Lueck was reported missing June 20 after she disappeared following a Lyft ride from Salt Lake City International Airport. Lueck was returning to Utah after a trip home to go to her grandmother’s funeral in the Los Angeles area, her family and friends say.
On June 28, authorities in Salt Lake City confirmed that 31-year-old Ayoola Ajayi had been charged in relation to Lueck’s murder. Investigators in Utah had served a search warrant at his home on June 27. Police said in a press conference that human remains and charred personal items belonging to Lueck had been found in his backyard. Ajayi is facing charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and desecration of a body.
The Salt Lake City Police Department said in a press release that Lueck was last seen on Monday, June 17. She was reported missing on Thursday, June 20, by family. Police said Luecke landed at the airport at 1:35 a.m. and texted her parents at 2:01 a.m. to say she had arrived there. She took a Lyft rideshare at 2:42 from the airport to a park in North Salt Lake. Police and her family earlier said the text was sent at 1 a.m., but that has been updated.
Police said at a June 24 press conference that interviews with the Lyft driver revealed Lueck met someone in another vehicle at Hatch Park in North Salt Lake when the rideshare driver dropped her off at 2:59 a.m. Police declined to release details about the make and model of the car or a description of the driver that Lueck met because they have not confirmed those details and do not want to put out possible misinformation.
“Detectives have spoken with the Lyft driver and learned that MacKenzie was met at Hatch Park by an individual in a vehicle. The Lyft driver left MacKenzie at the park with that person and stated that MacKenzie did not appear to be in any type of distress. We have not yet confirmed the make and model of the car or the description of the person, but may release further details once we have verified that information,” Assistant Police Chief Tim Doubt said. He said the driver saw Lueck make contact with the other person, but was not sure if the driver saw her get into the other vehicle or leave the park.
“SLCPD has been conducting a missing persons investigation and have spoken with both Lyft as well as the Lyft driver. Lyft and their driver have cooperated with the investigation,” the press release said. “The SLCPD has not discovered any information that would lead us to believe that Mackenzie has been harmed or is in danger at this time. Detectives are concerned for Mackenzie’s welfare. If anyone has any information on Mackenzie or where she may be, please contact SLCPD at 801-799-3000 re: case 19-111129.”
The Lueck family said in a statement, “Our primary goal is to find Mackenzie and bring her home. Her family is grateful for the concern, prayers and the tireless efforts of the Salt Lake City Police and members of the community.” Her family added in a post on Facebook, “MacKenzie, if you can hear us, your family and friends are looking for you and are concerned for your safety. Please reach out to anyone so we can get you home.”
Police had been searching for Lueck, while her family, college friends and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward where she was a member, had been aiding in the search, passing out flyers in Salt Lake City and posting about her disappearance on social media.
On June 24, Salt Lake City Police said they have set up a tip-line for information about Lueck. “We’re not sure what the case is at this point,” Salt Lake Police Sergeant Brandon Shearer told the Deseret News. “We’ve still not found any evidence that she is in danger, that she has been harmed, specifically.” He said there is no evidence a crime has been committed, but they are “very concerned” because she has disappeared without a trace.
Shearer said they have to balance giving out information publicly that could later compromise a criminal case if it does turn into that with providing enough information to get the public’s help in finding her. There are also privacy concerns because Lueck could just not want to be found. “If she’s safe and doesn’t want to be found, that’s OK. But please reach out to us and let us know you’re OK,” Shearer told the Deseret News.
On June 25, police released photos taken from surveillance cameras at the airport:
Here’s what you need to know about the search for MacKenzie Lueck:
1. MacKenzie Lueck Looked Happy to See the Person She Met at the Park & Did Not Appear to Be Distressed, Sources Told CBS News
MacKenzie Lueck had not been seen since early in the morning on Monday, June 17, when a Lyft driver picked her up and took her to an address in North Salt Lake, Utah, according to police. Lueck’s family said she had texted her parents about 2 a.m. to say that she had landed safely at Salt Lake City International Airport. Police initially did not give an address or details about the location where Lueck had been dropped off. But on Monday, June 24, police said she had been taken to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake. The park is located near the 15 Freeway. It is not known why she went there. According to CBS News’ David Begnaud, Lueck was dropped off at the park at 2:50 a.m.
Police returned to the park on June 24 to ask those in the area if they had seen anything.
Salt Lake Police Sergeant Brandon Shearer told KSTU-TV’s Erin Cox, “Our concern is extremely high right now.” Friends say they do not know why Lueck would have been going to the park or who she could have been meeting.
