Arizona esthetician found murdered on hiking trail
Lauren Heike, 29, was hiking Friday on the Reach 11 trail not far from her Phoenix home when she was attacked and killed - and now police have released video of a person of interest in her murder.
Arizona esthetician, 29, is found murdered on desert hiking trail close to her home after being 'attacked from behind' and suffering 'trauma' to her her body - as cops share clip of 'heinous' suspect fleeing the scene
- Lauren Heike, 29, was hiking on the popular Reach 11 trail near her apartment on Friday morning when she was attacked sometime between 10 and 11 a.m
- Her body was found the next day because police said she was in an area that isn't necessarily visible from the trail. Police have not yet said how she was killed
- Surveillance video of a person of interest in her murder was released Tuesday
Published: 12:41 EDT, 4 May 2023 | Updated: 15:32 EDT, 4 May 2023
A 29-year-old woman was 'viciously' attacked from behind and killed while she was hiking on a popular trail in Phoenix and police have released chilling video of a shadowy figure who they are calling a suspect in her murder.
Lauren Heike, an esthetician who had recently moved to Arizona from Washington, was believed to be alone Friday morning on the Reach 11 trail not far from her home when she murdered by the unknown assailant between 10 and 11 a.m.
Her body was found the next day because police said she was in an area that isn't necessarily visible from the trail. Police added that Heike had 'trauma to her body' from the attack. They have not yet shared how she was killed, but called the killer's behavior 'heinous.'
In the short clip police released this week, a figure is seen sprinting on the trail on Friday morning in the area where Heike's body was found.
The suspect t is described as thin man with a dark complexion, 5′8″ to 6′ tall, who was wearing a gray or lighter-colored shirt, dark pants, a dark backpack, and shoes, police said in an update on Wednesday.
Police have released chilling video footage of a shadowy figure sprinting through the woods as the search continues for the suspect who killed a woman on a popular hiking trail in Phoenix
On April 29, Phoenix police responded to what was described as a 'desert area' near 6500 East Libby Street after receiving a report of an injured person.
Phoenix Homicide Lt. James Hester said in a press conference on Wednesday said they believe someone might have seen the suspect before or after the attack and asked the community to come together to help find him.
'We believe someone would have noticed this person either before the attack or after he fled from our scene,' Lt. Hester added.
Further details about the murder, including how Heike was killed or if a weapon was used, have not been released as police don't want to harm the investigation.
'The behavior, in my opinion, was so heinous that I would imagine that the subject would be displaying symptoms that look out of place,' Lt. Hester added.
At the press conference on Wednesday, Heike's heartbroken family and friends gathered to plead with the public for any information that may bring police closer to finding the killer.
Lana Heike described her daughter as a beautiful, kindhearted woman who was sweet to everyone she met.
'We want somebody to come forward and help us find this person,' Lana said.
'Somebody wearing a backpack or a hoodie or whatever the video, it's hard to tell in a sunny hot day, that person will stand out. When you've done something, you're going to be unusual,' Lana added.
'Please think if you had seen something, were in that area, if you know of somebody strange or acting weird. Somebody knows this person.'
Her parents tearfully said they just want justice for their daughter.
Lana added: '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.'
'She was my little girl. I'm really going to miss her,' her father, Jeff, said. 'I know someone knows something and they can help us.'
Police have not said whether this was a random attack or if it was potentially someone Heike knew.
But the Arizona woman, who had moved there from Washington, was described as a kindhearted person who left a lasting impression with everyone she met.
Heike's close friend River Hubbell told AZCentral that he spoke to her on Friday morning before her hike and they asked each other what they were thankful for - something he said they did every morning.
'I had asked what we were all thankful for that day and she had specifically just said that she was so thankful to just wake up another day so positive and to be able to go get a coffee and go on a walk,' Hubbell said, as he held back tears.
er boss, Brian Thorne of Troon North Golf Club, where she worked as a server, told local news outlets that their staff is shocked and saddened by her death. He described Heike as a lovely person and said this tragedy has been tough on all the staff.
Heike had previously worked as an esthetician for Admire Medical Aesthetics in Washington. The company posted a heartfelt tribute on their Facebook page.
'It is with a heavy heart that we learned of the passing of Lauren Heike, a former esthetician for Admire Medical Aesthetics. Lauren touched the hearts of many with her kind and sweet nature, and her beloved clients always looked forward to seeing her.
'We will always remember the laughter and smiles that Lauren brought to each of us. Her warmth and compassion made her not just a great esthetician, but a wonderful human being. It is a true loss to everyone that she has touched.'
'Our condolences go out to Lauren’s family during this difficult time. We hope that they find some comfort in the knowledge that Lauren’s memory will always be cherished by those whose lives she touched.'
Hubbell joined Heike's family and friends to plead with the public to help find her killer
Neighbors in the area and hikers who frequent the trail say they're now looking over their shoulders.
'I just woke up to all the police coming in, and they could actually see all the vehicles in the back, driving around, all the police. I would say the neighborhood is just a little bit somber right now. They're probably a little sketched out, looking over their shoulder. Definitely not something that they saw coming,' one neighbor said.
'It's heartbreaking,' hiker Tom Chamberlain told Fox13 Seattle.
'I would not be comfortable if she were hiking alone on this trail now. Before, I thought it was North Scottsdale. It's totally fine.'
Some have suggested that warning signs should be posted around the community.
'It would be nice. I'm lucky we do this together. If I were to come out here in the morning for a run, it would change my opinion completely about doing this,' Naomi Kight said.