Body of slain college student recovered in a Utah canyon


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The body of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck has been recovered in a Utah canyon about 85 miles away from a backyard in Salt Lake City where other remains were found last week, police said Friday.

The body was discovered Wednesday in Logan Canyon, north of Salt Lake City. Authorities previously said some of her charred remains and personal belongings were found in a suspect’s backyard in Salt Lake City.

“I spoke with Mackenzie’s family this morning. Another devastating call,” Salt Lake City police Chief Mike Brown said. “Despite their grief, we hope this will help them find some closure and justice for Mackenzie.”

The canyon is near Utah State University, where 31-year-old suspect Ayoola A. Ajayi sporadically attended classes for several years without earning a degree.  

On June 17, Lueck disappeared after she returned from a trip to her hometown of El Segundo, California, for her grandmother’s funeral. She took a Lyft from the airport to a park where she met someone.

Ajayi was the last person she communicated with, and his cellphone puts him in the park at the same time as Lueck, police have said.

Ajayi is being held on suspicion of aggravated murder, kidnapping, and other crimes. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says that charges are expected to be filed next week.

Police have not discussed a motive for the killing or how Lueck died. At this time it is not clear how Ajayi and Lueck knew each other.

Authorities did not take questions at a Friday news conference or provide other details about the case.

Lueck was missing for nearly two weeks before Ajayi was arrested.

Lueck was a member of a sorority and a part-time senior at the University of Utah 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 criminal history but was investigated in a 2014 rape allegation and was arrested in a stolen iPad case at Utah State in 2012. About three years ago he was arrested due to his student visa being expired which got him banned from the campus for about three years.

Ajayi is a native of Nigeria. Records show he is now a U.S. citizen.

Ajayi’s ex-wife told reporters she was afraid of him, and police have investigated a report that he asked a contractor to build a secretive and soundproof room in his home.

At the time of Lueck’s disappearance, neighbors reported a fire in his backyard, police have said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski commended investigators handling the case.

“I and this community are here for the Lueck family as you continue to go through this process of grieving, of seeking justice and letting go of your loved one in a very tragic circumstance,” she said.

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