The man accused of killing Mackenzie Lueck was formally charged Wednesday as prosecutors revealed that the Utah college student was found dead in a wooded area with her arms bound behind her and that she had a 2-inch hole in her skull.
Ayoola Ajayi, 31, was charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated murder, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a human body, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said at a news conference. Lueck’s remains were dug up 80 miles north of Salt Lake City last Wednesday.
“Mackenzie’s arms were bound behind her back by a zip tie and rope,” Gill said. “A five-centimeter hole was located on the left side of her skull with part of her left scalp missing.”
He became emotional Wednesday as he said Lueck’s family asked him to thank “the generosity of so many strangers and friends, the support and the prayers that have helped them through this very difficult time.”
Lueck was last seen alive on June 17 near a park in Salt Lake City, and prosecutors said Ajayi was the last person Lueck communicated with before she vanished.
A medical examiner determined Lueck “suffered blunt force trauma to the left side of her skull resulting in significant intracranial hemorrhaging, which would have been fatal,” Gill said.
A search of Ajayi’s home before his recent arrest uncovered a human bone, part of a scalp with hair, a phone and charred personal items, Gill said.
Ajayi’s neighbor told investigators he or she saw a fire in a pit in the suspect’s yard and that Ajayi allegedly poured fuel on it, Gill said.
Gill said the neighbor noted a “horrible smell” coming from Ajayi’s yard.
Ajayi was arrested on June 28 as the search for Lueck continued.
Investigators reportedly later traced Ajayi’s cellphone to the area in Logan Canyon, where Lueck’s body was found.
“After a lengthy search, detectives located a disturbed area of soil under a grove of trees,” Gill said. “Under the soil, detectives located a charred human body.”
Gill said DNA testing of those remains found them to be consistent with the Lueck’s DNA profile.