Man charged with murder in ‘ambush’ stabbing death of 29-year-old on hiking trail, police say

Phoenix police say the man responsible for the murder of Lauren Heike is at their headquarters after he was arrested at an apartment complex. (Source: azfamily)
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 12:14 PM CDT
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PHOENIX, Ariz. (KPHO/Gray News) – A man was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after a 29-year-old woman was found stabbed to death on a popular hiking trail in Phoenix, police said.

According to the Phoenix Police Department, Lauren Heike was ambushed from behind and killed while she was hiking on the Reach 11 trail on April 28. Her body was found the next day after officers received a call about an injured person. However, first responders pronounced her dead on the scene.

After five days of working the case, on Thursday evening, Phoenix police arrested 22-year-old Zion William Teasley on first-degree murder charges for Heike’s stabbing death.

Investigators are still trying to learn whether Teasley and Heike knew each other prior to the alleged murder.

Police said Teasley was arrested at his apartment less than a mile from the trail where Heike’s body was found.

Officials said Teasley was linked to the crime through DNA, and they believe he ambushed Heike from behind and stabbed her multiple times.

Teasley was booked into the Maricopa County Jail on a first-degree murder charge. He is being held without bond.

Zion William Teasley, 22, is facing a first-degree murder charge in connection with the death...
Zion William Teasley, 22, is facing a first-degree murder charge in connection with the death of 29-year-old Lauren Heike.(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office/Maricopa County Superior Court)

During his initial court appearance Friday morning, prosecutors said that Teasley had evidence of “premeditations” in Heike’s killing but did not elaborate. They also said that he was a potential flight risk because he had purchased a plane ticket to Detroit.

Prosecutors also detailed Teasley’s previous criminal record, saying he was released from prison about six months ago.

Teasley was arrested in 2020 and pleaded guilty to armed robbery, disorderly conduct and robbery. Ten charges, several of which were more serious felonies, including kidnapping, were dropped by prosecutors in exchange for a plea deal. Teasley served 16 months at the Red Rock Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona before his November 2022 release.

According to Sgt. Melissa Soliz, investigators believe Teasley is the person seen in surveillance video that briefly caught a man running from the area where Heike was killed.

“Our detectives are going to ensure that every piece of evidence is looked at carefully, every angle and give their full effort on this case,” Soliz said. “We’re hoping that the community can rest a little easier knowing this person is off the streets.”

In a news conference Wednesday, the day before police arrested Teasley, Heike’s family pleaded with the community to help find her killer.

“As hard as this is for us, we’re grateful because we had such a beautiful child. We will love her every minute that we are on this Earth,” said Lauren’s mother, Lana.

Police are now warning people to minimize risk while on hiking trails and be aware of their surroundings.

“The safety of our community is our top priority. We would like to remind everyone to be aware of your surroundings,” Phoenix police said in a news release. “If a hike or walk is in your plans, do so with a partner. If you see something suspicious, call police and be a good witness.”