The accused killer of University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated murder and abuse or desecration of a human body in a plea agreement that will let him avoid the death penalty.
Ayoola Ajayi, 32, was initially charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a human body in the case, KSL reported. The kidnapping and obstruction of justice charges were dropped.
Lueck, a 23-year-old nursing student, went missing in June 2019 after landing at the Salt Lake City International airport following a visit to relatives in California. She is believed to have met Ajayi in a park and was never heard from again after she reportedly got into his vehicle, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
Cell phone records put Ajayi and Lueck at the park at the same time, and detectives tracked Ajayi’s phone to his home after Lueck’s had been turned off. Ajayi was arrested after a search of his home uncovered charred personal items believed to belong to Lueck as well as human tissue.
Further tracking Ajayi’s travels with cell phone data, police found Lueck’s body in early July in Logan Canyon, about 85 miles north of Salt Lake City. Lueck’s body had been burned, her arms tied behind her back with zip ties and rope.
Charging documents show that Lueck died of internal bleeding as a result of blunt force trauma.
Late last year, Ajayi was ordered to stand trial on charges that he sexually assaulted a woman he met on a dating app in March 2018. The woman came forward after reading news stories about Lueck. Ajayi initially pleaded not guilty to those charges, but changed the plea to guilty as part of his agreement with prosecutors, KSL said.
Ajayi has pleaded not guilty to 19 felony counts related to child pornography police allegedly found on his computer. Police say those charges are not related to the other cases against him.
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