In June of 2020, Briana Murphy, with her pet bunny Kush riding shotgun, drove from Portland to Boise, Idaho, to start a new life.

A proud graduate of Deering High School, Murphy was a strong, positive and vivacious young woman, hell-bent on making a difference in the world.

Briana Murphy

“She was a ball of fire,” said her uncle, Gerard “Jerry” Conley, of Portland. “She was on her way up. … She was a pure adventurer. She was always looking for that next best thing because she always believed there would be one.”

Murphy’s life came to a tragic end on Christmas Day. She died from injuries sustained in a car crash at an intersection in Eagle, a suburb of Boise.

Murphy, who was 24, had spent Christmas Day at work, caring for Alzheimer’s patients in the hospice unit at BrightStar Care in Boise. After work, she and her roommates had planned to meet at a friend’s house for dinner.

According to a news release from the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Murphy was a passenger in the back seat of the car, and initial indications were that she was not wearing a seatbelt. The force of the collision caused her to be ejected from the vehicle. She was transported to the hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries. The accident is still under investigation.


Conley said Murphy talked to her mother 15 minutes before the crash.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” her uncle said. “As horrible as this is, we are positive people. We’re good Irish Catholics. We believe we’re going to see her again. I sound crazy, but that’s us.”

Murphy grew up in Portland’s North Deering neighborhood, the middle of three children of Michael and Ann Murphy. She attended Lincoln Middle School and graduated from Deering High in 2015.

As a teenager, she volunteered assisting the blind at the Iris Center in Portland, and one of her first jobs was caring for older people at The Cedars assisted living facility.

She went to the University of Maine with dreams of becoming a nurse. While she didn’t get a nursing degree, her uncle said, she never lost her passion for serving others. While she was in college, she worked for a home-based program for seniors.

“One day, she runs into this 92-year-old woman and finds out, like her, she went to Deering High School,” Conley said. “They immediately both started singing the high school anthem. I just love that picture.”


Murphy had this effortless ability to connect with everyone, her friends and family said. They described her as a kind but fierce person who was confident in herself and stood up for what she believed in. She was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights. Prior to moving to Boise, she participated in Black Lives Matter protests in Portland.

“Briana wasn’t just a good person. She truly had a pure soul,” said longtime friend Juliana Salamone of Portland, Oregon. “She was really the product of a family that values hard work, standing up for what’s right and spending time with those you love. She loved hard and lived big.”

Her cousin, Patrick Conley, 28, of Portland, said he and Murphy talked nearly day. He said Murphy had an infectious laugh, a magnetic personality and commanded any room she entered.

“She wasn’t the life of the party. She was the party,” he said. “It was all eyes on her. She was so much fun. She had so much energy. She was so lively. She was hilarious. She was an awesome person to be around. … She was unapologetically her all the time. I admired that so much. If there was a problem, she let you know. She wasn’t one to beat around the bush.”

Her friend Abdul Zamat of Augusta, who went to high school and college with Murphy, said her loyalty was unquestionable.

“She was 100 percent invested in all of her friends,” Zamat said. “She always had your back. I still can’t fathom this happened. Of all our friends, Bri was a superhero.”


Murphy had most recently been home to spend Thanksgiving with her family and friends.

Her brother, Ryan Murphy, 26, of Portland, said she lived with purpose and intention, and always in service of others.

“She believed that she and everyone ahead of her deserved much more and deserved to live peacefully,” her brother said. “She not only believed that but she manifested that in her life. She walked around like she wasn’t afraid of anything. It was incredible. I’m going to miss my comrade.”

A celebration of Murphy’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland.

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