Some cops have police work in their blood. Charles Murray had it in his head.
Colleagues credit the 25-year police veteran with helping to organize the area's largest chop-shop sting operation in the late 1980s. He died unexpectedly on Saturday of cardiac arrest, his sister, Jane Flaherty, said. He was 64.
The Banksville resident grew up in Mount Washington and was the son of a teacher and an accountant. In 1969, he enrolled in the police academy, where he met Dan Cuneen. Once they were officers, they spent 15 years as partners before both took a buyout. It was such a good team that the duo was always transferred together -- from vice to auto back to vice.
"Charlie was a paper guy who was organized and Dan was a street guy who understood criminals," said Allegheny County Sheriff Bill Mullen, who came up through the detective division with them. "They did an excellent job together as a unique match.
"He wasn't your typical gung-ho cop," Mr. Mullen said of Mr. Murray. "He brought a cerebral edge to vice squad. He knew the law. He read and made sure he was on top of all that. He had courage but he wasn't a swaggerer.
"He and Cuneen worked one of the largest stings where Cuneen was the undercover guy buying stolen cars and Charlie was organizing it, getting the paper work together and getting ready for prosecution." The sting resulted in 180 arrests.
Mr. Cuneen said his partner was "a good report writer. He could put the whole situation together in a complete way. He was able to develop the informant. People don't just come up and say 'I want to give you information.' You gain trust in people. They knew if they told Skip, it wasn't going to get out on the street.
"We never argued over any case. We'd come in and he'd do the report and I'd do the evidence."
Remembered as hard-working, with a dry sense of humor, Mr. Murray liked to study people.
When he went on beach vacations with his sister's family, he either read books or observed people in the houses around them. It impressed his niece, Cristin Flaherty, that he would usually figure out what they did and how they were related.
"Then he would talk to them and find out if he was right," Ms. Flaherty said. "He was really interested in people."
She said she and Mr. Murray once discussed their work. "I said, 'You know, work is work. Nobody likes work,' and he said, 'Not true. I loved my job.'"
Mr. Murray and John McMahon, another retired officer, were part of a crew of six men who rented a motor home to drive to one Pitt football away game a year. The crew also met every Monday night at the Huddle in Beechview to watch football or whatever sport was televised.
"He was the first of our group to go," said Mr. McMahon.
A mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. today at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, 310 Mansfield Ave., Green Tree.
Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1626.