PHOENIX (TCD) — Police have arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the death of a hiker who was found with “trauma to her body” last weekend.
On Saturday, April 29, Phoenix Police responded to a report of an injured individual in a “desert area” near 6500 E. Libby St. The victim, later identified as Lauren Heike, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Phoenix Police Lt. James Hester spoke at a press conference Friday, May 5, and shared more details about Heike’s killing. Hester believes Heike was hiking in North Phoenix when the suspect, Zion Teasley, allegedly followed her onto the trail and “brutally attacked” her from behind with a bladed object. Hester said Heike tried to fight off the attacker and flee, but her injuries were “too severe.”
Heike sustained 15 stab wounds, KSAZ-TV reports.
According to KSAZ, some of Heike’s belongings were found along the trail, and investigators believe she was chased over a barbed wire fence due to the state of her clothes. Authorities reportedly found Teasley’s DNA on her shoe.
On May 2, police posted a short video that showed a person of interest, and they collected several items of evidence and hours of video. They were able to develop a forensic profile and used additional images, DNA, and cellphone evidence to identify Teasley as the primary suspect.
Hester said Teasley was arrested at an apartment on May 4 at approximately 6 p.m. He was booked into the Maricopa County Jail on charges of homicide and probation violation.
According to KSAZ, Teasley had been fired from his job recently due to his “aggressive” behavior toward female employees, and he was accused of stealing products as well. His former employer reportedly identified him in surveillance video and said he was wearing clothes stolen from their store.
Teasley allegedly carried a 3-inch blade pocketknife with him, which is consistent with Heike’s wounds.
During an interview, Teasley told police that he is a Christian and struggles with his sexuality, KSAZ reports. He reportedly said he recognized Heike but couldn’t explicitly say she was killed or that he had met her.
According to KSAZ, when asked if he planned to kill Heike, Teasley said, “I am definitely not the person who plans to kill another person.”
He added, “If I was going to do something like that, it wouldn’t be premeditated.”
Police did not release a motive.
Prior to Heike’s death, Teasley was in prison from July 2021 to November 2022 for armed robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, and kidnapping.
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