A lone hiker ran from her killer, who stabbed her 15 times before climbing through a barbed wire fence and dying of her injuries, police said.
Authorities revealed devastating details of how the body of 29-year-old Lauren Heike was discovered on a hiking trail in North Phoenix, Arizona, before arresting 22-year-old ex-Marine recruit Zion William Teasley.
Police traveled to the trail after a neighbor spotted the body and found a trail of blood leading to Heike.
She was found near a barbed wire fence with 15 stab wounds and injuries to her hands and forearms that suggested she had attempted to fight her killer, the coroner said.
Authorities believed she escaped and climbed under or over the fence before her wounds killed her, police said in a news conference.
Hours after the conference, Zion police arrested William Teasley, a 22-year-old ex-Marine, and charged him with murder after the grisly discovery sparked a feverish city-wide manhunt.
During the investigation, officers released surveillance video of a man wearing dark clothing and a backpack running from the scene.
Teasley denied ever killing Heike, but did admit his identity in images captured in surveillance video, court documents viewed by CBS affiliate KTVK State.
Docs say he was then quick to say he really shouldn’t if he was.
The suspect is said to have made remarks following his arrest, saying: “There is no way I am involved in a sex crime. I haven’t been with anyone for a long time,” the doctors say.
When he was shown a photo of Heike, he said he recognized her and “like she wanted to look like”.
He went on to talk about struggling with his sexuality during his Christian upbringing and said that his thoughts made him fear for his salvation.
Investigators asked if he planned to kill Heike, and he said, “I’m definitely not the person who plans to kill another person.
“If I were to do something like that, it wouldn’t be intentional.”
The suspect was hit with first-degree murder charges and a parole violation.
He was previously arrested in 2020 and charged with burglary, armed robbery, kidnapping and disorderly conduct, but struck a plea deal that saw many of the charges dropped, the local outlet reports.
Teasley had just met with his parole officer after being fired from his job for being “aggressive towards female employees”, according to a probable cause document.
Management said he often carried a pocket knife that would match the alleged murder weapon, the documents say.
Sharing an emotional message following the suspect’s arrest, Heike’s family said: “We breathe a sigh of relief this morning knowing that another family doesn’t have to walk in our shoes because of this individual.
“While this will not bring our Lowie back and the journey ahead is sad and scary, we are eternally grateful for the love and support we have received from the moment she was missed.”
Heike’s mother said the family is overwhelmed by the number of messages, prayers and offers of help they continue to receive.
“I think this is a testament to what a beautiful person Lauren was,” Lana wrote.
“We are also grateful to the Phoenix community, who opened their hearts to us and answered our calls for help.
“Finally, but most importantly, we are grateful to the Phoenix Police Department. Thank you to the detectives who worked this case as hard as if it were their own child.
“Thank you to the station officials for showing us so much compassion and giving us the courage to seek justice and the confidence to know they would find it for us.”