Digital Footprint Led To Arrest In Lueck Murder
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Mackenzie Lueck’s digital footprints were used to track down the University of Utah student as soon as investigators learned she was missing.
Police can track us by our footprints and our fingerprints. These days, most of us also leave digital footprints with our phones. In this case, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said they used digital forensic footprints and DNA evidence to reveal the key pieces to the puzzle, and that helped them zero in on the accused killer.
“Great detective work and digital forensic evidence,“ said Chief Brown.
Her family told police Mackenzie had texted them after arriving at the Salt Lake International Airport during the early hours of June 17. She had been in California for her grandmother’s funeral.
Detectives traced the texts, and found video of the 23-year-old at the airport.
NEW: Police have released the following photos of missing U student Mackenzie Lueck at the SLC airport on June 17th. https://t.co/iKNM6JRwZx
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) June 25, 2019
“We knew that she was on that phone, which is a footprint to follow,“ he said.
They found she got a ride from a car service from the airport to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake.
Less than a minute after meeting someone at the park, her phone was shut off and stopped sending data and location information.
“We were able to track her to the park, and the last time we knew that we had any identification with her phone was 3 a.m.,” said Chief Brown.
Lueck’s phone records showed investigators her last communication, which was with the suspect.
In an interview with 31-year-old Ayoola Ajayi, he admitted to police to having text conversations with Lueck the day before she disappeared, but none later.
“The arrested person denied any personal contact with Mackenzie, or meeting with her at any time,“ said Chief Brown.
His phone records told detectives a different story.
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) June 28, 2019
Digital forensic evidence showed that both Lueck and Ajayi’s phones were at Hatch Park June 17 within less than a minute of each other at 3 a.m., about the same time Lueck‘s phone went silent.
“We had a digital footprint that Mackenzie was there, and we had a digital footprint that the arrested person was there – at the same time. It was within a minute or so, and then that is the last digital evidence that we have for Mackenzie,” the chief said.
The evidence led police to Ajayi’s home at 547 North 1000 West in the Fairpark neighborhood of Salt Lake.
Neighbors told police they had smelled a fire in the suspect’s yard in the days following Lueck’s disappearance.
Detectives found the burned up area had recently been dug up.
“We collected charred items,” said the chief. “It was later to be determined (to be human) female tissue.”
They took the evidence to the state crime lab Thursday afternoon.
“They worked all night long. They brought in different technicians and DNA scientists so that we could have that evidence this morning,” said Chief Brown.
They took personal effects from Lueck‘s home and found there was a match in the DNA profile.
“Everybody worked very diligently, nonstop,” said Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill. “This was an issue of concern and urgency for everybody involved.”
We’ve learned a lot about rapid DNA recently, in relationship to other cases. The police chief said this was standard DNA testing at the state crime lab. He said teams did great work to process the evidence that quickly.
Officials were still working on a motive for Lueck’s killing, and have asked anyone with information in the case to call police at 801-799-4420.
Ajayi was booked into the Salt Lake County Metro Jail on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a body and obstruction of justice.
Detectives were still following several leads, and looking into whether the suspect acted alone or if anyone else was involved.
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