On the 17th of June a 23 year old student went missing from Salt Lake City after ordering a “Lyft” to an address in North Salt Lake.
Mackenzie Lueck, originally from California, had traveled home to attend her grandmother’s funeral. She took a return flight to Utah, arriving at Salt Lake City airport at around 1.35AM. Once there, she made contact with her mother via text to confirm that she had landed safely. She sent the first message at 2:01AM and the second at 2:42AM. She then ordered a “Lyft” ride to “Hatch Park” (50 west Center Street, North Salt Lake, UT 84054), the last sighting of her would be in the general area. The Lyft driver who dropped her off, at around 3AM, said that Lueck met with a third party who had a vehicle of his own. Nothing seemed off about the series of events, he added.
Her family officially reported her missing on the 20th, three days after her initial disappearance. When police began investigating her last known whereabouts they were met with a disappointing reality. The cameras installed at Hatch Park were mostly dummy cameras, installed only in the hope that would-be criminals would be deterred. As a result, no images of Lueck or whoever she went to meet that night were captured on any tapes.
Police contacted the “Lyft” company who cooperated and provided information to confirm that the Lyft driver who collected Mackenzie Lueck from the airport had continued to pick up other passengers over the course of the evening, implying that he had dropped the 23 year old student off at her destination and carried on working that night. The address Lueck gave the driver was not an area she was known to frequent or have any connection to. Her friends informed investigators that she didn’t have any friends that they knew of who lived in that part of town.
The search for the missing student continued and Lueck’s family read out messages to her at press conferences in the hope that she would hear them and let her family know she was okay.
Initially the police believed Mackenzie Lueck had voluntarily walked away from her life. They found no evidence of foul play or anything to suggest that something untoward had happened that night in North Salt Lake.
Just under 2 weeks later an arrest was made at a local residence.
Suspect 31 year old Ayoola Ajayi, a resident of Salt Lake City, was arrested under the suspicion of aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, aggravated murder and desecration of a body. Neighbors alerted the authorities after they saw Ajayi burning things in his yard just a day or so after the news of the missing student. He had doused whatever he was burning with gasoline, unnerving those in the nearby community who were bothered by the blaze.
Police later obtained warrants and searched his home, as well as the yard and garage, and discovered the burned remnants of Lueck's personal affects, as well as her DNA at the scene. Her burned body was eventually found in the man’s backyard.
Ajayi maintained that he had never met Mackenzie Lueck, but phone records proved that the two had been texting back and forth before she went missing and cell phone data placed them in Hatch Park at the same time. The suspect even had photos of her on his phone and to top it off, he was the last person she spoke to that night before her cell phone was turned off.
Police discovered that the man had tried to pass along an old mattress not long after the student disappeared and believe that if recovered, it could be a key piece of evidence in the case.
Many suspect that Ayoola Ajayi is Lyft driver that picked Lueck up that night, however this has never been confirmed and it is thought that Ajayi had a vehicle of his own which he likely picked Lueck up in after she was dropped off at the park. There are few details about him online, but one image shows him clad in a military fleece. Apparently he was never actually active in the military but signed up to the National Guard and did not complete or even attend the training.
The case was ultimately dropped, however the victim said she reported it solely so it would be on his record in the event that he tried to do it again to another woman.
A recent article in the LA Times reports that Ajayi rented out his home as an Airbnb and had a roommate who described him as a Jekyll and Hyde character; a courteous and polite man who would often get aggressive in the face of small issues. Other than that, he seemed perfectly normal.
Neighbors described the suspected killer as quiet. They told police that he didn’t interact with anyone in the community but was often seen doing yard work and was almost always wearing headphones.
Following the arrest an independent contractor who recognized the suspect’s home from a news report contacted police in regards to an interaction he’d had with Ayoola Ajayi several days before Lueck went missing.
According to the contractor, Brian Wolf, Ayoola Ajayi attempted to hire him in April to construct a secret, soundproofed room under his porch. Wolf didn’t find the request suspicious at first, but admitted that the conversation became stranger as it went on. Ajayi’s specifications for the room included soundproofing, hooks hanging from the ceiling and finger print access. When Wolf questioned his design plans Ajayi said he wanted to play loud music and that the hooks were intended to be used for storing wine in a rack because his girlfriend was teetotal due to her Mormon religion.
Although the exchange was strange, Brian Wolf shrugged it off as it being a sort of eccentric man-cave and thought nothing more of it. He told reporters that the client had the budget for the build and that he wanted it done ASAP, almost to the point of being pushy. Wolf declined the work. When he heard about the arrest on the local news he was understandably shaken at the idea that he may have unknowingly built a cell intended to keep another human being captive.