Tech worker charged with murder in death of college student

Salt Lake City police take Ayoola A. Ajayi into custody June 28, 2019, in connection with missing University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck in Salt Lake City. | Photo by Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via The Associated Press, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A tech worker was charged Wednesday with murder and kidnapping in the death of a Utah college student whose body was found in a wooded area with her arms bound behind her.

Prosecutors said Ayoola A. Ajayi, 31, was the last person Mackenzie Lueck communicated with on June 17 before she disappeared.

District Attorney Sim Gill also said Lueck’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, and her body was found with her arms bound behind her.

He did not discuss a motive or possible connection between Lueck and Ajayi.

Gill became emotional as he described the Lueck family’s reaction to the charges.

“They asked me to express on their behalf the generosity of so many strangers and friends,” he said.

This undated photo taken from the Facebook page #FindMackenzieLueck shows Mackenzie Lueck, 23, a senior at the University of Utah. | Photo from #FindMackenzieLueck via The Associated Press, St. George News

Lueck disappeared shortly after she returned from a trip to her California hometown for the funeral of her grandmother and took a Lyft from the airport to a park, where she met someone.

Cellphone data put Ajayi in the park at the same time, authorities say.

Police later found the charred phone in the backyard of Ajayi’s home in Salt Lake City, along with a bone, muscle tissue and part of Lueck’s scalp, Gill said.

A neighbor reported a fire and a “horrible smell” coming from the yard on the day Lueck disappeared, Gill said.

Her body was later discovered in a shallow grave in Logan Canyon, 85 miles (138 kilometers) from Salt Lake City. The site is near Utah State University, where Ajayi had attended classes.

Ajayi was arrested June 28 after a search for Lueck that lasted nearly two weeks. He was charged with one count each of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body.

No attorney has been listed for Ajayi.

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

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

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

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

Ed. note: On first publish, this report incorrectly identified the university near which Lueck’s remains were found as the University of Utah. The remains were found in a canyon near Utah State University, 85 miles north of Salt Lake City.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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