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Crime News

Suspect Indicted In Phoenix Hiker’s "Vicious" Slaying, Pleads Not Guilty

Zion Teasley’s lawyer pleaded not guilty on May 23 to the murder of 29-year-old hiker Lauren Heike, whose body was found in the desert last month.

By Dorian Geiger
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An Arizona man has pleaded not guilty to the murder of a woman who was killed on a hiking trail last month. 

Zion Teasley, 22, was indicted on Monday by a Maricopa County grand jury on first-degree murder charges in the “vicious attack” on 29-year-old Lauren Heike, who was found stabbed to death on a trail in north Phoenix, the Associated Press reported. His defense attorney entered a plea of not guilty in court on Tuesday.

Prosecutors at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office are currently reviewing whether they’ll seek the death penalty for Teasley. His case is expected to go to trial in January.

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On April 29, Heike’s body was found in the 6500 block of East Libby Street, approximately half a mile from her home. She’d sustained at least 15 wounds, according to authorities.

At the time, police said it appeared that Heike was attacked from behind and that she suffered defensive wounds on her hands. Authorities also speculated that Teasley had stalked Heike on the walking path prior to attacking her. She may have fled her killer through a barbed wire fence as well, investigators said, per the Associated Press.

A photo of Lauren Heike

“I believe Lauren fought off her attacker and was able to flee, but her injuries were just too severe,” Phoenix Police Lt. James Hester said during a press conference in the immediate aftermath of the deadly confrontation, CNN reported.

Following Heike’s murder, authorities zeroed in surveillance footage, which appeared to capture the suspect, who police later identified as Teasley, fleeing the scene of the crime. DNA evidence found near Heike’s body also linked him to her murder, according to authorities. A motive in the brutal killing hasn’t been released.

Heike’s family described her as “beautiful inside and out.”

"She had such a kind heart,” her mother, Lana Heike, previously told reporters, per CNN. Everybody who met her, loved her. She was super funny. She was just a sweet child — just everything to us.

Teasley was previously convicted for armed robbery and other felonies. He spent 16 months in state prison before being released in November 2020.