By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — News of the arrest of a suspect in the fatal drive-by shooting of 15-year-old Molly Conley was welcomed in the community in which the crime occurred.
“Hopefully this will lead to a little bit of closure,” said Tony Morea, commander of the Lake Stevens American Legion Post No. 181. The post established a reward fund for information leading to finding the girl’s killer.
“We can’t put ourselves in her shoes.”
Erick Nathan Walker was arrested by Snohomish County Sheriff’s deputies Friday night for investigation of first-degree murder, according to county jail records. He also is being investigated for four counts of drive-by shooting and five counts of assault with a weapon. He was held without bail in the Snohomish County Jail.
The Sheriff’s Office said Friday that deputies arrested a 26-year-old man as a suspect in the case that evening at his Marysville home. The arrest took place without incident. No other information was released.
Conley, of Seattle, was visiting friends in Lake Stevens on June 1 to celebrate her birthday. A straight-A student at Seattle’s Bishop Blanchet High School, Molly turned 15 on May 31, the day before her death.
Molly and several friends were walking along S. Lake Stevens Road near S. Davies Road when the girl was shot through the neck. Police reported receiving the call about the shooting at 11:18 p.m.
Walker’s Facebook page says he worked at Boeing, studied computer network systems at ITT Tech in Everett and attended Stanwood High School.
A photo showing several firearms laid out on tables is posted in three different locations on the Facebook page.
Police received three other reports of gunfire in the Lake Stevens-Marysville area the night Molly was killed. A shots-fired call was reported around 12:45 a.m. near the 15000 block of 61st Street NE, northeast of the fatal shooting. Another occurred around 2:30 a.m. near the 5400 block of 105th Street NE in north Marysville. No injuries were reported.
Police in Marysville also received a report of shots being fired at a home and two cars in the 10500 block of 56th Drive NE around 2 a.m. June 2. No one was hurt.
Detectives put out a public request for help in Molly’s case, including reverse 911 calls to 4,000 phones. Police asked for information about any black passenger vehicles that had front and passenger side damage.
Police did not release details Saturday about the information that led to Walker’s arrest.
The Lake Stevens community responded to the tragedy with a strong show of support for Molly and her family. Area residents and the girl’s friends held a march in her honor on June 17.
As of Saturday the Legion Post’s reward fund had reached $9,637. Included in that total are $2,000 from the city of Lake Stevens and another contribution from the Lake Stevens Police Guild, Morea said.
He said a couple of the Legion post’s members said they wanted to contribute to a reward, which led to the establishment of the fund.
“I’m really impressed with the whole community, everyone seemed like they rallied together,” said Calandra Alexander, assistant manager of the Lake Stevens Wells Fargo bank branch where the fund was established.
“Every day people came in wanting to donate to the reward fund.”
Vanette Clark, a manager at the Lake Stevens Albertsons store, welcomed news of the arrest. She said she hopes whoever is responsible does not receive a slap on the wrist.
“You can’t bring back a life,” she said.
Clark said the crime hit the town as if the victim were one of its own.
“This is a small little community; this has been devastating,” she said. “I have two small grandchildren, I was afraid of going out with them. When people come here, they should be safe wherever they go.”
Morea said he spoke with Conley’s mother, Susan Arksey, a few days ago before the arrest. Her pain was still fresh.
“It was like it just happened,” he said.
“We hope the investigation has found the person who did it. We’re praying for it and keeping our fingers crossed that this will all come to an end soon.”
Herald writers Diana Hefley and Rikki King contributed to this report.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.