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Originally published June 2, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Page modified June 3, 2013 at 3:35 PM

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Blanchet freshman killed in drive-by in Lake Stevens

Molly Conley was celebrating her 15th birthday when she was shot while walking with friends along a Lake Stevens road.

Seattle Times staff reporters

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Her grades earned her the nickname “4.0” and she was celebrating her 15th birthday Saturday night when Molly Conley of Seattle was shot dead while walking with friends along a Lake Stevens road.

Lake Stevens police say she was the victim of a drive-by shooting. There are no suspects, and police have urged anybody with information about the crime to come forward.

On Monday, Lake Stevens police officially handed over the investigation to the Major Crimes Unit of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said Monday morning there were no new developments to report.

Conley, a Bishop Blanchet High School freshman who lived in the Magnolia neighborhood, had just turned 15 on Friday. She was excited about spending Saturday night at a friend’s house in Lake Stevens to further celebrate her birthday, said her mother, Susan Arksey.

She and several friends were walking on the shoulder of the 10600 block of South Lake Stevens Road around 11:18 p.m. when she was shot, police said. The area is residential, with a fast-food restaurant and a convenience store nearby.

Lake Stevens police said they received 911 calls about numerous possible drive-by shootings that evening, although the others only resulted in property damage. It’s not yet clear if the other shootings are related, they said.

The other shootings were reported at 12:45 a.m. Sunday near the 15000 block of 61st Street Northeast in Lake Stevens; and at 2:30 a.m. near the 5400 block of 105th Street Northeast in Marysville.

Arksey said her daughter “just loved being with her family and friends ... she loved the simple joys and she always had a smile for people.”

At Our Lady of Fatima Church in Magnolia on Sunday, hundreds of parents and children filled the sanctuary to honor Conley in a quickly assembled evening prayer service. Many students came wearing Blanchet’s school colors, green and gold.

Blanchet students recalled her as being athletic and studious. Because the school doesn’t have a lacrosse team, Conley played on the varsity team for Roosevelt High School, where teammates called her “4.0” because of her high grades.

“She worked really hard to be a good student,” Arksey said. “She loved drama classes. She studied really hard in geometry class.”

But Conley was more than a straight-A student. She was compassionate, funny and warmhearted, her mother said.

Conley even persuaded her mother and stepfather, Matthew Arksey, to be foster parents to babies waiting for permanent homes.

“Molly would help take care of them, and she was extremely passionate,” Susan Arksey said.

She has two siblings, a brother, Johnny, who is a sophomore at Blanchet, and a sister, Tara, who is a senior at The Center School.

Roosevelt lacrosse coach Vinca Swanson called Conley a skilled, focused player who often gave encouragement and feedback to her teammates.

As a freshman, she started on the JV team, but was often moved up to play in varsity games.

She was easy to coach, and absorbed new information “like a sponge,” Swanson said. But she also had a playful side that endeared her to her teammates.

On one of the last days of the season, Swanson brought the girls doughnuts and got them to play a game of speed-walk lacrosse. Conley played the entire practice speaking in “this horrible British accent, and it was hilarious — everyone was cracking up,” Swanson said.

“Everyone just loved her,” she said. “She was goofy and fun and everyone just loved that energy about her.”

Friend and fellow student Jimmy Sheldrup described Conley as “a phenomenal athlete.” She also played softball and soccer, he said.

“She was so much fun to be around,” Sheldrup said. “She’s going to be missed.”

In a message to the Blanchet community that was posted to the school’s website late Sunday, Blanchet President Antonio DeSapio called the death “a terrible act of random violence.”

News of the deadly shooting also came as a shock to Lake Stevens residents, who described the area as a small, quiet community unaccustomed to random violence.

“We had a vehicular homicide two months ago,” said interim Police Chief Dan Lorentzen. “It does happen, but it’s not an everyday occurrence.”

Police are urging anyone who has information about the crime to call the Lake Stevens Tip Line, 425-377-3214, or the Snohomish County Major Crimes Unit, 425-388-3845.

Conley’s mother wants people to know that her slain child was a wonderful daughter.

“We loved her very, very much,” Arksey said.

Christine Willmsen:

206-464-3261 or cwillmsen@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @Christinesea.

Staff photographer Bettina Hansen contributed to this report.

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