According to Begnaud, “She put her bag in the car & appeared to be happy to see the driver,” when she arrived at Hatch Park. … This information was given to police by a Lyft driver who took Mackenzie from the Salt Lake City International Airport to the park. The Lyft driver is the one who described the interaction between Mackenzie and the unidentified individual as pleasant & happy to see each other. … Mackenzie did not appear to be in any distress when she got out of the Lyft and into the unidentified vehicle.”
Shearer told the Deseret News, “We have reason to believe she did not stay in that area very long.” Shearer did not provide many details, including whether surveillance video or other evidence indicates that she left the area on foot or in another vehicle.
Police said the Lyft driver did take Lueck to the location she requested, according to a press release. Lyft said the driver continued to pick up other riders after dropping Lueck off. The company said it is assisting in the investigation.
“We recognize how scary this must be for those who know and love Ms. Lueck,” a Lyft spokesperson told ABC News. “The safety of our community is fundamental to Lyft.”
The driver is, “not a suspect at this time,” Shearer told the Deseret News. Police said they have no reason to doubt his story and have confirmed he took customers on rides after dropping Lueck off at the park.
“Initially we were limited, again as time goes on it’s going to open some of those avenues up to more investigative tools, the longer she’s missing the more opportunity we have to look into those sort of things,” Shearer told KSTU-TV. “But in an initial missing persons investigation, those are things that can slow down or hamper an investigation if we don’t have any other information.”
Jolyn Mendelson, Lueck’s cousin, told KSL-TV, “She said the plane had landed and that was the last text she put out. Then she got into a Lyft car at the airport and that was the last she has been seen.”
“Whether she’s endangered or not that’s a tough thing to say right now. We are just treating it as we’d like to find her and we are just trying to track down any leads right now,” Salt Lake City Police Department Detective Michael Ruff told KSL-TV. “We want to try and contact her one way or the other if she’s missing or she isn’t we need to make sure she’s OK.”
Assistant Chief Doubt said at the June 24 press conference, “I will not be releasing all the details of the investigation due to the fact this is an open and active case.” He said he shared what he could.
Doubt said detectives have tried to find Lueck through her phone, but have not been able to because it was turned off. He said detectives have interviewed her friends and acquaintances from school and checked locations she was known to frequent.
“Detectives have listed MacKenzie in the national database as missing and are exploring all avenues of investigative techniques, including writing and serving various warrants, talking to friends and family and checking social media,” Doubt said. “Since we took the report on Thursday, detectives have canvassed the area around Hatch Park multiple times to try and locate any video surveillance from businesses or from residences that may have captured anything. Detectives are also knocking on doors in the area of the park to rule out that anyone there may have had contact with MacKenzie or seen anything.”
Doubt added, “Occasionally police work a missing person case where the person does not want to have contact with family and friends. If that is the case, MacKenzie, we are asking you to please reach out to either the Salt Lake City Police Department or a law enforcement agency where you are at. We just want to make sure you are safe and will respect your wishes.”
Doubt said some of the unanswered questions about the case are some of the same ones detectives are trying to find answers for. “We encourage the public to help us answer these questions: Does MacKenzie have an alternate phone that she has used or is using? Who did MacKenzie meet in North Salt Lake City? Does MacKenzie have any social media accounts we do not know about? Is anyone in contact with MacKenzie online or by phone currently or in the last week?”
Doubt said they are not aware of any past occasions where Lueck went off the grid without telling anyone. He said they are also not aware of any issues with drugs or alcohol or mental health issues.
2. Lueck’s Family Lives in El Segundo, California, Where She Grew Up
Lueck, who went by Kenzie Lueck on Facebook and Instagram, is the daughter of Greg Lueck and Diana Lueck. She has three brothers. Kenzie Lueck grew up in El Segundo, California, where her family still lives, and she graduated from El Segundo High School. She was a member of the water polo team in high school.
Lueck had been attending the University of Utah since 2014, according to her Facebook page. She is scheduled to graduate in 2019, she says on Facebook, but her graduation date was not immediately clear. Police said she is a senior.
Lueck was at home in El Segundo for her grandmother’s funeral. Her maternal grandmother, Geraldine Walker Stephens, died June 10. Her funeral was held June 15 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in El Segundo.
Kenzie Lueck’s last Instagram post before her disappearance was about her grandmother’s death. Along with photos of her grandmother, grandfather and mother, she wrote, “I’m sure many have already heard, heaven gained an angel on Monday. My grandmother, papa Gerry, was a hero to many. She was selfless and perfect. I never imagined this day coming, but heaven couldn’t wait for her. I love you and I’ll see you in a life time.”
