Not guilty plea entered for ex-convict accused of killing woman on Phoenix trail

Posted at 9:23 PM, May 23, 2023 and last updated 11:00 AM, May 25, 2023

PHOENIX (AP) — An ex-convict accused of killing a woman who was attacked from behind and stabbed 15 times on a Phoenix desert trail could be facing a trial in January, authorities said Tuesday.

Zion Teasley booking photo

Zion Teasley is charged with the murder of Lauren Heike. (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

An attorney for Zion William Teasley, 22, entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf Tuesday, the day after a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Teasley on one count of first-degree murder.

The county attorney’s office said it’s reviewing the case to determine if prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

Phoenix police said the body of Lauren Heike, 29, was found April 29 near a hiking trail where she often walked about a half-mile from her home, but it’s believed she was killed the day before.

MORE: Grand jury indicts ex-convict accused of killing jogger in Arizona

According to court documents, Heike had defensive wounds on her hands and arms from fending off her attacker, and she may have also been chased over or through a barbed wire fence.

Homicide investigators believe the attack was random and without provocation after Teasley allegedly followed her on the trail. A possible motive for the killing remains unclear.

Teasley was arrested on May 4 after police said they used DNA evidence collected at the scene and surveillance video to connect him to the case.

Photo of Lauren Heike smiling

Lauren Heike was found stabbed to death in Phoenix and found on April 29. (Phoenix Police Department)

Police also said they don’t believe Heike was sexually assaulted, and the murder weapon hasn’t been found.

Arizona Department of Corrections records show Teasley served 16 months in a state prison in Eloy for armed robbery and other felonies and was released in November 2020.