The body of MacKenzie Lueck, the University of Utah student who was killed sometime after she flew back to Salt Lake City on June 17, has been found.
“We have retrieved MacKenzie Lueck from Logan Canyon,” Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown announced at a news conference Friday.
No details were given about how police located the body. Brown and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said her remains were retrieved sometime Wednesday.
“Despite their grief,” Brown said of the Lueck family members, “we hope this will help them find some closure and justice for MacKenzie.”
Lueck, a 23-year-old kinesiology major at the U., was last seen alive in the early morning of June 17, when she returned to Utah from California and caught a Lyft ride at Salt Lake City International Airport. The Lyft driver, who took her to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, told police she met someone there.
Ayoola Ajayi, 31, was booked into jail June 28 on suspicion of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a body and obstruction of justice after a SWAT team arrested him that morning at a West Temple apartment complex. He is being held without the opportunity to post bail.
Officials have not disclosed many details about the case, such as the nature of any relationship Ajayi and Lueck had, why they met at the park and how police discovered her body was in a canyon two hours north of Salt Lake City.
Police previously had said charred human tissue was found in Ajayi’s yard and was a DNA match for Lueck.
As of Friday morning, Ajayi had not been charged. Gill asked for and received an extension until Tuesday to file formal charges, and said Friday that charges should be filed early next week.
Brown and Gill both issued pleas to give the Lueck family members, living in California, privacy as they grieve.
“Whenever our community experiences a loss like this, the tragic circumstances have the potential to tear at the fabric of our community,” the chief said. “I am here to ask you, to implore you, to remain respectful.
“The tight-knit nature of this community is what helped us close this case so quickly. You have rallied together behind the Lueck family through this trial and I have felt that overwhelming support,” he added. "I hope that we take the time this weekend to talk to our loved ones and work together to prevent crimes like this from occurring.”
Ajayi had lived in the Logan area for several years, according to police reports that described interactions he had with law enforcement there. He was barred from Utah State University in 2012 after a theft investigation, and a co-worker of his reported to North Park police in 2014 that he had sexually assaulted her. Neither report led to criminal charges.
Lueck’s family filed a missing-persons report June 20. Police investigated, while friends and Lueck’s sorority sisters began papering the city with flyers. The search generated national attention, with reports on CNN, “Good Morning America” and “Inside Edition,” among other outlets.
On Wednesday, June 26, police served a search warrant on a house in Salt Lake City’s Fairpark neighborhood. The house belonged to Ajayi, who was the last person Lueck communicated with before she disappeared, according to phone records obtained by police. The records show Ajayi’s and Lueck’s phones were in Hatch Park within a minute of each other. The park is also the last place Lueck’s phone transmitted data, the chief said.
In the backyard of Ajayi’s house, police found a “fresh dig area" in the yard, Brown said. Police conducted a “forensic excavation” of that part of the yard and found several charred items matching the description of Lueck’s personal belongings, he said. Police also found charred human tissue, he said — and DNA testing showed a match for Lueck.