Her friend, Juliana Cauley, told CBS News, “I’ve never met a person that doesn’t like Mackenzie. She is the sweetest and most genuine. It’s not like her to go off the grid and if she did then she would tell me. I would do anything to get her back. And honestly, I would trade places with her in a heartbeat just to know she’s safe.”
3. Kenzie Lueck Is a Member of the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority & Her Sisters Have Been Helping to Lead the Search Efforts in Salt Lake City
Kenzie Lueck is a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority at the University of Utah. Her sorority sisters and other friends have been helping to lead the search efforts in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area, passing out flyers and asking people if they have seen her. Her sorority sister, Ashley Fine, told the Salt Lake Tribune they also talked to neighbors, “We went by her home. We wanted to be close to her.”
Fine added, “We’ve been spreading the word across the nation, around the world. We have to do everything to look for her, because I’d want her to do that for me.”
She told KSL-TV, “We’re millennials. (Not answering the phone) is very, very unusual. Even if you’re missing, or you want to disappear, you have to turn your phone on to GPS.” Fine said her bank account has also been inactive.
Fine told the news station that Lueck lives in Trolley Square with her roommates. I don’t know why she would be going (to North Salt Lake) around 2 a.m. It’s just very, very suspicious and dangerous,” Fine told KSL-TV.
Her friend, Andrew Bolling, told KTVX-TV, “I just have no idea what happened to her, where she is. Nobody does, and it’s pretty terrifying.”
Another sorority sister, Kennedy Stoner, told KSTU-TV, “My concern is over the roof. She’s my best friend. I usually hear from her all the time. We want to do as much as we can. She’s just the sweetest, most genuine girl. I love her. I miss her. I’m extremely concerned for her and her well being.”
Stoner, who is Lueck’s “little sister” in the sorority, has been sharing information on social media and handing ut flyers to help in the search since early on. “She hasn’t been to work, home, and missed a school midterm yesterday. Her car is still home and hasn’t been touched,” she wrote on June 21.
Her “big sister,” in the sorority, Carly Reilly, wrote on Facebook, “If anyone sees or hears anything from Kenzie Lueck, my little, PLEASE contact myself or the police as there is already a missing persons report. Please share if you live in the salt lake area so we can find her and bring her back home safely!!”
Stoner wrote on Facebook, “My big, Kenzie Lueck has not been seen since Monday. If ANYONE has any information, PLEASE reach out to me. I’m worried sick. Her phone has been turned off and the last place she was seen was the airport, she landed at 1 AM. There is a missing persons report already on file, but ANY info is better than none. Please please please be on the lookout. PLEASE SHARE! *please be aware of the timeline. The police only want hints if it’s been since she landed on Monday. Nothing prior!*… She is my ride or die and I’m truly worried, and panicked. I’m a wreck, so PLEASE share. The more this gets around, the more information we may get. Please keep Kenzie in your prayers.”
Fine told KTVX-TV that Lueck was planning to return home to California to visit her family again and bought plane tickets for that trip. Her family said she missed a flight home on Sunday, June 23. Earlier reports said that she was flying home on July 23, but her family has corrected that to say she was due home again on June 23.
“MacKenzie was expected on a flight his weekend to Southern California where she lives in El Segundo, said Kennedy Stoner told KTVX-TV. “She never arrived or made it to her flight.”
Assistant Police Chief Doubt said at a press conference, “Detectives have learned that MacKenzie was scheduled to fly into LAX on Sunday morning, June 23.” He said the detectives confirmed with the LAPD that Lueck was not on that flight.
Some friends have also said she was heading home for a wedding. Those details remain unclear.
“Everyone thinks that there’s danger in this story. Things aren’t adding up. She had another trip planned,” Fine told the news station. “She’s making those plans with friends and family to have plans for the future. I don’t think she would hurt herself or anything like that.
Fine added a message to Lueck, “If you’re in a bad situation, please reach out… We’re really concerned for you.”
4. She Is Studying Nursing, With an Emphasis on Emergency Medicine Management, & Has Been Working as a Lab Associate & Plasma Processor While in College
Kenzie Lueck is studying nursing and health education and promotion with an emphasis in emergency medicine management, according to her Linkedin profile. While in college, Lueck also worked at Grifols, a plasma donation center, and is currently working at PRA Health Sciences, a lab in Millcreek, Utah, according to her Linkedin profile.
She has worked at PRA Health Sciences as a lab associate since August 2018. At Grifols, she has worked as a plasma processor, phlebotomist and donor center technician.
