Missing Utah Student Mackenzie Lueck Found Dead, Suspect Charged With Murder

SALT LAKE CITY—Authorities are filing murder and kidnapping charges in the death of a Utah college student who disappeared 11 days ago.

Salt Lake City police chief Mike Brown said 31-year-old Ayoola A. Ajayi will be charged with aggravated murder, kidnaping and desecration of a body in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.

Police say Ajayi met Lueck at a park where she was last seen after taking a Lyft from the airport at 3 a.m.

Mackenzie Lueck
Mackenzie Lueck, 23, is seen leaving the departure area at Salt Lake City International Airport. (Salt Lake City Airport/PD via CNN)

Brown says burned evidence, including Lueck’s things and her remains, was found at his home. The home was searched on Wednesday and Thursday and Ajayi was the man previously identified as a person of interest.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Ajayi had an attorney. He has not returned previous messages from The Associated Press.

Ajayi was arrested earlier Friday morning by a SWAT team.

Ayoola A. Ajayi
Salt Lake City police take a man into custody in connection with missing University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck in Salt Lake City on June 28, 2019. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP)

Brown said he told the missing woman’s parents in Southern California about the arrest earlier Friday morning.

“This is one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made,” Brown said. “We are devastated and heartbroken by this news.”

Mackenzie’s uncle is thanking police for their work during an 11-day search that ended with news of her death.

He did not identify himself, but held back tears as he read a statement from her family to reporters at a news conference on Friday.

NTD Photo
A University of Utah student who took a late-night Lyft ride from the airport last week has not been seen since, Salt Lake City police said.

Lueck was a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing. She has been a student since 2014 and has an off-campus apartment.

She is from El Segundo in the Los Angeles area and flew to California for a funeral before returning to Salt Lake City, police said. Her family reported her missing on June 20 and became more concerned after she missed a planned flight back to Los Angeles last weekend.

Lueck’s Disappearance

The 23-year-old University of Utah student’s disappearance is surrounded by mystery, and yet police say that day she did not seem troubled.

Lueck flew into Salt Lake City International Airport from a family funeral in California and texted her parents at 1 a.m. when she landed. Airport surveillance footage shows her rolling her luggage past a baggage carousel in the early morning hours.

Mackenzie Lueck
Mackenzie Lueck, 23, is seen leaving the departure area at Salt Lake City International Airport. (Salt Lake City Airport/PD via CNN)

She then took a Lyft to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake City, where she was last seen.

“Mackenzie was met at Hatch Park by an individual in a vehicle,” Salt Lake City Police Assistant Chief Tim Doubt told reporters Monday. “The Lyft driver left Mackenzie at the park with that person and stated that Mackenzie did not appear to be in any type of distress.”

Detectives have been canvassing the area around the park and looking for video surveillance.

The rideshare company confirmed the route Lueck took and the app said that it showed no irregularities.

“We recognize how scary this must be for those who know and love Ms. Lueck,” Lyft said. “The safety of our community is fundamental to Lyft and we are actively assisting law enforcement with their investigation.”

Friends and Family Worry

Lueck’s family and friends have not heard from her since the day she landed, police said. And they say it is unusual.

Lueck was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on June 23 but missed the flight.

Friend and sorority sister Ashley Fine told CNN affiliate KSL that Lueck also has missed exams.

Ashley Fine and Kennedy Stoner, close friends of missing person Mackenzie Lueck,
Ashley Fine and Kennedy Stoner, close friends of missing person Mackenzie Lueck, speak during a press conference outside the Salt Lake City Police Department in Salt Lake City, on June 23, 2019. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

“She’s extremely dedicated. She would never miss her midterms or anything like that,” Fine told the Salt Lake City TV station. “She hasn’t been home. She didn’t show up to work, or anything.”

Brown spoke to her father and said he could “feel the heartache and the pain and the suffering in his voice as we spoke.”

“And my commitment to Greg was we would do everything within our power, the Salt Lake City Police Department, to bring Mackenzie home,” Brown said. “And that is our charge and that we are committed to do.”

The CNN Wire contributed to this report.