Shooter guilty of manslaughter, not murder, in Molly Conley killing

EVERETT — Not long after 15-year-old Molly Conley was gunned down in 2013 in Lake Stevens, her parents asked that their daughter be remembered for how she lived, not how she died.

Molly walked through life with grace and kindness, her family said. She inspired her parents, siblings, friends and classmates to be their best selves. She was brave and true. The Bishop Blanchet High School freshman from Seattle was an enthusiastic competitor on the lacrosse and soccer fields. She was nicknamed “4.0” because of her impeccable grade point average.

Her dad on Monday again asked that his daughter be remembered for her meaningful life and the joy she brought others.

“Molly was a beautiful, beautiful child and we all miss her so much,” John Conley said through tears Monday, clutching his daughter’s copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” her favorite book.

The grieving father abruptly left a courtroom on Monday when a Snohomish County Superior Court jury convicted his daughter’s killer of manslaughter, not murder, after a three-week trial.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on a first-degree murder charge after more than nine hours of deliberation. They were deadlocked on the murder charge on Friday but were instructed to return Monday to see if they could reach a verdict.

The jury convicted Erick Walker, 28, of nine other crimes, including a mix of armed assaults and drive-by shootings for gunfire that hit homes and cars from Lake Stevens to Marysville.

The sentences for manslaughter and the other crimes are likely to amount to life behind bars for the Marysville man, a former Boeing mechanic. He is to be sentenced on April 21.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutors Ed Stemler and Edirin Okoloko said that each of the four assault convictions, along with the firearm enhancements, must run consecutive to each other.

“We’re comfortable with the jury’s verdict,” Okoloko said. “At least he’s being held accountable for (Molly’s) death.”

John Conley and other relatives were visibly upset that the jury didn’t convict Walker of murder.

Prosecutors didn’t claim that the June 1, 2013, killing was intentional but charged the case under the theory that Walker showed an “extreme indifference to human life” when he fired a revolver from his moving car.

Molly was struck in the neck as she and five friends walked along a dark road in Lake Stevens. She had been celebrating her 15th birthday at a slumber party.

“It’s a miscarriage of justice,” John Conley said Monday afternoon.

The verdict, he said, has left him and his family confused and heartbroken. The evidence showed that Walker was guilty of murder, John Conley said.

With their verdict, jurors concluded that Walker’s reckless actions caused Molly’s death.

It was unclear Monday how divided the jury was on the murder charge.

Defense attorney Mark Mestel said he was disappointed with the outcome.

“Our feeling is there was no evidence to tie him to that homicide,” Mestel said.

The bullet that killed Molly was never recovered, despite an extensive search by Snohomish County sheriff’s investigators and, later, by search and rescue volunteers.

Mestel also said that he thought the defense had proved that Walker was in Arlington, not Lake Stevens, during the time of the drive-by shootings.

A ballistics expert had testified that bullets recovered from houses and cars matched the two pistols that Walker owned. A forensic video analyst told jurors that Walker’s Pontiac was consistent with a vehicle captured on a home surveillance camera the night of the shooting, blocks from where the girl was killed. Jurors were told that broken headlight pieces found at the Marysville shooting scene fit the damaged headlight recovered from Walker’s father.

Walker was arrested 27 days after the killing and admitted to Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives Brad Pince and Kendra Conley that he had been driving around Lake Stevens the night of the shooting.

Co-workers testified that Walker seemed strangely obsessed with news stories about the case. Another Boeing mechanic testified that Walker asked him what should happen to whoever killed the girl if the gunman was caught.

Mestel said Walker will appeal his convictions and “try to convince the courts that he didn’t receive a fair trial.”

Walker’s parents left the courtroom without speaking to reporters. Their son didn’t have any prior criminal convictions.

John Conley later lauded the courage and strength of Molly’s friends, the five girls who were with her the night she died. They testified during the trial, and jurors heard their panicked 911 calls as they tried to get help for their friend.

They were victims, too, Conley said.

“Their commitment to justice for Molly has been unwavering,” he said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley

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