Mackenzie Lueck was tragically murdered at the age of 23 during the early morning hours of June 17th, 2019.
Mackenzie was a student at the University of Utah, and she lived in Salt Lake City. She spent the final days of her life in her hometown of El Selgundo, California, as she was visiting family for a funeral. Mackenzie boarded a flight back to Utah on the evening of June 16th, which landed in Salt Lake during the early morning hours of the 17th. She texted her parents around 2am to let them know she had landed safely. After that final text, Mackenzie's family never heard from her again.
Over the next few days, Mackenzie's family and friends began to notice that something was off. When her father tried to message her on the 18th, he noticed that the messages were going through as text messages rather than iMessages-even though they both had iPhones. Her friends began to worry when Mackenzie did not show up to her shift at Millbrook medical lab, nor did she show up for an exam she was scheduled to take. Knowing this was uncharacteristic of her, Mackenzie's worried parents contacted Utah officials to report her missing on June 20th, 2019.
Throughout the investigation, detectives learned that Mackenzie left the airport on the morning of her disappearance in a Lyft car. Surveillance cameras at the airport captured her exiting the building at 2:40am.
|Mackenzie leaving the Salt Lake airport on the morning of June 17th|
Detectives questioned the Lyft driver, who told them that he dropped Mackenzie off at Hatch Park and observed her getting into another vehicle. Both Lyft records and cell phone pings confirmed that Mackenzie exited the Lyft at the park at 2:59am. Mackenzie's family and friends did not know why she asked the Lyft driver to take her to the park instead of taking her home, nor did they know about any plans for her to meet someone there. Detectives then worked to identify who she met up with at the park.
Mackenzie's cell phone records revealed that she was messaging with another person while in her Lyft. In fact, Mackenzie's final text message was sent to this person at 2:58am--just one minute before she exited the Lyft at Hatch Park. Her phone was shut off shortly after 3:00am. Detectives later identified the person Mackenzie was messaging as 31 year-old man named Ayoola Ajayi. After learning that Ajayi was the last person to communicate with Mackenzie, detectives went to his house in Fairpark to question him. He initially denied knowing Mackenzie, but later admitted they had briefly messaged after meeting on a dating app. Both Ajayi and Mackenzie had a dating app called 'Seeking Arrangements' downloaded on their phone--which is an app designed for people seeking a 'sugar daddy/sugar baby' type relationship.
On June 26th, 2019, authorities executed a search warrant at Ajayi's house. Several items were seized during the search. His backyard was thoroughly searched as well. Two days later, on June 28th, 2019, Ayoola Ajayi was arrested and charged with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a body and obstructing justice in relation to the Mackenzie Lueck case. It was then confirmed that detectives had found tissue/DNA belonging to Mackenzie at Ajayi's house. Additionally, it was revealed that on the morning of June 17th Ajayi's cell phone pinged off the same tower Mackenzie's phone pinged off of for the final time--and his ping occurred just a minute after hers. At that point, it became clear that Ajayi picked Mackenzie up at the park that morning.
Once Ajayi was behind bars, investigators continued to comb through evidence and build their case. The evidence they gathered eventually revealed a harrowing story about what happened to Mackenzie.
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Both cell phone records and DNA evidence proved that Mackenzie and Ajayi were together during the morning of June 17th. Ajayi's cell phone records also revealed other information that would be vital to the case. The records showed that on June 25th, 2019--very shortly after he was initially questioned by police--Ajayi traveled to Logan Canyon. On July 3rd, 2019, Mackenzie's body was found at said canyon. She was found with her arms bound behind her back with rope. It appeared her body had been burned, as well. An autopsy revealed that she had been beaten and strangled. Mackenzie's official cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma.
After Mackenzie's body was found, it became clear that Ajayi had not buried her at Logan Canyon until June 25th--eight days after she was killed, and just one day after he was questioned by police. Evidence from Ajayi's backyard revealed that Mackenzie had previously been buried there. Additionally, Ajayi's neighbors told police that there was a "horrible smell" coming from Ajayi's backyard firepit on June 17th and 18th.
Although it was clear that Ajayi was the person who murdered Mackenzie, investigators struggled to find a motive. He did not have a criminal record prior to this incident. However, he was investigated for a sexual assault case in 2014. The victim in this case was an adult woman, and she ultimately decided not to press charges. Additionally, Ajayi's ex-wife revealed that she had stopped speaking with him years earlier, as he made her fear for her life. Ayayi also reportedly self-published numerous books to Amazon that depicted violence and murder. The books have since been removed.
In October 2020, over a year after Mackenzie's murder, Ayayi pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and desecration of a human body. During the court proceeding, the prosecutor stated that Mackenzie and Ayayi met on the dating app at some point in 2018. The two finally decided to meet in person during June 2019. Unbeknownst to Mackenzie, Ayayi had already planned to murder her before they had even met. After picking her up at the park on the morning of June 17th, he brought Mackenzie back to his house where he bound her arms behind her back. Ayayi then began to strangle her. He eventually beat her before forcing her face down on the bed and strangling her with a belt.
In exchange for his guilty plea, the prosecution agreed to drop the kidnapping charges against Ayayi. The death penalty was also taken off the table. Ayayi will spend the rest of his life in prison.