Patrick Murphy, 54, served as sheriff of Snohomish County

For much of the past decade, former Snohomish County Sheriff Patrick Murphy's life was filled with pain.

On one hand, he had chronic physical pain from a 1988 jaw injury he sustained while making an off-duty arrest. Family and friends say he also had the emotional pain from felony prescription-drug charges that eventually were thrown out but may have cost him a term at the helm of the Sheriff's Office.

But through it all, Mr. Murphy continued to help people, tell jokes and do the best he could, they said.

Mr. Murphy died in his sleep Feb. 2. Doctors think intense pain from his jaw caused his heart to flutter and his breathing to stop, said his daughter, Muriel Bosket of Snohomish. He was 54.

At the height of his career in 1995, Mr. Murphy was Snohomish County sheriff. He was chosen by the County Council for the post after former Sheriff Jim Scharf stepped down to become the Everett police chief.

He was on a fast track to a position he always wanted, said his daughter Tennille Murphy of Seattle. "That was always his dream, to become the sheriff."

But his stay at the Sheriff's Office was short. During his 1995 campaign to keep the seat he was appointed to, he was charged with four counts of felony possession of prescription medication.

The charges eventually were dropped, but not until after the election in which Mr. Murphy lost to current county Sheriff Rick Bart.

"They took him through the mud, pretty much. He was a good man," said Bill Snyder, Mr. Murphy's friend and campaign manager.

Family and friends hope Mr. Murphy is remembered for his big heart, sense of humor and many good deeds, rather than the charges that may have cost him a career.

Mr. Murphy spent his time since 1995 helping others with chronic pain through the National Chronic Pain Society, Tennille Murphy said. He was Washington's chapter representative and became somewhat of a poster child for chronic pain.

He was also an advocate for foster children and children in the state's care, she said.

Mr. Murphy continued to be involved in law enforcement. He would travel to police departments as a consultant, helping them make their operations more efficient, she said.

Before serving as county sheriff, Mr. Murphy's law-enforcement career included 13 years as Snohomish police chief. Mr. Murphy helped that department grow from a 9-to-5 operation run out of a basement to a 24-hour department working out of a new building, Tennille Murphy said.

"He brought a level of sophistication to the job that most towns our size had not seen," former Snohomish Mayor Steve Dana said.

Others may remember Mr. Murphy's intelligence. He had two master's degrees — one in public administration, the other in criminal justice, from City University in Bellevue, Tennille Murphy said.

Mr. Murphy was born in McMinnville, Ore., and grew up in Salem. In addition to his two daughters, Mr. Murphy is survived by his wife of 26 years, Susan; daughter Jennifer Gillespie of Stanwood; his son, Oliver Murphy of Snohomish; and his mother, Betty Murphy of Aumsville, Ore.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Friday at Cascade Community Church, 14377 Fryelands Blvd., Monroe.

Seattle Times staff reporter Emily Heffter contributed to this story. Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or