Lueck also said she previously worked as a personal assistant in the Salt Lake City area. “I worked with a family to make their life a little bit easier. I provided daily house cleaning, plan and prepare daily dinners and lunches, laundry as needed, and weekly grocery shopping. I care for an older dog by providing daily walks and necessary needs for him. I help with organization tasks and projects. I also plan vacations, appointments, and additional errands as needed,” she wrote on Linkedin.
She is a former barista at Starbucks in Salt Lake City and The Coffee Bean in the Los Angeles area.
Ashley Fine said missing work and class was very uncharacteristic for Lueck.
“Not going home to your pets or your roommates, or just dropping your luggage off, that’s very abnormal,” Fine told KSTU-TV. “Not going to work. Having your phone off for five days now, very very bizarre and alarming.”
Fine told KSL, “She’s extremely dedicated. She would never miss her midterms or anything like that. She hasn’t been home. She didn’t show up to work, or anything.”
Her Instagram profile shows photos and pictures typical of a college student. She wrote, “California Grown ? University of Utah❤️ don’t hate, appreciate ??” along with a plea for human rights advocacy. She also expressed her love for the popular Barstool Sports podcast “Call Her Daddy.”
She also posted photos often of her cat, Nova, the outfits she liked to wear and her fitness progress at the gym.
On June 8, she posted on Facebook about the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being passed, giving women the right to vote. She wrote, “Sisters! Let’s make our votes count.”
In another recent post she said, “I don’t wear makeup for others the same way I don’t decorate my house for others. This is my house & everything I do is for me. #selflove.” She wrote in another post, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”
5. Lueck’s Family & Friends Had Set Up Social Media Pages to Help ‘Find Mac Lueck’
MacKenzie Lueck’s family and friends have set up social media accounts to help in the search for her. On Facebook, the group “Find MacKenzie Lueck,” has more than 2,000 members.
They also set up a Twitter account, “@FindMacLueck,” and have been using the hashtags #FindMacKenzie and #MacLueck.
Police said they have not set up a search in a specific area because they do not have enough information to do so.
“We don’t have anyone searching any particular area right now, because we don’t have any credible evidence of where she might be,” Salt Lake City Police Sergeant Brandon Shearer told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Detective Michael Ruff said, “There’s a lot our detectives are looking into. They are trying to go back, trace any steps they can, talk to any people they can.”
The University of Utah issued a statement about Lueck on June 24:
The University of Utah is deeply concerned about the well-being of Mackenzie “Kenzie” Lueck and her family. The university is cooperating with the Salt Lake City Police Department, which is investigating her disappearance. Mackenzie is enrolled part-time as a senior at the U, and is majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing and minoring in health. She has been enrolled at the U since fall 2014. Because of privacy laws that protect Mackenzie’s personal information, the university cannot provide further details.
The university’s dean of students has spoken with Mackenzie’s family to offer support and to express the campus community’s shared hope for her safe return. The dean’s office is also talking with and providing support to Mackenzie’s classmates.
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call the Salt Lake City Police Department at 801-799-4420.
We know it can be difficult to process uncertainties such as this, and the U’s Counseling Center is available to assist those in need. To schedule an appointment, call 801-581-6826 or visit the office’s temporary reception area in Room 330 in the Student Services Building. Staff have access to counseling through the Employee Assistance Program. More information and resources are available at SafeU.utah.edu.
Assistant Police Chief Tim Doubt said at the press conference on June 24, “Our detectives have been working around the clock on this case and finding MacKenzie is a very high priority for us. A significant portion of our department has been assigned to work the case, we’ve been in contact with our federal, state and local partners. We’ve had regular contact with the Lueck family. Chief Brown has personally talked with the family and offered our commitment to finding MacKenzie. We will continue to work with them or anyone who has information on this case.”
Her friends held a press conference outside of the Salt Lake City Police Department on June 23 to raise awareness about the case.
“For her not to reach out to me — Snapchat, Instagram, anything — is very unlike her,” Kennedy Stoner, said.
“Where could she have gone? Her car has not been moved. Things aren’t adding up,” Ashley Fine said at the press conference. Stoner added, “The police have said they have no reason to believe she’s in danger, but at this point, it’s been seven days.”
Said Fine, “She might have been meeting someone there. I just don’t see any other reason as to why she would be there at that time.”
Friends and family said they are going through her social media accounts and trying to find out if there is anything they are missing.
Fine told KSTU-TV, “We hope you’re okay, we want you home. We’re so, so worried about you. Your family is really worried about you. All of your friends are here.”