“She was my little girl.” Family of woman killed on Phoenix hiking trail makes plea to help find suspect

Warning signs were put up along a north Phoenix hiking trail and a family wants answers after a woman was killed in broad daylight.
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 12:56 PM MST|Updated: May. 3, 2023 at 7:03 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Police say a woman found dead on a popular Phoenix trail was killed the day before her body was discovered. Phoenix police provided an update on the investigation during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, which was also attended by Lauren Heike’s parents and friends.

Detectives believe Heike was hiking on the Reach 11 trail near her apartment in the area of Scottsdale Road and Mayo Boulevard on Friday morning when she was attacked from behind sometime between 10 and 11 a.m. Her body wasn’t discovered until the next day because police say she was in an area that isn’t necessarily visible from the trail.

Police believe the suspect (right) in Lauren Heike's murder was caught on a nearby surveillance...
Police believe the suspect (right) in Lauren Heike's murder was caught on a nearby surveillance camera just after her murder.(Arizona's Family/Phoenix Police Department)

On Tuesday, Phoenix police released surveillance video of a person of interest they’re now calling a suspect in Heike’s murder. The short clip shows a thin man with a dark complexion, described as 5′8″ to 6′ tall, who was wearing a gray or lighter-colored shirt, dark pants, a dark backpack, and shoes. “We believe someone would have noticed this person either before the attack or after he fled from our scene,” said Phoenix Homicide Lt. James Hester.

Lauren Heike’s mom and friends are speaking out days after she was found dead on a popular Phoenix trail.

Heike’s parents and friends, who are horrified and heartbroken, shared emotional pleas. “We want somebody to come forward and help us find this person,” said Lana, Lauren’s mother. “She was my little girl. I’m really going to miss her,” said Lauren’s father, Jeff.

Investigators say the suspect would have stood out on the trail last week and are asking everyone to band together to find her killer. Police are not yet sharing how they believe Heike was killed or if a weapon was used, saying there are details that only the suspect would know which, if divulged, could 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 said.

Lauren’s heartbroken parents say they want justice for their daughter. “As hard as this is for us, we’re grateful because we had such a beautiful child,” Lana said. “We will love her every minute that we are on this Earth.”

Family and friends are pleading for anyone to come forward. “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,” said Lana.

Police can’t say if this was a random attack or potentially someone she knew. However, investigators are reiterating they are pursuing all leads. Anyone with information is asked to call Phoenix police. To remain anonymous, you can call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS (480-948-6377) or 480-TESTIGO (480-837-8446). You can also leave a tip at silentwitness.org. A reward of up to $2,000 is offered for any information related to the case.

Family and friends of Lauren Heike made an emotional plea for information on who would have killed her while she was on a north Phoenix trail.