Additional Details Released With Formal Charges In Lueck Homicide
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Detectives discovered the location of Mackenzie Lueck’s body by following the digital footprint of the man suspected of killing the 23-year-old University of Utah student.
Those details were released Wednesday by Salt Lake County District Sim Gill after filing formal charges against 31-year-old Ayoola Ajayi.
As expected, felony charges were filed for criminal homicide/aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice and the abuse or desecration of a human body.
Reported Missing June 20
Mackenzie Lueck was last heard from during the early morning hours of June 17. She had flown to the Salt Lake International Airport from California for her grandmother’s funeral.
Gill said it began as a missing person case on June 20 when Mackenzie’s father, Greg Lueck, called the Salt Lake City Police Department and said no one had heard from this daughter since shortly after her arrival in Utah.
LIVE: District Attorney Sim Gill is holding a press conference where he's expected to announce charges in the Mackenzie Lueck case. The press conference begins at 11 a.m.
Posted by KSL 5 TV on Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Investigators found video evidence that Mackenzie had been at the airport. She had taken a Lyft to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, about 13 miles away.
A search of her cell phone records confirmed she had been at the park. Detectives also learned she had “exchanged several text messages” with Ajayi. Her last text to him was at 2:58 a.m.
Cell phone data placed Lueck and Ajayi at Hatch Park at the same time, at 2:59 a.m. Lueck’s phone also stopped transmitting data or location information at 2:59 a.m., which Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said indicated her phone had been powered off.
#BREAKING: Charges have been filed against Ayoola Ajayi, 31, in the murder of University of Utah student, Mackenzie Lueck. She died as a result of “blunt force trauma,” according to an autopsy performed by the medical examiner. @KSL5TV
— Brittany Glas (@BrittanyGlasTV) July 10, 2019
Digital Footprint Led To Suspect’s Home
Police tracked Ajayi’s cell phone signal from the park to his home at 547 North 1000 West in the Fairpark neighborhood. Sim said the phone was at Ajayi’s phone at 3:07 a.m. – just 7-8 minutes after picking Lueck up from the park.
After executing a search warrant at the home, detectives found a freshly dug site in the backyard. They found a charred human bone, muscular tissue and burned personal items they said belonged to Lueck.
In a nearby alleyway, they also found charred fabric and other items.
Gill said the DNA of the bone matched the DNA profile found in items belonging to Mackenzie.
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) July 10, 2019
During their search, a neighbor reported that on June 17 there had been a “horrible smell” coming from a fire in Ajayi’s backyard. The neighbor told police that Ajayi had a bonfire behind a garage at the residence on June 17, and again on June 18.
Witnessed said the fire was fueled by gasoline.
Gill said the neighbor reported the fire in the same location where detectives had found freshly dug ground, and where they had discovered the bone and tissue.
In the process of their search, investigators seized Ajayi’s vehicle. They reported a strong odor of gas, and a red gas can in the trunk. They further determined that Ajayi had purchased a similar gas can at a local store at 9 a.m. the morning Mackenzie went missing.
Police Work Led To Logan Canyon
There had been speculation that Ajayi had cut a deal with prosecutors to reveal the location of Mackenzie’s body, but Gill said that wasn’t the case.
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) July 10, 2019
Gill said a July 3 analysis of Ajayi’s cell phone records placed the phone in Logan Canyon on June 25 between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Police conducted an extensive search of the area. After what Gill described as a “lengthy search,” investigators found recently disturbed ground in a wooded area off the main road.
It was in this location where they found a charred human body in a shallow grave. The medical examiner’s office determined the body was that of Mackenzie Lueck.
Phone records show Ajayi was in Logan Canyon on June 25. When detectives searched the canyon @SimGillDA says detectives found a "charred human body" in a shallow grave in a grove of trees off the main road. Hands zipped tied behind back. DNA testing fit #MacKenzieLueck
— KSL Newsradio (@kslnewsradio) July 10, 2019
Mackenzie’s arms had been bound behind her back by zip tie and rope.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death was blunt force trauma on the left side of her skull, and ruled her death a homicide.
Gill said it remained an active prosecution and investigation as detectives continued to gather evidence and put all the pieces together of what happened to Mackenzie. Additional aspects of the case continued to be developed.
He also it was premature to talk about whether or not prosecutors would seek the death penalty.
Will determine death penalty at the appropriate time.
BREAKING: Medical examiner says #MacKenzieLueck suffered fatal blunt force trauma to left side of skull.
— Ladd Egan (@laddegan) July 10, 2019