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Maricopa County attorney reviewing murder suspect's prior plea deal after Lauren Heike's death

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said she is reviewing Zion Teasley's 2021 plea deal after he was charged in a string of robberies.

PHOENIX — Two weeks after the man accused of murdering Lauren Heike in North Phoenix was arrested, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office said they are reviewing the suspect's prior plea deal.

Zion Teasley, 22, was on probation at the time of the alleged murder stemming from a string of armed robberies he committed in 2020.

He was given a plea deal.

“I'm looking into that myself," said Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell. "And reviewing the case.”

In 2020, police records show Teasley robbed Circle K stores seven times, in some cases armed with a gun. He faced thirteen charges, including kidnapping, burglary, armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. 

All but three were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

“I'm not going to put that on prosecutors, to hold them responsible for every possible thing that can happen after they handled a case," Mitchell said. "That would not be fair.”

Teasley's deal consisted of a three-year prison sentence on a disorderly conduct charge followed by probation. 

He was released in November of 2022.

“He received three years in prison. It was shortened because he did have credit for time served, which is mandatory that they get that, but I am looking into that," Mitchell said.

The deal has come into question in light of what Teasley is now accused of.

Phoenix police said Teasley murdered Lauren Heike in broad daylight as she was on a walk near the Mayo Clinic in North Phoenix. Investigators say, at this point; it appears the attack was random.

Teasley now faces first-degree murder charges and remains in MCSO custody.

“I'm going to do my due diligence and make sure that things were handled as they should have been," Mitchell said. "If they were - okay. But if they were not, then I need to, as now the county attorney, to make changes.”

Russ Richelsoph said he believes Mitchell is doing the right thing. He is an attorney at the Davis Miles Law Firm.

“There are not enough prosecutors, there are not enough defense attorneys, and there are not enough judges to have everybody who's charged with a criminal offense go to trial," Richelsoph explained.

Richelsoph said the system wants to reward those willing to admit guilt.

“It's very hard to predict who is going to succeed and who is going to fail upon release from prison," Richelsoph said.

As for Mitchell's review, she said she will look at Teasley's prior police reports and possibly photos and videos to answer why he was offered the plea deal.

“I'm gonna review the whole case before I finalize my thoughts on that," Mitchell said.

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