The man accused of abducting and murdering University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck is now facing felony charges, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office announced during a press conference detailing how the 23-year-old died.
Ayoola Ajayi, a 31-year-old Salt Lake City resident, was formally charged on Wednesday with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a body, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Wednesday. He is expected to appear in court again on Monday, according to the New York Post.
Lueck, a kinesiology major, disappeared on June 17 after returning from her grandmother’s funeral and taking a Lyft ride from the airport to a local park in the early morning hours. She was seen by her driver getting into another vehicle. That was the last time she was seen in public.
Cell phone data place Lueck and Ajayi at the same park at the same time; Lueck’s phone was turned off shortly afterward, and it was not turned back on again, Gill said.
Ajayi was arrested in connection to Lueck’s disappearance on June 28, two weeks after she first went missing. Investigators executed a search warrant on his property and discovered human tissue that matched Lueck’s DNA profile in a burn pile in his backyard, prompting his arrest.
Gill said on Wednesday that “a human bone, charred muscular tissue, part of a scalp, with hair, a cellphone, and other charred personal items” of Lueck’s were found in what appeared to be a “freshly dug site” behind Ajayi’s home, while “charred black fabric, buckles,” and other evidence were found in an alleyway near his house.
Following the discoveries on Ajayi’s property, authorities found Lueck’s body on July 3 in Logan Canyon, an area located 85 miles away from Ajayi’s home and; cell phone records place him there on the afternoon of June 25, authorities say. Investigators searched the area and found “a disturbed area of soil” underneath a grove of trees, where a “charred human body” that matched Lueck’s DNA profile had been buried, Gill said.
“Mackenzie’s arms were bound behind her back by a zip tie and rope,” he continued. “A five-centimeter hole was located on the left side of her skull with part of her left scalp missing.”
A medical examiner performed an autopsy and determined that Lueck “suffered blunt force trauma to the left side of her skull resulting in significant intracranial hemorrhaging which would have been fatal” and concluded that her death had been a homicide.
The Salt Lake Legal Defender Association will serve as Ajayi’s legal representation, and the office reacted to the charges in a brief statement obtained by the Orange County Register.
“In accordance with constitutional principles, Mr. Ajayi is presumed to be innocent,” their statement reads. “The facts in this matter will be established in due course through the processes of the criminal justice system.”
Gill said Wednesday that it’s too early for his office to comment on if they will push for the death penalty, but said 'that is a possibility that is here,” according to the paper.
While Gill confirmed that Lueck and Ajayi communicated via text messages before her death, he declined to comment on the nature of the messages and did not clarify how the two knew each other.
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