"Justice has nothing to do what goes on in a courtroom; Justice is what comes out of a courtroom."
It was the 17th of June 2019. A Monday. Twenty three year old Mackenzie Lueck arrived at the Salt Lake International Airport in Utah, United States in the early morning hours of that day. She had spent the weekend at home in California so that she could attend her grandmother's funeral but returned to Utah as she was a student at the University of Utah.
Mackenzie was a part time senior at the University of Utah studying kinesiology and pre-nursing. As soon as she landed at the Salt Lake International Airport, she sent a text message to her parents, Gregory and Diana Lueck, to let them know that she had arrived in Utah.
In the days that followed, Mackenzie's parents tried to contact her a number of times but could not reach her. Four days after Mackenzie was last seen at the airport, police were notified that she was missing. Her father called 911 and told the Operator:
“Yeah, I’d like to get, if possible, have a wellness check done on my daughter. I’ve been trying to get ahold of her all week.”
Her father told police all of the calls went straight to voicemail, indicating her phone had been turned off or was no longer in service. Police went to Mackenzie’s apartment to see if she was there. Her car was outside but when they knocked on the door, there was no answer. There was no noise coming from her apartment either. She did not appear to be at home. They discovered that she had missed her mid term exams at the University between the 17th of June and the 20th of June. The last known sighting of her was when she landed at the airport in the early morning hours of the 17th.
Police obtained Mackenzie's AT&T records and they showed her phone had been turned off at 3am on the 17th of June.
Mackenzie had a flight booked to return to California on the 23rd of June and she did not board that flight. Through their investigation, police discovered that Mackenzie hailed a Lyft to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake shortly after she landed at the airport on the 17th of June.
Police searched several places in North Salt Lake and made door to door enquiries near Hatch Park. They tracked down the Lyft driver and spoke to him.
The driver told police that he drove Mackenzie to Hatch Park and she met someone there. When they pulled into the parking lot, a maroon Subaru was already there. The driver saw a person get out of the vehicle and saw them speak to Mackenzie. He believed the person was a woman. When asked how Mackenzie appeared, he said the situation seemed casual and they were friendly with each other. There was no cause for concern. When he collected her at the airport, she told him that she was meeting a friend so he presumed that was her friend.
Police established that the driver picked up another customer in his car straight after he dropped Mackenzie off so he was eliminated as a possible suspect. He also continued working for the next few hours.
Police began to look into Mackenzie's life and looked through her social media accounts. They also spoke to her friends. They confirmed that Mackenzie used dating apps online and she was a member of Tinder, Seeking Arrangements and Call Her Daddy.Records from TextMe revealed several IP addresses that were used to communicate with Mackenzie's phone on the day she disappeared. Police were able to trace one of the IP addresses to a man called Ayoola Ajayi. He was a thirty two year old tech support worker.
On the 22nd of June, police went to Ayoola's house. He lived in Salt Lake City. Ayoola told police that he didn't know Mackenzie but said that he left his WIFI open to the public because he operates an AirBnB out of his residence so somebody else may have used the WIFI to send her a message.
Ayoola allowed police to look at his phone and they asked him about an app that was installed on it called Seeking Arrangements. Seeking Arrangements is a Sugar Daddy (or Sugar Mommy)/Sugar Baby type dating website. Sugar Babies are people who join the app looking to match with somebody who is usually older and wealthier than they are. The Sugar Babies can send the Sugar Daddy a list of requests and this varies from help paying tuition to designer bags and many other items.
Ayoola did not say much to police when they were at his house but when they left, he called them and told them that he received a text message from Mackenzie on the 16th of June at 6.12pm. The text message just contained a question mark.
When asked if he replied to that text message, he said that he sent two words back to her via a text message that simply read “seeking arrangement.” He confirmed to police that he sent a photo of himself to Mackenzie because she asked for one. He told them that their communication ended immediately after he sent that photo.
Police found Mackenzie's phone number saved in Ayoola's phone as the contact "TextMe".
Ayoola being questioned by police
Police began to look into Ayoola's activities. They obtained his phone records and discovered that his phone was in the same area of North Salt Lake at the same time that Mackenzie was there. He was the last person that Mackenzie had contact with via text. But he maintained that he was not there that night and did not meet Mackenzie.
Police obtained surveillance video near to the parking lot at Hatch Park. They saw the dark-colored four-door Sedan that the Lyft driver told them about. It left shortly after the Lyft driver left. Police checked Ayoola's vehicle to compare it to the one from the surveillance footage. He drove a 2013 Kia Optima and when they compared it to the image from the footage, they believed the characteristics of the vehicle on the video were consistent with the shape, size, and general appearance of a Kia Optima.
On the 26th of June, police searched Ayoola's home. By that stage, there was still no sign of Mackenzie and none of her friends or family had heard from her since the 17th of June. They also spoke to Ayoola again at the police station while his house was being searched. He asked police why he was being questioned and said:
“This is terrible. I just want this to be over.”
Ayoola told police that he never met Mackenzie in person and he wasn't at Hatch Park that night, he was with his baby mama.
Police asked him who his baby mama was and he told them that they used to date and he only knew her first name and not her last name but he remained in touch with her because she was pregnant with his baby girl.
When police were questioning Ayoola, he began to hyperventilate and police asked the medics to assess him. They helped him control his breathing.
Ayoola gave police the password for his phone and laptop. They questioned him in relation to the text messages he exchanged with Mackenzie. He again told police that the communication stopped after he sent her a photo that she had requested. He claimed that she stopped messaging after she saw that he was Black:
"She just stopped responding once I sent her my pictures and I thought 'maybe this girl doesn't want my kind of race."
