Utah Police Say Body of Slain College Student Recovered

July 5, 2019 Updated: July 5, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY—The body of a slain college student has been recovered in a Utah canyon about 85 miles away from a backyard in Salt Lake City where other remains were found last week, police said on July 5.

The disclosure came in the case involving 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.

Authorities previously said some of her charred remains and personal belongings were found in a suspect’s backyard in Salt Lake City. The body was discovered Wednesday in Logan Canyon, north of the city.

“I spoke with Mackenzie’s family this morning. Another devastating call,” Salt Lake City police Chief Mike Brown said. “Despite their grief, we hope this will help them find some closure and justice for Mackenzie.”

The canyon is near Utah State University, where 31-year-old suspect Ayoola A. Ajayi sporadically attended classes for several years without earning a degree.

Lueck disappeared June 17, after she returned from a trip to her hometown of El Segundo, California, for her grandmother’s funeral and took a Lyft from the airport to a park where she met someone.

Mackenzie Lueck
A University of Utah student who took a late-night Lyft ride from the airport last week has not been seen since, Salt Lake City police said. (@SLCPD/Twitter via CNN)

Ajayi was the last person she communicated with, and his cellphone puts him in the park at the same time as Lueck, police have said.

He’s being held on suspicion of aggravated murder, kidnapping and other crimes. Charges are expected to be filed next week, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said.

No attorney has been listed for Ajayi.

Police have not discussed a motive for the killing or how Lueck died. It isn’t clear how Ajayi and Lueck knew each other.

Ayoola Ajayi
Ayoola Ajayi. (Salt Lake County Jail)

Authorities did not take questions at a Friday news conference or provide other details about the case.

Lueck was missing for nearly two weeks before Ajayi was arrested.

Lueck has been remembered as a bubbly, nurturing person. She was a member of a sorority and a part-time senior at the University of Utah studying kinesiology and pre-nursing.

Mackenzie Lueck with friends
This undated photo provided by Kennedy Stoner shows herself, from left, posing with Mackenzie Lueck and Grace Peterson. (Courtesy of Kennedy Stoner via AP)

Ajayi is an information technology worker who had stints with high-profile companies and was briefly in the Army National Guard.

He has no criminal history but was investigated in a 2014 rape allegation and was arrested in a stolen iPad case at Utah State in 2012. The arrest and the expiration of his student visa got him banned from the campus for about three years.

A native of Nigeria, Ajayi is now a U.S. citizen, records show.

Ayoola A. Ajayi
Salt Lake City police take Ayoola A. Ajayi into custody in connection with missing University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck in Salt Lake City on June 28, 2019. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP)

His ex-wife has told reporters she was afraid of him, and police have investigated a report that he asked a contractor to build a secretive and soundproof room in his home.

Neighbors reported a fire in his backyard at the time Lueck disappeared, police have said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski commended investigators handling the case.

“I and this community are here for the Lueck family as you continue to go through this process of grieving, of seeking justice and letting go of your loved one in a very tragic circumstance,” she said.

By Lindsay Whitehurst

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