Tarrano Murry tried to get a trace of his 18-year-old daughter’s scent as he packed up her dorm at Bradley University, one week after she was shot to death at an off-campus party.
He came across her backpack and inside found a folder of neatly organized notes the biomedical science major kept, though he couldn’t make sense of them.
“I wish there was a way I could just finish what she was studying,” Murry said. “I know it’s kind of hard but I wish one of my other kids could follow what she was doing, but it’s up to them.”
His daughter, Nasjay Murry, dreamed of becoming the family’s first doctor. But instead, months after the Chicago native had started her freshman year, her family is finalizing the details of her funeral this weekend in Chicago.
Nasjay Murry was at an off-campus party early April 8 when gunshots rang out and she was shot to death, Peoria police said. Another person at the party, Anthony Polnitz, 22, of Peoria, was also fatally shot, Peoria police said. A third person was wounded but survived the shooting.
That morning, Tarrano Murry’s 11-year-old daughter called to tell him about the shooting.
“That’s when everything just went sour,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe it … I just couldn’t.”
A 16-year-old boy is charged with first-degree murder, but officials have not named him because of his age. Police don’t believe anyone else will be charged, but Murry wants to see anyone else who was involved criminally charged. About 100 people, a mix of Bradley students and Peoria residents, attended the off-campus party in the 1800 block of West Bradley Avenue, police said.
In the past week, Murry has tried to piece together what happened and has learned his daughter was near a door when the gunshots started.
“I don’t understand why people from the neighborhood, you know people like gang-banging guys, would come to something like that,” he said. “They aren’t in school or nothing. It’s like they brought the devil there.”
Nasjay Murry was the oldest of three, and she had two additional stepsisters, her father said. Her paternal grandmother, Patricia Hill, said the teen would stress out about her classes, but that she always managed to end up with good grades. She graduated from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School on the city’s South Side.
David Narain, the principal at King College Prep, said Murry was a quiet student but would open up in one-on-one conversations. It wasn’t unusual to see her working on homework inside the school long past when classes ended, he said. She was also concerned about her community on the South Side, Narain said. He remembers talking to her about how she could make an impact in her community.
“All of our students are very bright,” Narain said. “They go away to school to escape the violence and the circumstances that are associated with the South Side of Chicago, but even for Nasjay that (was) not necessarily the case.”
Murry had been accepted to several schools, including the prestigious Brown University, and the staff at the high school tried to persuade her to attend the Ivy League school in Providence, R.I. But the tug of her family and its support pulled hard, and she worried about the cultural clash she would experience at a predominately white campus, Narain said.
“I think she was a little nervous about whether she would be successful in that environment without her support structure,” Narain said. At Bradley, she figured she was only a bus and train ride away from her family.
Through Snapchat, Murry stayed in touch with her high school friends as they sent photos while they studied or other times wished one another good night and good morning. And through Facebook, April Hill, one of her cousins, helped the teen with her school work.
But Murry didn’t take herself too seriously, calling herself the professional goofball, her cousin said. She remembers Murry would spontaneously start singing songs by New Edition, a 1980s R&B group, as she cleaned around the house.
“She had dance battles with her sister, singing battles with her uncles and rap battles with her dad,” Hill said. “She was a ball of fun.”
Tia Rice, a high school friend, recalled “Can You Stand the Rain,” by New Edition was one of Murry’s favorite songs. It was one of the songs she often sang while they were getting ready for gym class in high school.
“Every time we would get ready, we would have to go to the locker to change and we would bang on the lockers and make beats and make songs,” Rice said.
Kiera Myles, another high school friend, remembers long bus rides for trips they took as part of the school’s band.
“We watched movies, we cut jokes, sing songs, we tell stories,” Myles said. “And then after a while when everyone fell asleep, we fell asleep.”
Myles and Rice plan to travel back to Chicago to attend the funeral. On Monday, a relative dropped off pop at the family’s North Kenwood home for the funeral. Patricia Hill and Tarrano Murry can’t shake the image of Nasjay Murry at the Peoria County coroner’s office. It all still seems unbelievable to the family.
“She didn’t deserve this at all,” her father said. “She was just beginning her life, her new life. For someone to take it for their drama … it’s just the hardest part.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.