EVERETT — A Snohomish County judge on Tuesday sentenced a former Boeing mechanic to more than 90 years in prison for a drive-by shooting spree that killed 15-year-old Molly Conley.
“The intent of this court is that you serve the rest of your life in prison,” Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne said.
Erick Walker, 28, showed no emotion as the judge handed down the sentence. The Marysville man is expected to appeal his conviction and his attorney Mark Mestel had advised Walker not to say anything Tuesday.
Walker has denied shooting Molly on June 1, 2013. He also has denied being responsible for gunfire at occupied homes between Lake Stevens and Marysville hours later. One bullet hit a bedroom where young children were sleeping. Another struck a house where a 15-year-old girl was baby-sitting her younger sibling while her parents were out.
Prosecutors have called the shootings random. They’ve never publicly speculated on a motive.
Wynne on Tuesday said after listening to the evidence at trial he believed that Walker wanted to create fear in the community to make himself feel important.
“Mr. Walker, this court considers you a terrorist,” Wynne said.
To protect Snohomish County and to restore some sense of security, the defendant deserves the maximum sentence, the judge said.
“The bullets fired by Mr. Walker have reverberated throughout the community,” Wynne said.
More than 100 people wrote letters to the judge before Tuesday’s hearing. The letters came from Molly’s parents, John Conley and Susan Conroy Arksey, and Molly’s best friends who were with her the night she was shot.
They all ache for Molly. She was a kind, funny, smart girl who was excited about life and all that it could bring. She was a fierce competitor on the lacrosse field. She was a diligent student, who studied two to three hours a day, her mom said. Molly, a freshman at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, earned the nickname “4.0” because of her perfect grade point average. She talked about attending the University of Washington.
“She didn’t have a chance to live that life she worked so hard for,” Conroy Arksey told the judge.
A man who happened upon the chaotic crime scene and administered first aid to Molly also wrote the judge.
“I may have only been with her living, breathing person for about 10 to 15 minutes, but let me be clear, my relationship with Molly continues to this day and she has had, and continues to have, a tremendous impact on my life and the lives of my family,” the man wrote.
He drives by the white cross that was erected along S. Lake Stevens Road where Molly was killed.
“Sometimes I cry a little in grief at her loss, and sometimes I ask her to help me to become a better person,” the man wrote.
Molly was in Lake Stevens, celebrating her 15th birthday with friends, when she was gunned down. She and her friends had walked to Wyatt Park and were headed back in the dark along S. Lake Stevens Road. Prosecutors alleged that Walker drove by the girls at least once before making a U-turn and opening fire at the group. Molly was struck in the neck. She crumpled to the ground and rolled down an embankment.
Detectives didn’t find the bullet that hit Molly. The defense had argued that there was nothing to tie Walker to the deadly shooting.
A jury last month convicted Walker of first-degree manslaughter. Eleven jurors were convinced that Walker was guilty of first-degree murder under the prosecutors’ theory that he showed “extreme indifference to human life” when he fired a pistol from his car. A lone juror was not persuaded and the panel settled on manslaughter.
Jurors also convicted Walker of nine other violent crimes, including a mix of first-degree assaults and drive-by shootings, all while armed with a gun. No one was injured in those shootings. The manslaughter and four assault convictions, along with the firearm enhancements, must run consecutive to each other.
Several jurors were in the courtroom Tuesday to learn Walker’s fate. They spoke with Molly’s parents and family afterward. One juror wrote a letter to Wynne, explaining how devastating it was not to be able to convict Walker of murder.
Molly’s dad, John Conley, thanked the jurors for their service. He remained disappointed with the verdict, saying the evidence had proven that his daughter was murdered. He called for reform in criminal trials.
“This courthouse is a brutal place,” Conley said.
It was brutal, he said, that he was standing with his back to and within arm’s length of the man who “slaughtered his daughter.”
Conley was home that night, keeping an eye on his watch so he could pick up his oldest daughter from prom. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter was being hunted and he wasn’t there to protect her, Conley told the judge.
“That has broken me,” he said.
Conley stared in Walker’s direction as he returned to his seat in the crowded courtroom. Walker, shackled and seated next to his attorney, did not make eye contact.
After the hearing Molly’s mom hugged Snohomish County sheriff’s detective Brad Pince, who led the investigation along with detective Scott Wells.
Detectives arrested Walker less than a month after the shooting. They used gun sales records to determine who had purchased a firearm capable of shooting .30 carbine caliber bullets. Walker’s name came up and detectives learned that he lived a short distance from the site of the Marysville shooting scene. They also discovered that his car had damage to the front end, which was consistent with a hit-and-run crash at the Marysville house the night of the gunfire.
Witnesses testified that paint chips found at the scene matched Walker’s Pontiac G6. A firearms expert testified that bullets found in Lake Stevens and Marysville were fired from Walker’s guns.
The defendant’s co-workers testified during the three-week trial that Walker had seemed obsessed with the shootings. Before his arrest, Walker asked a fellow mechanic what should happen to whoever killed the girl if the gunman was ever caught.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, email@example.com. Twitter: @dianahefley