News Department

UPDATE: Centenary University president’s wife has died following hit-and-run crash in Hackettstown, driver charged

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) – Centenary University First Lady Jeanne Murphy, wife of President Bruce Murphy, Ed.D., passed away on Sunday after a hit-and-run accident that occurred on Saturday, Jan. 7 while on her morning walk in Hackettstown, according to Centenary University.

Jeanne (Picariello) Murphy, 70, from Hackettstown was struck by a vehicle that fled the scene on Saturday, Jan. 7, at around 7:30 a.m., on Reese Ave near First Ave, police said.

Murphy was transported to Hackettstown Medical Center and then flown to Morristown Medical Center where she was pronounced dead on Sunday, Jan. 8, at 12:00 p.m., police said.

The driver of the vehicle, Jefferson Chimbo-Pelaez, 25, from Hackettstown was later charged and lodged in the Warren County Correctional Facility, police said.

This remains an active investigation by the Hackettstown Police Department and the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office. No further information will be released at this time, police said.

A retired U.S. Army colonel, Mrs. Murphy was devoted to her family, as well as working to advance the futures of Centenary University students and veterans. She also took great joy in her dog, Weegee, who was adopted by the Murphy’s last year.

Since Dr. and Mrs. Murphy arrived at Centenary three years ago, they have been enthusiastic supporters of the University, and were familiar faces at many student and alumni events. Mrs. Murphy held a special place in her heart for the University’s Equine Studies program, especially TRAC (Therapeutic Riding at Centenary), which provides horsemanship opportunities for disabled riders and veterans. An Army nurse, her professional experience and knowledge of the field helped to inform the University’s new RN to BSN degree.

Mrs. Murphy was also extremely active in the local Hackettstown community, including as a member of the Hackettstown Business Improvement District (BID), Women’s Club of New Jersey, and especially at community and University events honoring fellow veterans.

During her 30-year career in the military, Mrs. Murphy served with distinction in many leadership roles. She was a member of the United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors and chaired the USOC Multi-Sport Organizations Council for 10 years. For the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, she was designated Chef de Mission for the U.S. Paralympic Team. A former competitive runner and swimmer, Mrs. Murphy was the first woman ever selected to the U.S. Modern Pentathlon Team in 1975.

Mrs. Murphy held a master’s degree in cardiovascular nursing and exercise physiology from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Maryland. In addition to her beloved husband, she leaves behind three brothers, David Picariello of San Francisco, Calif.; Jim Picariello of Rochester, NY, and his wife, Jean; and Gary Picariello of Brindisi, Italy, and his wife, Julia; two nieces, Jasmin Picariello of Washington, DC, and Lauren Picariello of Rochester, NY; and a nephew, Jonathan Picariello, who is serving with the US Air Force.

Arrangements will be announced at a later date. As the Centenary University community mourns this terrible loss, we ask that you pray for Dr. Murphy and his family, while affording them the privacy to grieve.

Counselors will be available on campus this week for the Centenary community to share their feelings about the loss of Mrs. Murphy.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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