Homeowner charged with murder, kidnapping in disappearance of Mackenzie Lueck
Jun 28, 2019, 10:02 AM | Updated: 12:54 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — Police Chief Mike Brown announced charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping and desecration of a body on Friday, more than 10 days after the disappearance of Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old University of Utah student.
“It is with heavy heart that I address you today,” Brown said. “We are filing charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a body in the homicide of Mackenzie Lueck.”
A KSL crew was on hand near 1000 S. West Temple as a SWAT team moved into the Parkside Condominiums and took two people into custody. Police later confirmed one of those two people was in custody in connection with the Lueck investigation.
Mackenzie Lueck disappeared on June 17 after flying back into Salt Lake City from a trip to her home state of California. Police say she took a Lyft ride to a park in North Salt Lake. The Lyft driver told police she got into another vehicle with someone else, but did not appear to be in distress.
Friday, Brown confirmed that the owner of a home searched by police earlier in the week in Salt Lake City’s Fairpark neighborhood was the person they arrested and charged in the case.
Neighbors told police they observed the homeowner, identified as Ayoola Ajayi, burning something in his backyard with gasoline on June 17 and June 18. Brown told reporters phone records showed Mackenzie Lueck’s last communication was with Ajayi. Police said some of the evidence collected from the home Ajayi owns in the Fairpark neighborhood include charred personal items and human “female tissue” remains.
Brown said he personally contacted Greg Lueck, Mackenzie’s father, to let him know about the findings and the arrest.
“This was one of the most difficult calls I’ve ever made,” he said.
The suspect was being booked into the Salt Lake County jail. Outside of some minor traffic violations, a search of court records showed no prior criminal history in the state of Utah for him.
At one point in time, police say Ajayi lived in an apartment across the street from Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, where Lueck was last seen by her Lyft driver. He and a roommate were evicted from that apartment in 2016 for failing to pay rent. His Fairpark property, near 550 N. 1000 W., was listed on Airbnb, but has since been removed from that site. Neighbors said he lived in the upstairs of the home and rented out the basement.
Mackenzie Lueck was a part-time student and senior at the University of Utah. A kinesiology major, she was expected to graduate in the spring of 2020. In a statement, U. President Ruth Watkins encouraged anyone “in need of support” to take advantage of resources on campus, including the Counseling Center.