Bullets link murder suspect to other shootings

EVERETT — State forensic scientists have matched five bullets recovered in a string of shootings in Snohomish County with two handguns seized from the home of a Marysville man suspected of the June 1 killing of a Seattle girl, a judge was told Tuesday.

There is “fairly overwhelming circumstantial evidence” that the killing of Molly Conley, 15, and the drive-by shootings a short time later in Lake Stevens and Marysville were committed by the same person, Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said during a brief hearing in Everett District Court.

Judge Tam Bui ruled there’s probable cause to hold Erick Nathaniel Walker, 27, for investigation of second-degree murder and multiple counts of drive-by shooting.

She set his bail at $5 million.

Before the afternoon was out, prosecutors charged Walker with one count of second-degree murder, five counts of second-degree assault and four counts of drive-by shooting.

Molly was shot while walking with friends who joined her in Lake Stevens for a birthday celebration.

Walker is represented by Mark Mestel, a seasoned defense attorney from Everett. The lawyer didn’t contest there is evidence to suspect his client in the drive-bys, but he reserved argument on bail and whether prosecutors have cause to hold his client on a homicide allegation.

Outside the courtroom, Mestel said that no evidence has been produced so far connecting Walker to the girl’s killing.

The investigation continues, Roe said. Among other things, he said, detectives expect to analyze information from cellphones and cellphone towers. The data can be used to place a person near a crime scene at a specific time.

Conley’s killing and gunfire that broke out early June 2 in Lake Stevens and Marysville was investigated by a team of a dozen detectives.

In a 24-page affidavit filed with the court, Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Brad Pince detailed how a trail of spent bullets, paint chips and circumstance led investigators to Walker.

He was arrested Friday after detectives concluded that paint chips and damage to Walker’s black Pontiac G6 coupe are consistent with evidence left when the shooter’s vehicle crashed into a car parked at one of the drive-by shootings, just blocks from the man’s home.

Detectives also determined from firearms registration records, and from reviewing the man’s Facebook photos, that Walker owned a Ruger Blackhawk handgun and M1 carbine rifles, which fire the same .30-caliber ammunition recovered at the drive-by shootings.

When Walker’s weapons were seized, detectives learned he owned two .30-caliber Ruger Blackhawk handguns, Roe said.

Tests by the Washington State Patrol crime lab matched two of the slugs recovered in the investigation to one of the handguns, and three to another, he said.

While no bullets were recovered at the scene of Molly’s killing, the prosecutor said investigators believe they not only have tracked down her killer, but also have identified the firearms he used.

“These are the two weapons that we believe were used in these crimes,” Roe said.

Walker is a Boeing worker who grew up in Stanwood. His most serious brushes with the law so far appear to have been some speeding tickets.

The sheriff’s office on Monday said that they’ve found no connection between him and Molly, and that it appears the gunfire was random.

Prosecutors have until July 19* to move the case to Snohomish County Superior Court. They’ve made clear they’d like to file a first-degree murder charge, based on a theory that the gunfire exhibited extreme indifference to human life. The second-degree murder charge filed Tuesday alleges the killing occurred while Walker was engaged in felony assault.

Scott North: 425-339-3431, north@heraldnet.com.

* Correction: This article has been corrected since it was first posted to accurately state the deadline for prosecutors to move the case to superior court.

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