Police asked him about the car seen at Hatch Park that looked like his car. He told them he wasn't there and that it would be weird to meet at that time of night:
"That's not safe for her or safe for me."
Police told Ayoola that the records they had obtained did not corroborate his story. They told him that they looked at his phone and records and they show he was at Hatch Park that night despite his denial of same. He again denied meeting Mackenzie.
But what Ayoola didn't know at that point was that police had uncovered evidence at his home. There was a 6-foot by 7-inch area in his backyard that was covered in a thin layer of mulch and they found a piece of wood fencing that had a smoke pattern in the shape of a wheelbarrow inside his garage. A cadaver dog alerted police to a certain area of the backyard which appeared to have been recently disturbed.
Just behind Ayoola's backyard, police checked the adjoining alleyway and found semi burned items including black clothing and a strap from a purse or backpack.
When police spoke to his neighbors, one neighbor told them that they saw flames and smoke coming from Ayoola's backyard around the 18th or 19th of June. The smoke was so bad that she told Ayoola that if he didn't call the fire department, she would. She said that she saw him putting gas on the fire and dragging a hose toward the fire. When police asked Ayoola about fires in his backyard, he told them that he was burning plastic and wood.He also said that he regularly burned animal carcasses, sheep and goats that he ate, in his backyard:
“So if you open my fridge, I have some goat meat soup. In the past, I’ve killed lamb, I’ve killed goats in my backyard. So I burn them instead of skin them.”
But the DNA profile that the Crime Lab developed from muscle tissue samples found in Ayoola's backyard told a different story.It was confirmed it was match to Mackenzie's DNA.
Ayoola was arrested and charged with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, and desecration of a body. But, even though there was a DNA match and police believed Mackenzie was dead, her body was not found in Ayoola's backyard.
Ayoola's phone records showed that his phone pinged in Logan Canyon which is 85 miles from Salt Lake City after Mackenzie went missing. Police searched the area and found Mackenzie's charred body. Her body was buried in a shallow grave with brush over it in a wooded area of the Canyon. Her arms were bound behind her back with rope. Mackenzie suffered blunt force trauma to her head. A hole was found on her skull with part of her scalp missing. An Autopsy found that the blunt force trauma to the left side of her skull caused brain hemorrhaging that ultimately killed her. She had also been strangled.
Ayoola, in exchange for a plea deal, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and desecrating of a human body. The guilty plea was in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of going to Trial and facing the possibility of the death penalty.
In line with the plea deal, charges including obstruction of justice, aggravated kidnapping, and forcible sexual abuse were dropped.
Ayoola, through his Attorney, outlined some of what happened to Mackenzie. The Court heard that they met in 2018 via the website Seeking Arrangements. They were in contact and agreed to meet when Mackenzie returned to Utah from California.
His Attorney told the Court:
“Mr. Ajayi had decided that he would murder Ms. Lueck before the meeting took place.”
The fact he planned the murder before even meeting Mackenzie was evident by his actions that night. He turned off the security video cameras at his home before he drove to Hatch Park to meet her.
The Court heard that as soon as they arrived back at his house, he tied her hands behind her back and began choking her. He admitted that he strangled her at his Salt Lake home, burned her body and buried her in his backyard. When police, who were initially just carrying out door to door enquiries, knocked on his door, he removed her body and buried her in the Canyon.
The Court also heard that when Ayoola attacked Mackenzie inside his home, she pleaded for him to stop. But he didn't. Instead, he turned her on to her stomach and used a belt to choke her until she stopped moving.
The Judge in the case said that each of the charges were extremely serious and egregious on their own merit and as such, she should sentence him to consecutive terms meaning that he will never leave prison. She told him:
"These crimes are the worst of the worst."
At his sentencing hearing, two other criminal charges Ayoola faced were also dealt with. They did not relate to Mackenzie's case.
In a separate matter, he was charged with aggravated kidnapping and three counts of forcible sexual assault against a woman he met on a dating app in 2018.
He also faced nineteen counts of sexual exploitation of a minor due to material, namely "numerous images of children aged 4-8 years old engaged in sex acts" , which police found on his computer when they were searching for evidence in relation to Mackenzie's case. The material itself was not connected to Mackenzie's case.
Ayoola admitted to forcible sexual abuse. The Court heard that he assaulted a woman during a March 2018 date at his home. The woman in question came forward and reported the matter to police when she saw coverage of Mackenzie’s death. The nineteen felony charges relating to material found on his computer were dismissed as part of the plea deal.
No motive was given by Ayoola as to why he decided to kill Mackenzie before he even met her. But there were dark signs in his past. A construction contractor, Brian Wolf, told police that Ayoola contacted him as he wanted him to build a secret soundproof room underneath his porch. Ayoola wanted hooks to be fitted and mounted high, above head height, on a concrete wall and for access to the room to be via a fingerprint thumb lock only. Ayoola claimed that he wanted a secret room to hide alcohol as his girlfriend was a Mormon. Brian declined the job.
At Ayoola's sentencing, Mackenzie's father Gregory told Ayoola that he hopes he spends the rest of his life in isolation. He said that he looks forward to the day he receives the call that he has died:
“I can only hope that it will be a slow, painful death.”
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"My family and myself are good, decent and very honest people."
"He is the single most blatant, arrogant, yet curiously effective liar and manipulator of the truth.”
- Deputy District Attorney Christopher Evans
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