Mackenzie Lueck's Accused Killer Appears In Court For The First Time

Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old Utah college student, was found dead in a canyon with her hands bound behind her back.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

The man accused of killing University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck appeared in court for the first time on Monday.

Ayoola Ajayi, who is currently jailed on a variety of charges that include aggravated murder, made a video appearance at a brief hearing held in order to determine when he would next appear in court, Fox News reports. Ajayi, who was joined during the hearing by a court-appointed lawyer, was largely silent during proceedings, and has not yet entered a plea in response to the charges he faces, according to the outlet.

Ajayi, 31, is due to appear in court again on July 29, according to KSL, an NBC affiliate based in Salt Lake City.

He was arrested and charged last week with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a body for the killing of Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old student who vanished on June 17 after returning to Salt Lake City, Utah following her grandmother’s funeral. Authorities believe that Lueck met up with Ajayi at a nearby park in the early morning hours, but they have not clarified how the two may have known each other.

Two weeks after Lueck disappeared, investigators discovered her body buried in a canyon 85 miles away from Ajayi’s home, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said during an emotional press conference last week. Her hands had been tied behind her back using a zip tie and rope, and there was a small hole on the left side of her head where a portion of her scalp was missing. Following an autopsy, officials concluded that Lueck had died from blunt force trauma to the head and ruled that her death was a homicide.

Mackenzie Lueck and Ayoola Ajayi

Prior to the discovery of Lueck’s body, Ajayi was considered a person of interest in the case and authorities found human tissue believed to have come from Lueck, as well as a number of her personal belongings that had been burned, on his property.

Lueck’s friends, some of whom previously spoke out against victim shaming in their friend’s defense, attended the hearing on Monday, where they sat together in the front row and held hands, according to Fox News.

“We are all still in extreme shock,” one friend, Ashley Fine, told the outlet. “Even right now I feel like I could call her and text her and she would answer. We didn’t get to say goodbye to our friend.”

Additional evidence related to Lueck’s killing was found along the Jordan River Parkway on Monday, Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Schearer confirmed to KSL. He did not clarify what those findings were.

Ajayi, a former information technology specialist for the U.S. Army, was investigated for allegedly raping a co-worker in 2014, but was never charged or even interviewed by police after the victim chose not to pursue the case, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.

His estranged wife, Tenisha Ajayi, has also suggested that Ajayi was abusive during their relationship, telling the Salt Lake City-based CBS affiliate KUTV earlier this month that she feared for her life at times.

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