Former MHS star Molly (Toon) Lillard killed in murder-suicide

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MTT News's picture
Matt Geiger and Rob Reischel
Former Middleton High School standout Molly Toon was killed Sunday./File photo

A member of one of Middleton’s most beloved families died tragically Sunday. Molly Elizabeth Lillard, who grew up here as Molly Toon, was shot to death by her husband in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to police.

She was 28 years old.

According to a statement issued by the Scottsdale Police Department, just prior to 5 p.m. on Sunday officers responded to reports of a shooting at a residence in the 8600 block of East Thornwood Drive. On arrival, officers discovered a female subject “to the front of the residence with obvious gunshot wounds.”

She was quickly extricated from the scene and transported to an area hospital. She did not survive her injuries.

Police said at the same time, it was learned that the male shooter, who was the victim’s husband, had gone back into the house. Barricade procedures were initiated by police.

“For several hours officers attempted to establish communication with the male with no success,” said officer Kevin Watts. “At approximately 10:45 p.m. SWAT officers were able to make entry into the home where the male suspect was discovered deceased from what is believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

On Monday, the victim was identified as Molly Elizabeth (Toon) Lillard. Her husband, 36-year old Royce Dale Lillard III, was identified as the suspect.

The two were married just more than two years ago. Police said the couple’s eight-month-old baby was inside the home at time of the incident and was not injured. 

“At this point in the investigation all indications are that this was a murder-suicide,” said Watts.

“At this point we can confirm that the couple’s eight-month-old child was present at the time of the incident,” he continued. “That child was not injured and currently is in the care of family.”

The news sent shockwaves through the community, where the Toons are widely considered the first family of Middleton.

Molly, a 2010 graduate of Middleton High School, was one of the finest volleyball players in school history.

Toon, a standout outside hitter, led Middleton to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in both 2008 and 2009. She was a two-time captain, was named second-team all-state twice and played collegiately at the University of Michigan.

While Toon was a ferocious player on the court, she was fun-loving and jovial off of it.

“I am in absolute shock,” said Laura (McGinnis) Wilkinson, a 2010 MHS graduate and a volleyball teammate of Toon. “Molly was such a good person, such a light in this world. It feels like things like this shouldn’t happen to good people.”

“I really looked up to Molly both on and off the court,” she continued. “On the court, the thing I will remember the most about Molly is how she was such a strong leader, so mature, tough and inspirational. She was able to shake off anything and keep pushing us all to be our best. Off the court, she was so light-hearted, had an infectious energy and laugh and was so hard working at everything she did.”

Franco Marcos, who coached Middleton for 23 seasons — including all four of Toon’s years — had similar recollections.

“I coached her all the way back in club when she was 13 and the one thing that stands out is just how great Molly and her entire family were,” Marcos said. “They were always so great and supportive.”

“She was definitely a really aggressive player and very determined,” Marcos added. “She had a ‘get me the ball’ attitude and she knew what to do with it. When it was crunch time, she wanted the ball.”

“When I found out (on Monday), for about 90 minutes, I didn’t get much done. It’s just so sad. You start thinking of the family left behind.”

Toon was a four-year letter-winner at Middleton who got better every season.

She was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference as a junior in 2008 and a senior in 2009. She was also named second-team all-state both of those seasons.

Toon was huge reason Middleton won 60 consecutive conference matches between 2005-2009. In the 2009 season, she led the Cardinals with 463 kills and 402 digs. At the state tournament that season, she set a state record that still stands with 20 digs in a three-set match during a quarterfinal win over D.C. Everest. She also had 19 kills in that match and hit a blistering .484.

In Toon’s final two seasons, Middleton went 77-17 overall, including 41-6 her senior year.

She then enjoyed a stellar four-year career at Michigan.

“She was a great captain,” Marcos said. “She held kids accountable and was one of the big reasons we were so successful.”

Success certainly runs in the Toon family, which includes parents Al and Jane, and siblings Nick, Kirby and Sydney.

Al was a former standout wide receiver at the University of Wisconsin and a three-time Pro Bowler with the New York Jets. Nick also played football at the UW, was a fourth-round draft choice of the New York Jets in 2012 and played three NFL seasons. Kirby played volleyball at the University of Wisconsin and Sydney played at UW-Whitewater.

Former Middleton football coach Tim Simon hired Al Toon to coach receivers while Nick was at MHS. And Simon remembers Molly — and the entire family — as salt of the earth people.

“When I think of Molly and the whole family, they were just very down to earth, very giving and just outstanding character people,” said Simon, who’s an MHS assistant today. “All four kids were always smiling. You just couldn’t ask for more giving people than Al and Jane.

“There are just no words here that come to mind. To lose a life like this is devastating. To have it happen to a family as prominent as this is just awful.”

Brad Rogeberg, a Middleton football assistant the majority of the past 30 years and the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator today, once taught Molly Toon in a strength training class. Like everyone else, Rogeberg was stunned when he heard the news of her death.

“She was such an amazing student athlete at MHS,” Rogeberg said. “Her smile was electric. She was always positive and my heart goes out to the Toon family.”

On Monday night, McGinnis reflected back on happier times — like the 2009 state volleyball tournament or the countless pasta parties at the Toon house.

“Molly, Hallie (Zubella) Dybevik and I roomed together at the state tournament our senior year and we had so much fun making up dances to NSYNC and Backstreet Boys songs the night before we played,” McGinnis said. 

“I have so many fun, bonding memories the night before big games,” McGinnis said. “The whole Toon family was always so supportive and such an important part of our volleyball community. Kirby and Molly were such an honor to play with.”


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