UPDATE: Police have finished the detailed search of the home. The Tribune will provide updates on the MacKenzie Lueck investigation here.
Salt Lake City police served a search warrant on a home near the Fairpark on Wednesday afternoon that is connected to missing University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck.
The police arrived at the house around 2 p.m. and parked a large recreation vehicle with the words “Mobile Command Center.” Detectives and crime scene technicians could be seen in the house and the unattached garage as the dusk turned into night. Police towed away a car.
Assistant Chief Tim Doubt told reporters at a 10 p.m. briefing that investigators will be at the scene for hours.
“Obviously we are treating this with a high degree of care,” Doubt said. “Given the nature of this case, we just don’t want to make a mistake.”
He said anyone living at the home is part of the investigation and that there is a “nexus” between this home and Lueck’s disappearance, though he wouldn’t say whether anyone had been arrested or comment on any evidence police may have found.
About midnight, police were seen carrying shovels into the home’s backyard. Brown paper bags of what appeared to be police evidence were placed near the front doorway.
The owner of the home, who has lived there for a couple of years, previously lived in an apartment that is 0.2 miles away from Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, which is where Lueck was last seen. He has no criminal history in Utah, beyond some traffic citations.
A neighbor, Tom Camomile, said the owner has turned part of the house into a rental that he offers through Airbnb.
“There are people coming and going most of the time,” he said.
Camomile said the owner almost always wears earbud-style headphones when he is outdoors and rarely speaks to anyone. Neighbors also said they recently saw the owner burning something in his backyard and the smoke was coming into their windows.
John Williamson of Fort Worth, Texas, rented the Airbnb for Wednesday. When he arrived at 9 p.m., he found the house surrounded by police and crime tape.
“It’s wild,” Williamson said. “Just wild.”
This investigative breakthrough came after police confirmed Wednesday that Lueck was texting someone from the airport before she disappeared, but said that after talking to that individual, he or she is not considered a suspect or a person of interest “at this time.”
Police spokesman Michael Ruff said he could not elaborate on who that person was, what the pair texted about, whether their communication continued after Lueck left the airport or if she is known to have communicated with anyone else that morning.
“Everything is still open. There is no person of interest. We just know that this is the person that MacKenzie was texting with and we have spoken to them,” Ruff said.
Lueck has been missing since early June 17, when she returned to Salt Lake City from her grandmother’s funeral in California. She texted her mother when her flight landed in Salt Lake City, and then ordered a Lyft for a ride to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, nearly 9 miles from her home near Trolley Square.
Police later learned that she had gone to the park to meet someone and arrived around 3 a.m. She hasn’t been seen since, and Doubt said at a Tuesday news conference that police had “exhausted all avenues” of determining who that person was or what they were driving.
On Wednesday afternoon, the department posted a tweet that said officers knew Lueck, 23, was texting someone while she was at the airport. This detail comes after Doubt told reporters at the news conference that surveillance footage doesn’t show that Lueck talked to anyone between the time she exited her airplane and left the airport.
On Tuesday, Doubt asked the public for any information about the identity of the person Lueck met at the park. He also asked anyone who knew whether Lueck had extra cellphones or additional social media accounts to contact police.
Ruff said he couldn’t comment on whether Lueck was texting the person from the airport from a phone other than the one she usually used.
Anyone with information on Lueck’s whereabouts or what led to her disappearance can call 801-799-4420. Doubt late Wednesday continued to ask the public to call with any tips on the ongoing investigation. Unlike in previous news conferences, Doubt on Wednesday did not make any appeals to Lueck and ask her to contact police if she can.
Reporter Sean P. Means contributed to this article.