The man who admitted earlier this month that he killed of 23-year-old University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, KSL reported.
Third District Judge Vernice Trease delivered the sentence to Ayoola Ajayi, who pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and abuse of a human body in a plea agreement that let him avoid the death penalty, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
As part of the plea agreement, Ajayi, 32, also pleaded guilty to forcible sexual assault in an unrelated case. In that case, a woman who saw news coverage of Lueck’s death reported that Ajayi sxually assaulted her on a March 2018 date.
Trease said that Ajayi’s crimes were egregious and exhibited “cruelty and depravity.”
Lueck is believed to have met Ajayi in a Salt Lake City park after her return from her grandmother’s funeral in California and was never heard from again. 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 led police to Lueck’s body. An autopsy said that Lueck died of internal bleeding from blunt force trauma.
Ajayi told investigators that he had decided to kill Lueck before he met her, after they connected on a dating website called Seeking Arrangement. He brought her to his home, then tied her hands behind her back and choked her, using his hands and a belt, according to court documents.
He also told detectives he initially buried Lueck in his backyard but unearthed the body when investigators first contacted him and reburied her in Logan Canyon.
“The only conclusion that the evidence can suggest is that Ayoola Ajayi simply wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone,” Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Marc Mathis said. “Tragically, for Mackenzie Lueck and her family, he chose her.”
Ajayi spoke briefly to Lueck’s family during the hearing.
“I’m sorry for what I did, and I deserve what I get, deserve what I’m going to get. I know this won’t bring her back,” he said.
In addition to the life sentence, Trease sentenced Ajayi to one to 15 years for the sexual assault and up to five years for abuse of a body. All the sentences are to be served consecutively.
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