With suspect in custody, new details emerge about murder of Lauren Heike in Phoenix
May 6, 2023, 9:10 AM | Updated: 9:14 am
(Photos via Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Phoenix Police Department)
PHOENIX — The man accused of killing Lauren Heike while she was going for a walk near her north Phoenix residence has been identified as 22-year-old Zion William Teasley.
The Phoenix Police Department announced an arrest in the high-profile case Thursday night but didn’t reveal the suspect’s name until Friday morning.
Teasley was booked into jail on a count of first-degree murder as well as a probation violation.
“The killer responsible for Lauren’s death is in custody,” Phoenix Police Homicide Lieutenant James Hester said at a press conference on Friday.
“Our community can breathe easier knowing that this suspect will not be able to harm anyone else, but that does little to ease the pain for Lauren’s family. This is not a time for celebration.”
Heike was stabbed 15 times and may have been chased over or through a barbed wire fence before she was killed, according to court records.
Police used DNA evidence collected at the scene and surveillance video to identify Teasley as the suspect, according to the probable cause statement for his arrest.
He was recently fired for being aggressive toward female employees and was suspected of stealing merchandise, according to the statement.
According to corrections department and court records, Teasley was released from prison six months ago after serving time as part of a plea deal for multiple felonies.
During Teasley’s initial court appearance Friday morning, the judge set a $1 million bond on the murder count and also ordered Teasley held without bond for the probation violation. The judge said that even if Teasley posted the murder case bond, he wouldn’t be released if the probation hold was still in effect.
Teasley wasn’t legally represented at the initial appearance, where conditions of his detention were set, and the judge said he will be assigned a public defender. Teasley chose not to speak during the hearing.
Prosecutor Ryan Green of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said Teasley had a plane ticket to Detroit when he was arrested.
A status conference for the murder case was set for May 11, and a preliminary hearing for May 15.
Heike, 29, was found dead in a desert area near a hiking trail around 10:45 a.m. Saturday. She lived near 66th Street and Mayo Boulevard, about half a mile from where she was killed.
“Lauren was doing something all of us enjoy, taking a hike in the beautiful Phoenix trails in springtime and her life was cut short by this inexplicable act of violence,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said during Friday’s press conference.
Police said she was walking near 65th Place and Libby Street on Friday when she was attacked, but her body wasn’t spotted until the next day.
Shortly after a nearby resident reported finding the body, a friend of Heike’s called police to report that she didn’t show up to work Saturday, which was unusual for her.
A short surveillance video released by police Tuesday evening showed a person running from the area.
NEW INFO ON HOMICIDE investigation. Police are hoping someone can help them identify the person in this short video who may have info on a homicide case from 6500 E Libby Street. Anyone with info call police or @SilentwitnessAZ
Original media advisory:https://t.co/8ITIbfihky pic.twitter.com/2vnwY840NC
— Phoenix Police (@PhoenixPolice) May 3, 2023
Heike’s parents appeared at a press conference Wednesday, asking for the public’s help in finding the suspect.
Teasley was taken into custody around 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the apartment complex where he lives near Bell and Scottsdale roads, less than 2 miles from the crime scene. Police said he was the person in the surveillance video.
Teasley served in the Marine Corps, according to the arrest report.
According records available online, Teasley recently served time after pleading guilty to armed robbery with a deadly weapon, disorderly conduct with a weapon, and robbery.
He was released from the Red Rock Correctional Center in Eloy on Nov. 13, 2022, according to Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry inmate records.
He’d been arrested in July 2020 and faced 13 felony counts, including five kidnapping charges, for multiple incidents in May-July of that year, according to Maricopa County Superior Court records. He pleaded guilty to three charges in June 2021, and the other charges were dismissed.