Suspect formerly lived in Cache Valley, attended USU
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah college student last seen in a Salt Lake City park 11 days ago was abducted and killed and her remains burned in the yard of a former Cache Valley man now facing aggravated murder and other charges, authorities said Friday.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, who became emotional at times during a morning press conference, said Ayoola A. Ajayi was being charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.
He was arrested without incident earlier Friday morning by a SWAT team.
Ayaji, 31, is a former Cache Valley resident. A Utah State University spokesman has confirmed he attended USU off and on from 2009 to 2016, but he did not obtain a degree from the university.
He reportedly served in the United States Army for approximately two years during that same time period, where he was an information technology specialist.
Brown said he told the missing woman’s parents in Southern California about the arrest earlier Friday morning. “This is one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made,” he said. “We are devastated and heartbroken by this news.”
Police say Ajayi met Lueck at the park after taking a Lyft from the airport. It was not immediately clear how or whether the two had known each other previously but police said they had communicated electronically the day before she disappeared. They did not elaborate on details of that communication.
The police chief said investigators were seeking to determine if others were involved.
Brown says burned evidence, including Lueck’s remains and personal belongings, was found at his home when it was searched on Wednesday and Thursday. Ajayi had previously been identified as a person of interest in Lueck’s disappearance.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Ajayi had an attorney. He had not returned previous messages from The Associated Press prior to his arrest.
Lueck was a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing. She has been a student since 2014 and has an off-campus apartment.
She is from El Segundo in the Los Angeles area and flew to California for a funeral before returning to Salt Lake City, police said.
Her family reported her missing on June 20 and became more concerned after she missed a planned flight back to Los Angeles last weekend.
While Ajayi does not have a prior criminal history in Utah’s judicial system, he does have involvements with Cache Valley police.
According to Logan Police reports, Ajayi contacted police in August 2013 to report threats that had been made against him. When police investigated further, they say another male made threats against Ajayi after he allegedly made unwanted advances toward a female coworker.
While the responding officer spoke with Ajayi and told him the woman wanted no contact with him, there was not enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges and the case was closed.
Just over a year later, another woman contacted North Park Police to report a rape that allegedly occurred in his North Logan apartment.
Police reports state Ajayi invited a female coworker to his residence and she went, albeit reluctantly. She told police that they were “doing stuff” until she found herself in a bad spot. She told police that she told him no, but he allegedly proceeded to have sex with her without her consent.
The alleged victim told police she had no desire to pursue criminal charges, but she wanted to document what happened.
“She stated that she just wanted it on file in case did the same thing to someone else,” the police report states.
Herald Journal reporter Amy Macavinta contributed to this report.