(WASHINGTON) — A 29-year-old woman who was killed while hiking on a Phoenix trail last week was stabbed 15 times, according to court documents.
Lauren Heike was found dead in a desert area around 10:30 a.m. local time Saturday — about 24 hours after the attack is believed to have occurred, according to Phoenix police.
A 22-year-old suspect, Zion William Teasley, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder. His bond was set at $1 million during a court appearance Friday.
Teasley had recently been terminated from his job for “being aggressive toward female employees,” according to the probable cause document. Management at that job told investigators that he often carried a pocketknife, which would have been consistent with the murder weapon, according to the document.
Phoenix police were on their way to a person-down call on the hiking trail on Saturday when they also got a call from Heike’s friend saying she did not show up for work that day and that it was unusual, according to the probable cause document.
Investigators determined there was blood and personal items at the scene of the crime showing her path of travel, and they believed she was chased through or over a barbed wire fence, according to the document. A medical examiner determined she had 15 stab wounds on her upper body, and there were defensive wounds on her hands and forearms, the document stated.
A photograph and tattoo description given by her family were used to identify the body as Heike, court documents said.
Police had released surveillance footage depicting a suspect running near the crime scene prior to Teasley’s arrest Thursday evening. He is the same person who was seen in a video clip running away from the scene, Sgt. Maria Soliz said during a press conference.
Teasley is already on probation; he has been convicted of robbery, armed robbery and disorderly conduct and was released from prison in November, prosecutors said.
DNA from Heike’s shoe at the crime scene was preliminarily matched to Teasley, according to the probable cause document. A search warrant for cell carrier data showed him in the area at the time of the murder, and the suspect captured in the surveillance footage was wearing clothing Teasley had stolen from his previous employer, according to the document.
In a police interview, Zion said he was in the area walking to a movie theater and that he knew Heike was attacked from the news but could not recall if he ever met her in person, the probable cause document stated. He reportedly told police, “I am definitely not the person who plans to kill another person,” and, “If I was going to do something like that it wouldn’t be premeditated,” according to the document.
During a court appearance on Friday, the judge advised Teasley that this could be a capital murder case and that he has the right to remain silent. When asked if he understood that right, Teasley responded, “Yes, ma’am, I choose to use that right.”
Prosecutors argued they were concerned Teasley was a flight risk because he had scheduled a flight to Detroit scheduled the previous day.
The judge set the bond at $1 million because she said she was concerned that Teasley could pose a flight risk and it was unclear if this was a targeted or random attack. The judge also ordered to hold Teasley without bail in his probation case.
Teasley is next scheduled to appear in court on May 11 for a status conference. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for May 15.
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