used to help everyone but himself.”