By: abc15.com staff
PHOENIX (Scripps News Phoenix) — A man was taken into custody Thursday evening in connection to the murder of 29-year-old Lauren Heike, who was found dead near a trail in north Phoenix last week.
The Phoenix Police Department identified the suspect as 22-year-old Zion William Teasley. He has been booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder and had his initial appearance in front of a judge Friday morning.
Phoenix police believe Heike was killed Friday and wasn’t found until Saturday morning.
According to police documents, Heike told friends she had plans “to go hiking with a male friend.” However, that friend was contacted by the police and he said he was not able to reach her. Her friends pinged her phone location, which was still in the area where her body was found.
“I talk to her every single day, at least once or twice a day, and texted,” said Lana Heike, the victim’s mom. “Every phone call ended with, ‘I love you, mom.’”
Heike’s parents and best friends never heard from her again after a routine Friday morning hike.
Investigators say Heike had been attacked from behind. She was reportedly found with defensive wounds and obvious signs of trauma. It also appeared as if she had crossed a barbed wire fence at some point.
Her injuries were consistent with a pocket knife Zion was known to carry, police say.
ABC15 has confirmed with law enforcement sources that Heike was stabbed multiple times.
Surveillance video from cameras in the area captured several moments before and after the attack.
Police released a video showing a man running in the area and asked the public for help identifying him as a possible suspect. Officials confirmed that Teasley is the same man that was seen in the video.
After Teasley was located and taken into custody Thursday night, he told officials, “that’s me,” when he was shown a photograph of the suspect.
Police say Zion knew Heike was attacked “but struggled to admit she was murdered” and “could not recall if he ever met (her) in person.”
“If I was going to do something like that, it wouldn’t be premeditated,” Zion told investigators when asked if he planned to murder Heike, according to documents.
At this time, it is unknown if Teasley knew Heike or if it was a random attack.
Teasley appeared in front of a judge around 8 a.m. Friday and a $1 million cash bond was set.
During his court hearing, an attorney said he was reportedly released from prison in November and has a criminal history including robbery, armed robbery, and disorderly conduct.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT ZION TEASLEY
Police documents say Teasley was a Marine. A statement from the U.S. Marine Corps clarifies that Teasley entered boot camp but did not complete training.
“Our records indicate that Zion W. Teasley entered recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot San Diego on March 25, 2019. He was separated June 17, 2019, prior to completing boot camp. Additional details are not releasable due to Privacy Act.”
Zion was also reportedly recently terminated from his employer for being “aggressive toward female employees” and was “suspected of stealing merchandise.”
This story was originally published on May 4, 2023, by KNXV in Phoenix, an E.W. Scripps Company.