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Man accused of stabbing Arizona esthetician on desert hiking trail was fired for harassing female colleagues

Former coworkers say Zion Teasley, an Arizona man charged with murdering 29-year-old Lauren Heike on a walking path outside of Phoenix, had a history of harassing his female colleagues.

Mr Teasley, who was arrested last week after DNA evidence and surveillance footage suggested he was on the trail with Heike around the time of her death, previously worked at a sportswear store near the site of the killing, according to court documents obtained by local news station KTVK.

The 22-year-old was later fired from the store for being aggressive towards female employees, and appeared on surveillance footage to be wearing clothes he was suspected of stealing from the store, according to detectives.

Mr Teasley, who appeared for the first time in court on Friday, reportedly told investigators he was the man captured on surveillance video trailing behind Heike, before later recanting.

He also allegedly described growing up Christian, struggling with his sexuality, and worrying about the "salvation of his soul due to his thoughts.”

"I am definitely not the person who plans to kill another person," he allegedly added, saying, "If I was going to do something like that, it wouldn’t be premeditated."

Police say the 22-year-old had a plane ticket to Detroit booked around the time of the murder.

Mr Teasley was previously in the Marine Corps, but didn’t complete basic training, and was convicted in 2020 for armed robbery.

Police say Heike was stabbed 15 times and appeared to have run through a barbed-wire fence before her death.

City officials offered their condolences at a Friday press conference.

"Your daughter sounds like a wonderful person and we are so glad she was part of our community," mayor Kate Gallego said. "May her memory be a blessing to you. She was taken from us too soon."

The alleged assailant is now being held on $1m bond in the Maricopa County jail.

He faces both the murder charge and alleged probation violations relating to his previous arrest.