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July 2, 2013 at 1:29 PM

Second-degree murder charge filed in Molly Conley slaying

Erick Walker, suspected of the drive-by shooting that took the life of Seattle teen Molly Conley, appears on a video monitor in Snohomish County Superior Court on Monday. (Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Erick Walker, suspected of the drive-by shooting that took the life of Seattle teen Molly Conley, appears on a video monitor in Snohomish County Superior Court on Monday. (Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office has decided to charge Erick N. Walker with second-degree murder, rather than first-degree murder, in the fatal drive-by shooting of Molly Conley. Walker was also charged this afternoon with five counts of second-degree assault and four counts of drive-by shooting.

Prosecutors had earlier said they planned to charge the 27-year-old Boeing employee with first-degree murder, but opted for second-degree murder after a court hearing this afternoon. In ordering Walker to be held in lieu of $5 million bail, Everett District Court Judge Tam T. Bui found probable cause to hold Walker for investigation of second-degree murder. She said she did not find sufficient probable cause to hold him for investigation of first-degree murder.

First-degree murder generally requires prosecutors to prove an element of premeditation or another aggravating factor, said Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Joan Cavagnaro. In Walker’s case, prosecutors had originally said that the murder was committed with “extreme indifference to human life.”

Second-degree, or felony murder, however, only requires prosecutors to prove that a  person committed a felony, such as pointing a weapon at someone, and as a result of that felonious act caused the death of another person.

“We agreed with the detectives in the moment, but when we went back to the office, we said, ‘Well, the judge wears the black robe so at this point we will file felony murder,’ ” Cavagnaro said.

She said the investigation is far from over, and that prosecutors could still amend the charge to first-degree murder should the evidence warrant it.

Walker, of Marysville, is suspected of killing 15-year-old Conley. Police and prosecutors say Walker was involved in at least a dozen drive-by shootings the night of June 1, when Conley was killed while walking with friends, according to a probable-cause statement filed in the case. Walker was linked to Conley’s shooting through ballistics and damage sustained by his car in a hit-and-run accident the same night.

The damage on his vehicle was consistent with the accident reported by witnesses, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition, Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe said this afternoon that ballistics has matched five of the slugs recovered from the shooting scenes to two firearms owned by Walker.

The Sheriff’s Office says investigators do not believe anyone else was involved in the shootings. They still don’t have a motive.

Walker was arrested Friday near his Marysville house. He was booked into the Snohomish County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree assault and four counts of drive-by shooting.

Conley, known as “4.0” because of her grades at Seattle’s Bishop Blanchet High School, was shot and killed while celebrating her 15th birthday with friends in Lake Stevens. Conley was walking with classmates along South Lake Stevens Road at 11:18 p.m. when someone in a passing vehicle opened fire, striking her in the neck with a bullet.

Walker, who turned 27 today, is employed by Boeing in Everett. His Facebook page features a  photo of rifles and handguns and says he graduated from Stanwood High School and ITT Technical Institute in Everett, where he studied computer network systems.

His neighbors said Walker moved into his Marysville house several months ago. A couple of them met his father, who helped his son get situated in the house.

A woman at Walker’s parents’ home this morning refused to open the door to a reporter.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: drive-by shooting, Lake Stevens, molly conley

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