SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah college student last seen in a Salt Lake City park 11 days ago was abducted and killed and her remains burned in the yard of a man now facing aggravated murder and other charges, authorities said Friday.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, who became emotional at times during a morning press conference, said Ayoola A. Ajayi was being charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.
He was arrested without incident earlier Friday morning by a SWAT team.
Brown said he told the missing woman’s parents in Southern California about the arrest earlier Friday morning. “This is one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made,” he said. “We are devastated and heartbroken by this news,”
Police say Ajayi, 31, met Lueck at the park after taking a Lyft from the airport. It was not immediately clear how or whether the two had known each other previously but police said they had communicated electronically the day before she disappeared. They did not elaborate on details of that communication.
The police chief said investigators were seeking to determine if others were involved.
Brown says burned evidence, including Lueck’s remains and personal belongings, was found at his home when it was searched on Wednesday and Thursday. Ajayi had previously been identified as a person of interest in Lueck’s disappearance.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Ajayi had an attorney. He had not returned previous messages from The Associated Press prior to his arrest.
Lueck was a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing. She has been a student since 2014 and has an off-campus apartment.
She is from El Segundo in the Los Angeles area and flew to California for a funeral before returning to Salt Lake City, police said.
Her family reported her missing on June 20 and became more concerned after she missed a planned flight back to Los Angeles last weekend.