Man Arrested in Murder of Missing Utah Student After Human Tissue Matching Her DNA Is Found
Authorities have arrested a man in connection with the disappearance of 23-year-old University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck.
Ayoola Ajayi, 31, of Salt Lake City, has been taken into custody on suspicion of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a body. Ajayi’s arrest was announced during a Friday press conference by Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.
During the press conference, Chief Brown told reporters that a search of Ajayi’s home had uncovered a burned area with some of Lueck’s charred personal items, as well as human tissue matching her DNA.
Brown also said that Lueck’s last known communications were with Ajayi, though he allegedly denied having met her.
Ajayi’s arrest came on the heels of a search of his home Wednesday night. According to the Deseret News, Salt Lake Assistant Police Chief Tim Doubt told reporters at the scene that the house and its occupants were “a nexus to the case.”
Authorities took several bags of potential evidence from the home, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. They also towed away a vehicle. Police are still hoping to find a mattress and box spring that Ajayi allegedly gave away last week.
Brown told reporters that investigators have been examining the case’s “digital footprint” to retrace the woman’s steps. “This is a digital forensic investigation,” he told reporters. “This is covering computers, cellphones, IP addresses, URLs, texting apps.”
Before her disappearance, Lueck was active on social media. Though she hasn’t posted anything since June 17, Fox News reports that on Wednesday, Lueck’s personal Instagram handle followed an account called Fatherless. Her friends noticed the new activity and reported it to authorities, Fox reports.
The young woman’s family filed a missing persons report on June 20. Lueck disappeared after taking a Lyft to a Salt Lake City park from the airport. At the park, she met up with a person in another vehicle. Authorities now believe the mystery driver to be Ajayi.
At the press conference, Lueck’s uncle read a statement on behalf of her family. In the statement, the family said they would like to “express their gratitude” to the law enforcement agencies that assisted in the investigation.
Ajayi has not yet had a hearing to enter a plea or determine whether he can be freed on bail. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney to speak on his behalf. PEOPLE’s call to his home phone number went unanswered.