A Spokane business stalwart is struggling to find answers after his 15-year-old granddaughter was gunned down in Western Washington last month as she walked with friends.
More than 2,000 family members, classmates and teachers attended the funeral last month of 15-year-old Mary C. “Molly” Conley, of Seattle. She is one of 71 grandchildren of 86-year-old John Conley Sr., of Spokane, who founded the White Elephant store in 1946.
“I was sound asleep in the morning,” Conley said, referring to June 2. “One of my daughters lives half an hour across Spokane. I woke up and she was standing over me, crying. Then all hell broke loose. It was the most terriblest thing ever.”
Molly, who was known to friends as “4.0” – as in her grade-point average – was celebrating her birthday June 1 and walking with friends along South Lake Stevens Road in Lake Stevens when someone in a passing vehicle opened fire.
One of several bullets struck Molly in the neck, killing her.
On June 28, several Snohomish County deputies converged on the Marysville home of Erick N. Walker, 27, and arrested him on the charge of first-degree murder and five counts of second-degree assault for the shots fired toward Molly’s friends.
Walker also was charged with four counts of drive-by shooting, including other seemingly random shots fired in the area.
In Everett District Court earlier this month, a judge ordered him held on a $5 million bond but said she didn’t see enough evidence to support a first-degree murder charge.
Prosecutors have until Friday to file charges in Snohomish County Superior Court. They can recharge Walker with first-degree murder if investigators find evidence that Walker displayed extreme disregard for human life, the Seattle Times reported.
In the meantime, the killing left a painful hole in the Conley family.
Molly was the daughter of John Conley Jr. and Susan Arksey and stepfather Matthew Arksey, all of Kenmore, Wash.
Her June 8 funeral at Bishop Blanchet High School drew 2,000 people, the elder John Conley said.
“Every student came. They came in their athletic uniforms and everything. There were 2,000 people and everyone was crying,” Conley said. “They formed a column for us to walk through. It was moving but sad.”
Molly often traveled to Spokane to be with her 10 aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins, who converge on John Conley’s home on the Little Spokane River.
“She was in the prime of her life. She was the finest student we have ever known,” he said. “One day alone, my wife got 43 sympathy cards.”
The family patriarch reflected on his life, the struggles and successes of decades that a bullet made impossible for his granddaughter to experience.
“It just hit me so hard,” Conley said. “It was quite a hell on Earth, and still is.”