Breaking: Body of missing college student found in a Utah canyon


The body of University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck has been found in a canyon almost three weeks after she disappeared.

Police revealed they recovered the 23-year-old’s body from Logan Canyon, 85 miles north of Salt Lake City, on Wednesday.

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Ayoola Ajayi, the man suspected in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck, was banned from Utah State University after being jailed on suspicion of theft, according to school documents obtained by The Times.

Police reports from campus law enforcement indicated Ajayi was homeless in 2012 and living on the campus with an expired visa. He was accused of stealing an iPad, and police said he used it to play video games and look for a wife to avoid being deported, despite being married at the time.

Prosecutors have until next week to file charges against Ajayi in Lueck’s case. He was booked Friday on suspicion of aggravated murder, kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a body in connection with the El Segundo woman’s disappearance, according to the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Lueck, a student at the University of Utah, was last seen June 17 after taking a Lyft to North Salt Lake, where authorities say she met with Ajayi. The same day, neighbors reported seeing Ajayi burning something with gasoline in his backyard.

Investigators said Lueck’s body has likely been burned. When authorities searched Ajayi’s home, they found a freshly dug area, human tissue belonging to a woman and some of Lueck’s personal items that had been charred, police said.

Ajayi is from Nigeria, and according to Salt Lake County inmate records he is now a U.S. citizen. He attended Utah State University on and off between 2009 and 2016. He had a break in attendance between spring 2011 and 2015, university officials said.

In August 2012, the university banned him from going on campus without a police escort, according to a letter from Utah State officials sent to Ajayi. By the time he re-enrolled in 2015, his legal status had changed and he met requirements for admission, said Tim Vitale, a spokesman for the university.

“Due to your current status and also because of the recent charges filed by the Utah State University Police, your status has become more complicated,” Eric Olsen, associate vice president for student services, said in the 2012 letter.

“I verified this morning with the office of USU International Students and Scholars that your relationship with them is complete,” the letter continued. “Therefore there is no reason for you to be present on the Utah State University Campus.”

One month before the letter was sent, Ajayi was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of stolen property. Campus police received a report of an iPad that was stolen from a university building. The college’s IT department tracked the computer through its IP address.

According to police reports, authorities first encountered Ajayi in May 2012, when campus police found him sleeping on a couch in a housing complex. When asked why he was there, Ajayi said he was waiting for his girlfriend, who lived in a different dorm.

After determining he matched the description of the suspect in the iPad theft, officers visited the other dorm, looking for Ajayi’s girlfriend. A female student told authorities that she knew Ajayi but that he didn’t have a girlfriend who lived there.

Officers later asked to meet Ajayi, but he told them he was headed to bed and had an exam the following morning, reports show.

“I asked if he had an exam for one of his classes,” one officer said. “Ayoola paused for a moment and stated he was taking a blood test in the morning. … I told Ayoola that I felt he was being deceitful with me, at which time he hung up on me.”

Ajayi called officers back 30 minutes later and agreed to meet, according to police records. When confronted about the iPad, he said that his mother had given it to him and that he didn’t know how to use it. Officers said he had wiped the iPad’s memory and replaced it with personal information and apps.

“Further investigation of the iPad revealed that Ajayi was involved with a gaming team and is very familiar with the electronics,” an officer said in the report. “Ajayi lied to me about not knowing how to use the iPad.”

The man’s LinkedIn account indicated he has worked in IT for Dell, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft and Comcast. The profile has since been deactivated.

It’s unclear whether Ajayi was ever charged in connection with the iPad theft. Campus police said they notified the Nigerian consulate and Immigration and Customs Enforcement of his arrest.

A former roommate of Ajayi’s said he tried to maintain the appearance of being an educated professional. Sakari Moore told the Salt Lake Tribune that he was “a bright guy” who was kind to visitors and his Airbnb clients.

But unexpectedly, his temper would flare over small things.

His ex-wife, Tenisha Ajayi, told KUTV that there were signs of violence in their relationship and she stopped talking to him because she feared for her life.

“If I wouldn’t do what he told me to do, he got real aggressive,” she told the station. “He was like, I’ll have someone come kidnap you and kill you.”

Times staff writer Hannah Fry contributed to this report.

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