SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Friends and mourners planned to remember a Utah college student Monday night who was missing for nearly two weeks before police arrested a man accused of killing her and burying her charred remains in his backyard.
A vigil at the University of Utah will honor Mackenzie Lueck, 23, who has been described as a bubbly, nurturing person who looked after her friends and took care of animals.
Lueck disappeared June 17 after she got back from a trip home to California for her grandmother's funeral. Police have said she took a Lyft from the airport to a park north of Salt Lake City, where she met someone in the early morning.
She was reported missing June 20, launching a wide-ranging search that ended with authorities arresting the man they say was the last person to communicate with her: 31-year-old Ayoola A. Ajayi, whose phone location data also puts him in the same park at the same time, police said.
He was arrested Friday on suspicion of aggravated murder, kidnapping and other crimes after authorities said they found her remains and personal belongings burned and buried in his backyard. Neighbors reported noticing a fire there around the time Lueck disappeared.
It was not known if Ajayi has an attorney to speak on his behalf. He is an information technology worker who attended college on and off but never earned a degree and was briefly in the Army National Guard but didn't complete basic training.
He doesn't have a criminal record, but a northern Utah police department said he was accused of a rape in 2014. Police said the woman, a co-worker in the northern Utah city of Logan, said the contact began consensually, but when she wanted to stop he refused and had sex with her anyway, the Salt Lake Tribune reported . The woman appeared to blame herself for the assault, according to the documents released Monday. She made a report "in case he did the same thing to someone else" but opted not to pursue formal charges.
Police have not discussed a motive for the killing or how Lueck died. It isn't clear how Ajayi and Lueck knew each other. Police have also said they are investigating a report from a construction contractor who said Ajayi approached him in April about building a secretive and soundproof room under a front porch.
A native El Segundo, in the Los Angeles area, Lueck was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and a part-time senior at the University of Utah studying kinesiology and pre-nursing. She was expected to graduate in spring 2020.