Police have charged a man with aggravated murder in the "tragic and horrific" killing of missing University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck, officials announced Friday.
The suspect, identified as Ayoola Ajayi, was taken into custody Friday morning after an investigation uncovered a fresh dig area, charred female human tissue and items belonging to the missing student in the backyard of his Salt Lake City home, police said. The arrest came after investigators searched his property earlier this week. Police say neighbors informed detectives that they noticed Ajayi burning something with the help of gasoline around the night of June 17, when Lueck was last seen.
“After an exhaustive week of investigation, we are filing charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a body in the homicide of Mackenzie Lueck," Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters.
"I will not be saying the killer’s name again," he added, noting that the crimes were "tragic and horrific".
Salt Lake City police take a man into custody in connection with missing University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck in Salt Lake City on Friday. (AP/The Deseret News)
Lueck, 23, disappeared after meeting an unknown individual around 3 a.m. on June 17 near a park in Salt Lake City after being dropped off by a Lyft driver. Brown said Ayaji was the last person Lueck was communicating with before her disappearance.
Brown said Lueck's parents were "devastated and heartbroken" when they were informed about her death.
“Salt Lake City is a tight-knit, caring, family-oriented community and I hope we can all work together to prevent this from ever happening again," he said.
Lueck's uncle, reading a statement on behalf of her family Friday, also said they would like to "express their gratitude" to all the law enforcement agencies that assisted in the investigation. He said her family is "grateful" of those who supported it.
The investigation into Lueck's death is now focusing on whether Ayaji acted alone or had help, Brown said.
This undated photo taken from the Facebook page #FindMackenzieLueck shows a Mackenzie Lueck, 23, a senior at the University of Utah, who was last seen more than one week ago. (#FindMackenzieLueck via AP)
Police searched Ajayi's Salt Lake City home this week and named him as a person of interest before arresting him Friday. During their search, they dug up holes in the home's backyard and removed items from the property for further forensic investigation.
The suspect recently expressed a desire to build a secret, soundproofed room with hooks on its walls in the basement of his home, a contractor revealed to Fox News on Friday.
Brian Wolf, who owns a home repair business in Utah, said Ajayi reached out to him in April and asked him to give him an estimate for the potential renovation project.
“He slowly added on other requests, like building a secret door and adding hooks to the wall,” Wolf told Fox News, adding that the ultimately turned down the job offer because he was "weirded out" by the requests.
A Facebook profile purportedly belonging to Ayoola Ajayi contains images of him in a U.S. Army uniform.
He appears to have set up a profile on a website where aspiring models seek jobs.
“I am tall, buffed, Funny. I am a victim, Romantic, Violent and character actor,” the profile reads. The page contains several images of himself posing shirtless.
Ayayi also appears to have published an e-book last year titled “Forge Identity”, about a teenager who has witnessed violent murders and then has to decide whether “he will join the ranks of a criminal mastermind, or fight to escape the tyranny that has surrounded his young life.”
An author biography on an Amazon page where the book is listed claims Ajayi was born and raised in Africa, “survived a tyrannical dictatorship, escaped a real-life crime, traveled internationally” and “excelled professionally in several industries.”
On an Airbnb profile purportedly belonging to him – which has since been taken off the website — Ajayi advertised two "beautiful and affordable basement rooms in the heart of [Salt Lake City] with shared common area" for $27 and $30 a night, at the house police searched this week.
Fox News' Cristina Corbin contributed to this report.