Arizona man, 22, faces DEATH PENALTY ‘for ambushing and stabbing esthetician Lauren Heike, 29, FIFTEEN TIMES while she hiked’ five months after he was released from prison

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Written By Maya Cantina

Phoenix prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a man accused of fatally stabbing a 29-year-old woman on an Arizona hiking trail.

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office filed the notice of intent Friday around 5pm – a move the family of late Lauren Heike said they ‘support’ seven months after the brutal killing. 

Zion Teasley, 22, is accused of stabbing the esthetician 15 times in the back and chest after stalking her on the Reach 11 trail in broad daylight in April.

A well-placed camera captured the suspect following Heike, and eventually returning to the area where her body was found before hopping a fence. Cops who found Heike previously said she’d been ‘chased through or over a barbed wire fence’.

An ex-con with a record dating back to 2020, Teasley was quickly arrested – five months after finishing a three-year jail sentence for robbery with a deadly weapon.

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Police claim the 29-year-old woman (pictured), who was found dead on the Reach 11 trail was chased over a barbed wire fence, which tore at her clothing

Police tracked down Teasley using a DNA sample in their system from a felony conviction. Pictured: Teasley being arrested by police on May 4 in Phoenix, Arizona

Police tracked down Teasley using a DNA sample in their system from a felony conviction. Pictured: Teasley being arrested by police on May 4 in Phoenix, Arizona

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The Heike family issued a statement after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office aired its intent to seek the death penalty for the accused killer.

‘We received word late this afternoon that the MCAO has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Lauren’s murder,’ Lana and Jeff Heike wrote.

‘Our Family supports MCAO’s decision and we are grateful for the work of both MCAO and Phoenix PD.’

The couple added of Teasley’s looming trial: ‘We know that our journey through the criminal justice system is just beginning, but we will be there every step of the way to ensure that Lauren receives justice.’

The intent to pursue the death penalty comes months after Teasley – whose laundry list of crimes came after he dropped out of the Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego after just four months –  pleaded not guilty to the murder.

He was indicted by a grand jury back in May, four years after he first entered the military training.

At the time, Detectives revealed how they had linked Teasley to the crime through DNA found on Heike’s shoe – as well as forensic evidence such as cellphone location data that further tied him to the scene of the crime.

They also told Phoenix residents how upon being picked up, Teasley ominously told detectives ‘he wanted to look like Heike,’ suggesting that he had seen her at some point before carrying out the attack.

Heike’s family, however, maintained their daughter did not know her attacker – bolstering cops’ belief that she fell into Teasley’s sights while out on the trail.

Heike, 29, was killed after being stabbed 15 times in the back and chest. Cops said she fought off her attacker and ran away before she collapsed

Heike, 29, was killed after being stabbed 15 times in the back and chest. Cops said she fought off her attacker and ran away before she collapsed

Teasley, 22, appeared at Maricopa County Court after being charged with the murder of Lauren Heike, 29, on April 28

Teasley, 22, appeared at Maricopa County Court after being charged with the murder of Lauren Heike, 29, on April 28

Heike's parents Lana and Jeff - seen here at a May press conference held by Phoenix police after Teasley was indicted in May - had previously said they just want justice for their daughter

Heike’s parents Lana and Jeff – seen here at a May press conference held by Phoenix police after Teasley was indicted in May – had previously said they just want justice for their daughter

She was found dead on the Reach 11 trail on April 28, with police launching a week-long manhunt for her killer

She was found dead on the Reach 11 trail on April 28, with police launching a week-long manhunt for her killer 

After Teasley was caught on film, a reward of up to $2,000 was offered for any information related to the case. He remains in custody after officials ruled he should not be released due to the fact he was already out on probation for his previous conviction

After Teasley was caught on film, a reward of up to $2,000 was offered for any information related to the case. He remains in custody after officials ruled he should not be released due to the fact he was already out on probation for his previous conviction

A probable cause affidavit later revealed the suspected killer had recently been fired from his job at a nearby sports store for being ‘aggressive’ to female employees – further bolstering investigators’ yet-to-be-proven narrative.  

They claim Heike, who was found dead on the Reach 11 trail, was chased over a barbed wire fence as she relentlessly worked to escape her attacker,

In airing this theory, investigators cited how they found the woman’s belongings strewn along the trail, and several tears to her clothing.

