Man accused of stabbing woman on hiking trail pleads not guilty to murder


(PHOENIX) — A man accused of fatally stabbing a woman hiking on a desert trail in Phoenix last month in an apparently random attack has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Zion William Teasley, 22, appeared in court for an arraignment hearing Tuesday following his indictment by a Maricopa County grand jury on one count of first-degree murder for the death of Lauren Heike.

The judge entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf for the murder charge.

Teasley’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 10, with the trial expected to begin in mid-January 2024. He is currently being held in the Maricopa County Jail on $1 million bond.

Heike, 29, was found dead in a desert area the morning of April 29 — about 24 hours after the attack is believed to have occurred, according to Phoenix police.

Phoenix police were on their way to a person-down call on the hiking trail that day 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.

A medical examiner determined Heike had 15 stab wounds on her upper body, and there were defensive wounds on her hands and forearms, according to the probable cause document.

Phoenix police Lt. James Hester told reporters earlier this month following Teasley’s arrest that he believes the attack was random, but added that police “have not concluded our investigation into that.”

Teasley was allegedly captured in surveillance footage running away from the scene, police 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.

Teasley is already on probation; he had been convicted of robbery, armed robbery and disorderly conduct in another case and was released from prison in November, prosecutors said.

A case involving Teasley’s probation is also ongoing. The court entered a denial of violation of probation on his behalf in that case on Tuesday.

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