Police: Missing University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck is dead; man charged with murder
Salt Lake City police have charged a man with murder in the killing of missing University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck, officials announced Friday.
The suspect, identified as Ayoola Ajayi, was taken into custody Friday morning and also faces charges of aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a human body and obstruction of justice, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said.
Lueck, 23, was last seen meeting an unknown individual around 3 a.m. on June 17 near a park in Salt Lake City after being dropped off by a Lyft driver.
Salt Lake City police take a man into custody in connection with missing University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck in Salt Lake City on Friday. (AP/The Deseret News)
Her uncle, reading a statement on behalf of her family Friday, said they would like to "express their gratitude" to all the law enforcement agencies that assisted in the investigation. He also said her family is "grateful" of those who supported it.
Police searched Ajayi's Salt Lake City home this week and named him as a person of interest before arresting him Friday. During their search, they dug up holes in the home's backyard and removed items from the property for further forensic investigation.
Brown said they searched the home after neighbors told police they saw the suspect burning a fire in the backyard. He said investigators should a fresh dig area in the backyard as well as charred personal items belonging to Lueck.
The suspect recently expressed a desire to build a secret, soundproofed room with hooks on its walls in the basement of his home, a contractor revealed to Fox News on Friday.
Brian Wolf, who owns a home repair business in Utah, said Ajayi reached out to him in April and asked him to give him an estimate for the potential renovation project.
“He slowly added on other requests, like building a secret door and adding hooks to the wall,” Wolf told Fox News, adding that the ultimately turned down the job offer because he was "weirded out" by the requests.
A Facebook profile purportedly belonging to Ayoola Ajayi contains images of him in a U.S. Army uniform.
He appears to have set up a profile on a website where aspiring models seek jobs.
“I am tall, buffed, Funny. I am a victim, Romantic, Violent and character actor,” the profile reads. The page contains several images of himself posing shirtless.
Ayayi also appears to have published an e-book last year titled “Forge Identity”, about a teenager who has witnessed violent murders and then has to decide whether “he will join the ranks of a criminal mastermind, or fight to escape the tyranny that has surrounded his young life.”
An author biography on an Amazon page where the book is listed claims Ajayi was born and raised in Africa, “survived a tyrannical dictatorship, escaped a real-life crime, traveled internationally” and “excelled professionally in several industries.”
On an Airbnb profile purportedly belonging to him – which has since been taken off the website -- Ajayi advertised two "beautiful and affordable basement rooms in the heart of [Salt Lake City] with shared common area" for $27 and $30 a night, at the house police searched this week.
This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates...
Fox News' Cristina Corbin contributed to this report.