The man accused of killing Arizona hiker Lauren Heike has been charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty, which is still on the table in the high-profile case, prosecutors said Monday.
The murder charge against 22-year-old Zion William Teasley was dropped by a grand jury, Maricopa County District Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in a press release.
The former convict was arrested earlier this month after police found Heike’s body near a hiking trail on April 29.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said they are still reviewing the case to determine whether the death penalty would be appropriate if Teasley is found guilty at trial.
“My condolences go out to the family of the victim and the pain they feel at losing their loved one in this way,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Our office will work diligently to seek justice for Lauren and her family.”
The 29-year-old victim was attacked from behind and stabbed 15 times while walking down the desert trail in northeast Phoenix about half a mile from her home, authorities said.
Heike had defense wounds on her hands and arms as she fought for her life, court documents show.
She may have been chased over or through a barbed wire fence by the suspect.
The attack appeared to have been indiscriminate after Teasley allegedly followed her on the trail, investigators said.
A possible motive for the frantic killing remains unclear.
Teasley was arrested by authorities on May 4 after police released grainy surveillance video showing the suspect walking the path at the time of the murder.
The police assume that the murder took place the day before Heike’s body was found.
Teasley had previous run-ins with the law.
Corrections officials say he served a 16-month sentence in state prison for armed robbery and other offenses before being released in November 2020.
With post wires