Utah college student Mackenzie Lueck’s body was found in a wooded area with her arms bound behind her, officials revealed on July 10.
District Attorney Sim Gill revealed the detail while adding that Lueck’s cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.
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 told reporters in Salt Lake City.
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 Hatch Park, where she met someone.
Cellphone data obtained by the police placed Ayoola Ajayi, 31, at the park at the same time.
A search warrant executed on Ajayi’s Salt Lake City home turned up charred tissue and officers later discovered Lueck’s body in a canyon about 85 miles away.
She was found on July 5 near the University of Utah, where she attended school. She had vanished on June 17.
Ajayi was arrested on June 28 and formally charged on Wednesday with one count each of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body.
Records showed Ajayi was a Nigerian national.
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.
Suspect Allegedly Abused Wife, Tried Building Soundproof Room
Ajayi allegedly abused his estranged wife.
The marriage to Tenisha Jenkins Ajayi provided the alleged murderer the opportunity to shift his immigration status but proved harrowing for Jenkins Ajayi, who said she was finally forced into hiding due to the extent of the violence.
“He was telling me not to talk to anybody. He used to check up on me. He started to get more and more aggressive. Eventually, he said he would kill me if I didn’t go to Utah,” she told the Daily Mail. “He tried to tie me up with a phone cord. When I went [to] run, he blocked the door. I ended up jumping through a window and cutting my arm on the glass.”
Ajayi soon followed with a butcher’s knife, his estranged wife added, displaying a scar of where she was cut on her arm.
He chased me into the street with a knife and cut me in the hand. I didn’t go to the police but I moved out of my apartment so he couldn’t find me,” she added.
“I was really frightened. He kept saying he was going to kill me.”
Some reports had indicated that Ajayi and Jenkins Ajayi were divorced but she said he would not sign the papers.
A Utah contractor also said that he was called to Ajayi’s house for a consultation and the suspect asked him to build a soundproof room.
Brian Wolf, the contractor, said Ajayi contacted him in April after getting his contact information from a plumber. Wolf arrived at the house under the impression he’d be looking at fixing issues stemming from a flood but Ajayi instead asked him to erect a secret room.
“He said he wanted to sit in there and listen to his music as loud as he wanted to. I thought it was kind of weird to sit in a little room to listen to music real loud,” Wolf told KSL. “It wasn’t a big area. It was just weird.”
Ajayi informed the contractor he wanted the room to have a lock that could only be opened with his thumbprint and large hooks placed around six feet above the ground, anchored in concrete walls. He claimed the hooks were for a liquor cabinet that he wanted to hide from his “Mormon girlfriend.”
“That was another reason I was like, ‘That’s kind of weird that you need a soundproof room to listen to music and drink your alcohol in,’” Wolf said.
“Then the soundproofing came in and the … fingerprint thumb lock [keypad] thing, and then he was adamant about telling me that money was no [object] and he wanted it done as soon as possible,” Wolf added to the Deseret News. “It just got weirder and weirder, the more he was talking to me.”
Wolf said he sat down after work and saw the news that Ajayi had been linked to the murder of Lueck.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.