Zion William Teasley is the suspect accused in the April 28, 2023, stabbing death of Arizona hiker Lauren Heike, who was murdered on a trail that is located where Phoenix and Scottsdale intersect.
In a news conference video posted by Fox10 Phoenix, Melissa Solis, Phoenix police sergeant, said detectives have been working “tirelessly on this brutal murder case.” She said the tragedy had affected the family, neighborhood and community.
The attack occurred on a popular nature trail.
Solis confirmed the arrest, which occurred on May 4, 2023. According to Fox10, Zion William Teasley is 22 and is being charged with first-degree murder. He has already appeared in court.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Zion William Teasley Is Accused of Stabbing Lauren Heike 15 Times
According to AZ Family, Teasley was arrested at his apartment about a mile from the murder scene.
“There’s no freaking way I’m for a sex crime; I haven’t been with anyone for a long time,” he told police, according to court records obtained by AZ Family.
The newspaper reported that Teasley was “linked to the crime through DNA” and is accused of stabbing Heike 15 times after possibly chasing her.
Heike “might have tried to escape or been pushed after being found near a barbed wire fence,” AZ Family reported.
When detectives showed him a picture of Heike, Teasley is accused of saying that he recognized her and “wanted to look like her,” adding that he struggled with his sexuality but grew up as a Christian, AZ Family reported.
“I am definitely not the person who plans to kill another person. If I was going to do something like that, it wouldn’t be premeditated,” he told police, according to AZ Family.
According to 12 News, camera footage showed Heike walking at a relaxed pace before leaving the camera’s view,” and, seconds later, “the same camera showed the suspect walking out from behind nearby vegetation and sprinting in Heike’s direction.”
Solis said detectives were serving a search warrant at the suspect’s house, and he was taken into custody on the evening of May 4, 2023.
Asked whether Teasley knew Heike, Solis said in the earlier news conference that he was still being interviewed. Asked whether a tip led authorities to Teasley, she said that there were a lot of investigative techniques and pieces of evidence.
“Currently, this man is at our police headquarters where he is being interviewed” by homicide detectives, Solis said. She said the investigation was continuing. She did not reveal details about what led police to Teasley, and she did not reveal any motive.
2. Zion Teasley Was Recently Fired From His Job for ‘Being Aggressive Toward Female Employees,’ Reports Say
According to 12News, Teasley “had recently been fired from his job due to ‘being aggressive toward female employees’ and stealing from the store,” according to court records.
On May 1, 2023, Phoenix police wrote in a news release that homicide investigators were “looking into the death of a Phoenix woman who was found fatally injured in the desert area near 6500 East Libby Street over the weekend.”
She was attacked from behind while hiking, a police investigator said in a news conference.
On Saturday, April 29, 2023 just after 10:30 a.m., officers “responded to a call of an injured person in the desert area near 6500 East Libby Street,” police wrote. “A woman identified as 29-year-old Lauren Heike was pronounced deceased on scene by the fire department. Heike was found to have trauma to her body.”
According to police, “Detectives responded to take over the investigation.” They asked “anyone with information can contact the Phoenix Police Department, or Silent Witness (480- WITNESS or 480-TESTIGO for Spanish).”
Police added: “The safety of our community is our top priority. We would like to remind everyone to be aware of your surroundings.”
3. Police Previously Released a Blurry Video They Now Say Showed Zion William Teasley
Solis said police believe the man seen in a blurry video they released earlier was the murder suspect.
“He is the same person that was shown on the video clip that we shared with you all a few days ago,” Solis said. She added: “We hope the community tonight can rest a little easier knowing that this person is off the streets.”
Two days before Teasley’s arrest, Phoenix police wrote on Facebook,
Phoenix homicide investigators have been working tirelessly on the case involving the murder of 29-year-old Lauren Heike, who was found dead in a desert area near 6500 East Libby Street on Saturday April 29, 2023. While methodically going through evidence, investigators were able to locate a short surveillance video clip of a person of interest. This person is described as having a dark complexion and was near the area of the crime. Detectives believe this person may have information related to the case.
Heike was originally from the Seattle, Washington, area, according to her Facebook page.
4. Zion Teasley Was Released From Prison in November 2022
According to AZ Family, Teasley “was released from prison in November 2022 and was on probation at the time of Heike’s death.”
Arizona court records say Teasley entered a plea of guilty to felony robbery; to felony disorderly conduct; and to an amended count of armed robbery, offenses that occurred over two dates in 2020.
A sentencing order obtained by Heavy shows Teasley was given “supervised probation” on July 20, 2021 in Arizona, court records show.
Court records show multiple charges were dropped in a plea agreement, including third-degree burglary, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and other robbery charges.
According to journalist Briana Whitney, Teasley “reportedly had a plane ticket ready to fly to Detroit” and was “previously arrested in 2020” and charged with “3rd degree burglary, armed robbery, kidnapping & disorderly charges.”
She reported that he took a “plea deal for armed robbery, disorderly conduct & robbery. 10 charges, several of which were more serious felonies, were dropped in exchange for that plea deal.”
5. Lauren Heike’s Mother Described Her as ‘Beautiful Inside & Out’
Family members of Heike appeared in a news conference before Teasley’s arrest.
Heike’s mother Lana, father Jeff, and a friend, River Hubbel, took the lead at that news conference.
“Lauren, obviously she was beautiful, but she was beautiful inside and out,” Lana Heike said in the news conference.
She described Lauren as having a kind heart. “She was just a sweet child, everything to us,” her mother said. “She loved this area. She had so many friends, and she was always happy.”
Lauren loved to exercise, Lana Heike said in the news conference. “We just want the world to know what a sweet person she was.” Her mother said she worried because Heike was nice “to everybody.”
Hubbel said Lauren Heike had the ability to change anybody’s life.
After Teasley’s arrest, Lana Heike wrote a lengthy statement on her Facebook page:
As most of you have probably heard, Phoenix P.D. have arrested the person responsible for Lauren’s death. We are breathing a sigh of relief this morning knowing another family will not have to walk in our shoes because of this person.
Although this doesn’t bring our Lowie back and the journey ahead is sad and daunting we are eternally grateful for the love and support we’ve received from the moment she went missing. Thank you to every one of you; we are overwhelmed with the number of messages, offers to help and prayers we have and still do continue to receive. I think that’s a testament to what a beautiful person Lauren was.
We are also grateful to the Phoenix community, who opened their hearts to us and answered our calls for help.
Lastly, but most importantly we are grateful to the Phoenix Police Department. Thank you to detectives, who worked this case as hard as if it were their own child. Thank you to the officers at the station who showed us so much compassion while giving us the courage to seek justice and the confidence to know they would find it for us.
Please continue to keep our family in your prayers…
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