By Diana Hefley and Rikki King Herald Writers
EVERETT — The bullet that killed 15-year-old Molly Conley was one of several that was fired in what appears to be a random shooting spree in Snohomish County last month.
The suspected shooter is Erick N. Walker, a Marysville man who worked second-shift at the Boeing plant in Everett. Detectives contend that Walker is linked to Molly’s death through clues left at multiple crime scenes. He is suspected of firing multiple rounds as he drove from Lake Stevens to his Marysville home in the late hours of June 1 into the early hours of June 2.
The Seattle girl was struck in the neck as she and five friends walked back from Wyatt Park in Lake Stevens on June 1. Molly was celebrating her 15th birthday, staying with one of her friends, whose father lives in Lake Stevens.
Detectives don’t believe Walker, who turns 27 on Tuesday, knew Molly or any of her friends.
He also doesn’t appear to have any connection to the houses and vehicles that were hit by gunfire after Molly was killed. One bullet struck a Lake Stevens home where a 15-year-old girl was babysitting her 9-year-old sister. Another bullet broke a window in a bedroom where two young children were sleeping.
No one was hurt in those shootings.
On Monday, Walker made his first court appearance since his arrest on Friday. His attorney Mark Mestel asked for the hearing to be postponed until Tuesday afternoon to give him more time to review the 20-plus page police affidavit that lays out the case against his client.
Walker remained in jail without bail; prosecutors are expected to ask for $5 million.
Detectives arrested Walker for investigation of first-degree murder and multiple counts of second-degree assault and drive-by shooting. He has not been charged. There is no indication in court documents that Walker intended to kill Molly, a straight-A freshman at Seattle’s Bishop Blanchet High School. Detectives are recommending he be charged with first-degree murder under the theory that he caused the teen’s death “under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.”
At this time, it appears Walker acted alone, reporters were told at a press conference Monday.
“Detectives are still working very hard and are continuing to work on the case,” Undersheriff Tom Davis said.
Investigators say they have no motive for the shootings, and at this point Molly appears to be the victim of random gunfire.
Documents released Monday morning detail a complicated police investigation pieced together through evidence collected at multiple crime scenes and more than a dozen witness statements, including the five girls who were with Molly when she was killed.
Detectives worked around the clock, tracking down leads wherever they could. There wasn’t any big tip that cracked the case, said Snohomish County sheriff’s Lt. Brent Speyer.
A dozen detectives from multiple police departments “worked their tails off” for a month, Speyer said. “They had one mission and that was to get justice for Molly and her family. There is nothing more serious than when somebody takes someone else’s life.”
Molly collapsed on the road after her friends heard a pop that sounded like fireworks and saw an oncoming, dark-colored car drive past. The girls flagged down another car for help. The shooting was reported about 11:18 p.m.
In the hours that followed, police received reports of a several drive-by shootings in Lake Stevens and Marysville. More incidents were reported the next day when people noticed damage to their vehicles and homes. One shooting was reported at a house less than a half mile from Walker’s home.
Detectives collected at least five spent rounds from the various scenes. No rounds where recovered at the homicide scene, court documents said.
The shootings appear to have been done by somebody using a .30-caliber firearm, detectives determined with the help of ballistics experts at the Washington State Patrol crime lab. Purchase records show Walker bought a .30-caliber Ruger Blackhawk handgun earlier this year at a Tulalip sporting goods store.
The weapon uses ammunition similar to that used in .30-caliber M-1 carbines. A search of Walker’s home turned up the Ruger as well as two carbines, the documents say.
His Facebook page includes a prominent photo showing several firearms laid out on tables, including the type of weapons detectives believe were used in Conley’s killing. Investigators haven’t yet determined whether a rifle or handgun was used, but detectives were told that the bullets recovered from the drive-bys likely can be matched to a specific weapon, according to court papers.
Paint chips and damage to Walker’s black Pontiac G6 coupe also are consistent with evidence left when the shooter’s vehicle crashed into a car parked at one of the Marysville shootings, the documents say.
Walker was arrested as he was leaving his house Friday. He spoke with detectives for nearly three hours. Walker did not confess to killing Molly or randomly firing at houses and cars, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.
He reportedly gave police conflicting accounts of where he went after his shift on June 1. He reported going to a downtown Everett pub, where he said he drank up to three beers and up to three shots of whiskey. Detectives later recovered a receipt showing a $67 bar receipt printed around 10:10 p.m. When confronted about the discrepancies, Walker reportedly admitted going to Lake Stevens in search of a restaurant. He said he got lost and drove around the lake a couple of times. He said he may have seen six girls walking along a road in Lake Stevens, court papers said.
He told police his car was damaged in the Boeing parking lot a couple of weeks ago. He said he didn’t report the damage to anyone and recently replaced a broken headlight.
Walker reportedly detailed the guns he owns, including the “more valuable weapons” stored at his parents Camano Island home, court papers said. A handgun and rifle were found in his car when he was arrested. Walker said he had the weapons because he had planned to go shooting over the weekend.
Molly’s parents released a statement Monday, again praising detectives for their work.
“We are grateful to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department, especially Detective Brad Pince and Undersheriff Tom Davis, for their ongoing dedication and kindness to us during this horrific time. Their efforts bring great relief to our family and the Lake Steven’s community,” the family wrote.
They also asked that their daughter’s life not be overshadowed by the circumstances of her death.
Molly, nicknamed “4.0” for her perfect grades, inspired her classmates, teammates, friends and family “to live better lives, to find hope in the midst of hardship, and to play the game — whether soccer, lacrosse, or life — with enthusiasm, determination, and joy,” her parents wrote.
Scott North contributed to this report.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.