Court upholds conviction for Marysville man who shot teenager

LAKE STEVENS — The Marysville man convicted of gunning down 15-year-old Molly Conley three years ago has failed to convince the state Court of Appeals that his trial in Snohomish County was flawed.

In an opinion filed earlier this week, the appellate court upheld Erick Walker’s felony convictions despite the defense’s attacks on multiple fronts, including an argument that jurors never should have been allowed to consider a first-degree murder charge.

After a lengthy and emotional trial, the jury convicted Walker of first-degree manslaughter. Eleven jurors were convinced that the former Boeing mechanic 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, hitting Molly in the neck. 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.

“We believed in our case. We thought we had the evidence to convict on all charges. We’re pleased the Court of Appeals affirmed,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Janice Albert said this week. She defended the state’s case on appeal.

Molly’s dad said Friday that he and his family are relieved by the court’s affirmation of the verdict.

“We miss Molly like crazy,” John Conley said. “She’s always on our mind.”

Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne presided over the trial. The longtime jurist sentenced Walker to more than 90 years in prison.

“Mr. Walker, this court considers you a terrorist,” Wynne said at the sentencing hearing.

Walker had denied shooting Molly on June 1, 2013. He also denied being responsible for gunfire at homes between Lake Stevens and Marysville hours later. One bullet hit a bedroom where children were asleep. Another struck a house where a teenager was baby-sitting her younger siblings.

Prosecutors called the shootings random and never publicly speculated on a motive.

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 group at least once before making a U-turn and opening fire. Molly fell to the ground and rolled down an embankment.

The bullet that struck Molly was never found, but bullets from the other drive-by shootings were.

Detectives arrested Walker less than a month after Molly was killed. They used gun sales records to determine who had purchased a firearm capable of shooting .30 caliber carbine bullets. Walker’s name was on the list. He lived a short distance from the site of a Marysville shooting scene. His car had front-end damage, 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.

Walker told detectives he’d been in the Lake Stevens area the night Molly was killed. He claimed he got lost.

In his appeal, Walker argued that his statements to Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives weren’t admissible because he wasn’t provided an attorney.

Former homicide detective Brad Pince read Walker his rights before questioning him.

Walker asked, “Well, is there an attorney present?”

The detective said there wasn’t, but Walker could get one, although it would take some time. Walker said nothing more about a lawyer and signed a form, waiving his constitutional rights.

The state Court of Appeals found that Walker’s question wasn’t an unequivocal request for a lawyer. Wynne was right to admit Walker’s statements at trial, the judges wrote.

The court also denied Walker’s arguments that evidence should have been suppressed based on claims that the search warrants were faulty. The judges also weren’t persuaded that Wynne erred when he permitted prosecutors to present a demonstration conducted by sheriff’s detectives to illustrate whether it was possible for a shot fired from the window of Walker’s car to hit Molly in the neck.

“The photos do not reenact the shooting and their emotional impact is minimal. Differences between the demonstration and the actual events were addressed in cross examination,” the appellate judges wrote.

Walker also attacked the first-degree murder charge. He claimed there wasn’t enough evidence for the jury to reasonably infer that he committed murder.

He conceded that the state proved he fired the shots in Lake Stevens and Marysville “but he asserts that there was no basis for a reasonable finder of fact to infer that Walker fired the shot that killed (Molly).”

“We disagree,” the court wrote.

Molly was a freshman at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle. She earned the nickname “4.0” because of her perfect grade point average. She talked about attending the University of Washington.

Several jurors attended Walker’s sentencing hearing. One juror wrote a letter to Wynne, explaining how devastating it was not to be able to convict Walker of murder.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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