Man charged with murder, kidnapping in case of missing Utah student Mackenzie Lueck
A man has been charged in connection with the disappearance of missing University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck, CBS News reports.
Ayoola Ajayi, 31, was charged with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping and desecration of a body after authorities followed digital footprints to his home, Salt Lake City police announced Friday.
On Wednesday, police conducted a search warrant on Ajayi's home in Fairpark. Footage from KSL showed police digging holes in the backyard of his residence. Cops purportedly removed boxes of ammunition and eventually found female human tissue and personal items that belonged to Lueck. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said most of the items were charred, and neighbors said they had seen Ajayi "burning something in his backyard with the use of gas on June 17 and June 18."
Lueck's friends had previously spotted activity on her Instagram account Wednesday and immediately notified authorities, according to Fox News. Lueck's personal Instagram account had allegedly "liked" another page called "fatherless" around noon that day. The hope, among the college student's friends, was that she was still alive.
Lueck, a native of El Segundo, Calif., disappeared on June 17 after returning from a trip back home to attend her grandmother's funeral. The 23-year-old reportedly texted her parents at 1 a.m. to let them that she had landed in Salt Lake City safely. She also ordered a Lyft to Hatch Park, which is a 20-minute drive from her residence.
Lueck's Lyft driver said that he saw her hop into another vehicle with an unidentified individual after he dropped her off at her destination around 3 a.m. The ride-share company confirmed his statement, claiming that Lueck's route to the park "contained no irregularities and ended at the destination entered by the rider."
Altogether, police said they received more than 200 tips related to Lueck's case. They also sifted through phone and social media records, which led them to determine that Ajayi was the last person that had spoken to Lueck. Both the suspect and victim were at the park within a minute of each other, cops added.
A Fox News report noted that Ajayi, a self-proclaimed model who worked in tech support and supposedly wrote a crime novel, once asked Brian Wolf, a local contractor, to create a soundproof room before "his girlfriend got back into town." Wolf ended up turning down the project, which he said weirded him out.
"He slowly added on other requests, like building a secret door and adding hooks to the wall," Wolf said.
One of Ajayi's neighbors also told the news outlet on Thursday that several women had frequented his home.
"There were always so many women coming in and out at all hours of the night," the neighbor, who didn't wish to be identified, said.
Upon learning of Lueck's death, University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins offered his condolences on Friday to those who knew her.
"The death of Mackenzie Lueck is devastating news," he said in a statement. "On behalf of the university, I express our heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends and classmates of Mackenzie during this very difficult time."