DNA matching Teasley’s was also recovered on a shoe that Heike discarded as she attempted to scale the fence, which the suspect was later filmed returning to and hopping over after allegedly committing the murder.

Cell phone records also allegedly placed Teasley at the scene of the crime – adding to the DNA and video footage. 

In his indictment, prosecutors wrote their belief that Teasley knew his conduct could cause injury or death, and said the DNA match stemmed from a sample secured from a prior felony conviction. 

Maricopa County officials further explained how the murder-one charge counts as ‘a dangerous felony’ due to the allegation that Teasley repeatedly used a knife to injure the esthetician – stabbing her 15 times across her body and hands.

Teasley was identified in the surveillance footage by his probation officer, as well as his former employer, who confirmed to cops that the accused killer regularly carried a pocket knife consistent with the murder weapon.  Pictured: Teasley during his indictment on May 4

Teasley was identified in the surveillance footage by his probation officer, as well as his former employer, who confirmed to cops that the accused killer regularly carried a pocket knife consistent with the murder weapon.  Pictured: Teasley during his indictment on May 4

Cops said Heike collapsed after escaping from her attacker and died from the stab wounds. They believe she was stalked after she somehow caught Teasley's attention, and that her attempted escape may have been a factor as to why it took more a day for her body to be found

Cops said Heike collapsed after escaping from her attacker and died from the stab wounds. They believe she was stalked after she somehow caught Teasley’s attention, and that her attempted escape may have been a factor as to why it took more a day for her body to be found

In addition to first-degree murder, he has been charged with breaching the terms of his probation agree upon after his release from prison in November.

The stint – started roughly 36 months earlier, – stemmed a guilty plea to robbery with a deadly weapon, disorderly conduct and robbery offered in June 2020, court records show.

A year before entering the plea, Teasley dropped out of the Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego, a Marine Corps spokesman confirmed.

Teasley was identified in the surveillance footage by his probation officer, as well as his former employer, who confirmed to cops that the accused killer regularly carried a pocket knife consistent with the murder weapon.

His probable cause affidavit also stated that when arrested by officers, Teasley also identified himself as being the man in the footage, before telling officers he recognized Lauren from the news and ‘wanted to look like her’.

He went on to claim he was ‘walking to a nearby movie theatre’ when he had been seen traversing the trail near Libby Street and Mayo Boulevard, and admitted to officers he knew Lauren was attacked but ‘struggled to admit she was murdered’.

When asked if he had planned to kill Lauren, he told officers: ‘I am definitely not the person who plans to kill another person. 

He added: ‘If I was going to do something like that it wouldn’t be premeditated. ‘

During his first court appearance, he was given a $1million cash bond for the violation, but was remanded into custody with no bond.

Pictures of Teasley's arrest were captured by Telemundo, with the suspect sitting on the sidewalk calmly talking to police. He allegedly told detectives 'he wanted to look like Heike,' suggesting he had seen her before carrying out the attack

Pictures of Teasley’s arrest were captured by Telemundo, with the suspect sitting on the sidewalk calmly talking to police. He allegedly told detectives ‘he wanted to look like Heike,’ suggesting he had seen her before carrying out the attack

Heike's mother tearfully said: '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'

Heike’s mother tearfully said: ‘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’

Explaining that decision, prosecutors told the court that there was ‘photographic evidence’ linking him to the crime.

Today, Teasley remains in custody, after officials ruled he should not be released due to the fact he was already out on probation for a previous conviction.

Heike’s family, meanwhile, recalled in their statement how they had just spent their first Christmas without their daughter, who cops contend somehow caught the killer’s attention.

‘As we make our way through our first Christmas season without Lauren, our hearts continue to break over her life being cut short by the violent actions of another,’ the couple, who had already called for the death penalty for Teasley, wrote Friday.

‘However, we want Lauren to be remembered for the beautiful and kind person that she was,’ they added, as a trial date for Teasley has yet to be announced.

‘We have hope and find joy in the knowledge that we will someday be reunited with Lauren,’ the statement continued. ‘We ask for your prayers and for privacy at this time.’

DailyMail.com has reached out to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for details. 

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