Zion William Teasley (22) was arrested on Friday and is facing first-degree murder charges for the suspected killing of 29-year-old hiker Lauren Heike, who was stabbed 15 times in north Phoenix last week.
Teasley was arrested after Police found his DNA on the scene. Cell phone location data and surveillance images from the road also tie him to the murder.
Previously, Teasley was arrested in 2020 and reportedly “charged with third-degree burglary, armed robbery, kidnapping and disorderly conduct charges.” He was released from prison six months ago in November after taking a plea deal where prosecutors dropped ten charges, including serious felonies in exchange for a guilty plea.
According to a report, “Court documents say prosecutors assessed Teasley as a “medium-low” risk to re-offend when cutting him the plea deal.” After the alleged murder, Teasly met with his probation officer according to Court records.
This is what happens when violent criminals are allowed to roam the streets.
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — New details on the suspect accused of murdering Lauren Heike on a trail that straddles the border of north Phoenix and Scottsdale last week. On Friday, Phoenix police named the man arrested as 22-year-old Zion William Teasley.
Investigators confirmed Teasley was arrested around 6:30 p.m. Thursday at The Catherine Townhomes near Scottsdale and Bell roads, where he lives with his mother, less than a mile from the trail where Heike’s body was found. At the time of the arrest, court papers revealed he said, “There’s no freaking way I’m in for a sex crime; I haven’t been with anyone for a long time.” During a news conference Friday afternoon, Phoenix Homicide Lt. James Hester said investigators believe the attack was random, that Teasley followed her on the trail and attacked without provocation. The motive is still unknown.
Police say Teasley was linked to the crime through DNA on Heike’s shoe along with other forensic evidence including cell phone location data. After records turned up his name, detectives went to his former workplace, a sportswear store just a short distance from the trail, ex-coworkers there recognized him wearing clothes he was suspected of stealing from the store. They also said that was he fired for being aggressive toward female employees.
Court documents revealed that Heike had been stabbed 15 times after being chased on the Reach 11 trail west of Scottsdale Road and Mayo Boulevard. The papers also say that Heike might have tried to escape after being attacked from behind and being found near a barbed wire fence. Lt. Hester said he believes Heike fought off her attacker and escaped, but that her injuries were just too severe. Heike was found with defensive wounds on her hands and arms, and police do not believe she was sexually assaulted.
Surveillance images from a nearby car dealership on Princess Drive and Scottsdale Road also linked Teasley to last week’s attack on the trail. Court papers also say that Teasley met with his probation officers days after the alleged murder. The Maricopa County Adult Probation Department told Arizona’s Family that meeting notes and information about those visits are kept confidential.
During an interview with detectives, Teasley said that he recognized the area and frequented it, but refused to provide his routes, saying only that he never walked the same spots. He was shown the surveillance photo and at first, allegedly said, “that’s me,” before stating he wasn’t quite sure. Investigators then showed him a picture of Heike, he said he recognized her and “wanted to look like her.” Teasley also reportedly spoke up about growing up as a Christian and about how he struggled with his sexuality, saying in part that he feared his soul’s salvation due to his thoughts. Detectives asked Teasley if he had planned to murder Lauren, to which he responded, “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.”
Teasley’s mother is a surveillance officer for the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County. Hester says she refused to speak with detectives about Heike’s murder.
A spokesperson for the Marines Corps confirmed that Teasley had entered boot camp in March 2019, but left three months later before completing his training. Details explaining why he left weren’t released, citing the Privacy Act.
During his initial court appearance Friday, Teasley didn’t say a word. Prosecutors revealed that Teasley had signs of “premeditations” in the alleged killing of Heike and signaled a potential flight risk as he reportedly had a plane ticket ready to fly to Detroit. Prosecutors also detailed his previous arrest in 2020, where he was charged with third-degree burglary, armed robbery, kidnapping and disorderly conduct charges. Court records revealed that Teasley took a plea deal where he pled guilty to armed robbery, disorderly conduct, and robbery. Ten charges, several of which were more serious felonies, were dropped by prosecutors in exchange for that plea deal. Teasley had served 16 months in the Red Rock Correctional Facility in Eloy before being released in November 2022. He had spent a year in jail before that. Court documents say prosecutors assessed Teasley as a “medium-low” risk to re-offend when cutting him the plea deal.
Prior to his arrest in 2020, Teasley tried to join the U.S. Marine Corps, entering recruit training in March of 2019 but left less than three months later before completing boot camp in San Diego. The USMC did not release additional details, citing privacy concerns.
According to Sgt. Melissa Soliz, Teasley is the same person as the one on the surveillance video clip released by police. “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,” she said Thursday night. “We’re hoping that the community can rest a little easier knowing this person is off the streets.”
Heike was killed last Friday, but her body wasn’t discovered until Saturday morning because it was not visible from the trail. Police previously said that the man now identified as Teasley stood out on the trail wearing dark clothes.
On Wednesday, Lauren’s parents and friends made emotional pleas, asking for justice and help in finding her alleged killer. Her parents also shared about the kind of person their daughter was. “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. “She was my little girl. I’m really going to miss her,” said Lauren’s father, Jeff.
Teasley is now being held on a $1 million bond in the Maricopa County jail on a first-degree murder charge. He also faces a count of probation violations, which made him non-bondable.
This story originally appeared on TheGateWayPundit