Friends of slain Utah student Mackenzie Lueck believe that the man accused of killing her was “hunting for women.”
Ashley Fine, Katie Kvam and Kennedy Stoner defended Lueck in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, where they spoke out against the victim-blaming that they said they've seen on social media, and described the man suspected of killing her as a “psychopath” and a “narcissist.”
Lueck, a 23-year-old University of Utah student, went missing early on June 17, after attending her grandmother’s funeral. She is believed to have taken a Lyft ride from the Salt Lake City International airport to North Salt Lake park, where she met another person and got into their car.
Ayoola A. Ajayi, 31, was arrested in connection to the case on Friday, and is facing charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, desecration of a body and homicide.
Details regarding how Ajayi and Lueck knew each other have yet to be released, but amid news of the arrest of Lueck’s suspected killer, her friends are speaking out against the victim-shaming they say she’s been subject to online, presumably for meeting with someone late at night prior to her disappearance.
“Victim-shaming or saying that Kenzie died because she did X,Y and Z — I think that’s almost a security blanket for other people,” Fine told Fox News. “'That would never happen to me, because I would never do X, Y and Z.’ But the fact is that this person wasn’t only doing those sorts of things; he was, in my opinion, hunting for women.”
Fine added that one's gender or dating habits should never equal their death sentence.
"Mackenzie is not responsible for the death and murder of Mackenzie," she said. "There's only one person responsible for that, and we're here to hold him responsible and we're going to keep holding him responsible."
Stoner described Ajayi as a “psychopath” and a “narcissist,” adding that, “I honestly believe in court he’s gonna try and plead not guilty.”
Before Ajayi was named as a suspect, his home was searched extensively for evidence. Salt Lake City police have said that Ajayi was arrested after investigators discovered charred remains and items belonging to Lueck in his backyard.
Following Ajayi's arrest, a contractor came forward to say that Ajayi tried in April to hire him to build a small, sound-proof room in his home that would have concrete hooks and only be accessible by a fingerprint lock, CBS News reports. Brian Wolf, who refused to build the room, said that Ajayi was “adamant about getting it done really fast and money was no object.”
Cellphone data place both Lueck and Ajayi at the park, where she disappeared, at the same time, according to the outlet. But police say that, although Ajayi admitted to exchanging text messages with Lueck the day before she disappeared, he denied having ever met her.
Stoner, one of Lueck’s friends, said that news of the room Ajayi tried to have built show that he “was planning on doing this to someone,” Fox News reports.
“I don’t know if it was exactly Kenzie but there was definitely a plan there,” she reportedly added.
Lueck’s friends on Sunday called Luek a “huge light” in their lives and spoke out against shaming victims in general.
“It hurts victims and it stops them from coming forward,” Fine said. “Regardless of anything someone does they do not deserve to be treated this way and that’s why we’re here and want to spread that message that we want victims to come forward regardless of the potential to be shamed.”
Students at the University of Utah will be holding a vigil in Lueck’s honor on Monday night, according to ABC News. University President Ruth Watkins reacted to news of the kinesiology major’s death in a statement obtained by the outlet on Friday.
“The death of Mackenzie Lueck is devastating news,” Watkins said. “On behalf of the university, I express our heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends and classmates of Mackenzie during this very difficult time.”
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