SALT LAKE CITY — Police arrested a Salt Lake man Friday who they say murdered University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck, who has been missing since June 17.
“It is with heavy heart that I address you today,” said Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown.
Ayoola Adisa Ajayi, 31, was arrested at 9:20 a.m. at an apartment complex at 1028 S. West Temple. He is expected to be charged with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping and desecration of a body, according to Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown.
Ajayi was seen walking outside the apartment complex walking toward a police SWAT team with his hands over his head. Officers then put him into handcuffs.
A second man was also taken into custody at the complex.
On Thursday, Salt Lake police called Ajayi, the owner of the house in the Fairpark neighborhood, a “person of interest” in Lueck’s disappearance.
Police spent an active Wednesday evening and through the night collecting evidence from that house. Bags and bags of evidence were collected. Officers could be seen digging holes in the backyard.
His neighbors told detectives they had observed Ajayi on June 17 and 18 burning something in his backyard. Police recovered several charred items, including female human tissue and personal items belonging to Lueck.
Brown said he informed Lueck’s father about the arrest. “This was one of the most difficult calls I’ve ever made,” he said.
Lueck, 23, was last seen early on the morning of June 17 when she flew into Salt Lake City International Airport after attending a family funeral in her hometown of El Segundo, California. Surveillance video at the airport recorded Lueck making her way to baggage claim, and then getting into a Lyft vehicle.
The Lyft driver told police he dropped off Lueck at Hatch Park in North Salt Lake about 3 a.m. where another person in a car was waiting for her.
Texts and social media have become a focus on the investigation.
Live coverage of the Mackenzie Lueck investigation:
Outside of a few traffic tickets, Ajayi has no criminal history in Utah. He at one time lived in an apartment across the street from Hatch Park, where Lueck was last seen being dropped off by a Lyft driver and getting into another waiting vehicle. Ajayi and his two roommates were evicted from the North Salt Lake apartment in 2016 for failing to pay rent, according to court records.
According to university officials, Ajayi sporadically attended Utah State University, taking classes at times during 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016, when he left after the fall semester. He never had a declared major or earned a degree.
He also did a stint with the Army National Guard, being assigned to a company out of Tooele, but did not attend basic training or any advanced individual training, according to the Utah National Guard’s public affairs officer. Ajayi left the military after six months “with an uncharacterized discharge for failure to meet medical procurement standards,” the spokesman said.
Ajayi’s digital footprint includes the details of his Airbnb rental, photos from his days modeling and an ebook he self published on Amazon.
Under his Amazon author profile, Ajayi wrote that he was born and raised in Africa, and went on to become a salesman, an entrepreneur and writer. He claims to have “survived a tyrannical dictatorship, escaped a real life crime, traveled internationally, excelled professionally in several industries” and developed a marketing strategy for his book, “Forge Identity.”
The fictional book chronicles the experiences of a young man who witnesses two murders in his life and must go on to decide whether to pursue a criminal life or define his own path in life, according to its online description.
Additional information will be posted throughout the day.