Ayoola Ajayi – who once worked as a model, wrote a book on a murder, and claimed to have a history as a computer specialist – stands accused in the grisly homicide of University of Utah college student MacKenzie Lueck.
Lueck, from California, disappeared in June 2019 after grabbing a Lyft from the Salt Lake City airport to a North Salt Lake park. She then met someone in a vehicle and vanished. Horrifically, her remains later turned up in a burn pit on the property of Ajayi, authorities say.
Chief Mike Brown said police are filing charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body “in the homicide of MacKenzie Lueck” against Ajayi. It later turned out that the suspect’s property had once been posted on Airbnb. In August 2019, Ajayi was hit with new charges – 19 unrelated counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Police say they found child pornography on his computer.
Lueck was reported missing by her family on June 20. Concern grew as she missed a midterm and a trip back to her family’s home in El Segundo, California, on June 23. Authorities spent days searching the area around Hatch Park in North Salk Lake, where she was last seen, talking to friends and using warrants to obtain other information, while scouring her social media profiles. Then, they uncovered something awful that took the case in a new direction.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Horrifically, Ajayi’s Neighbors Say They Saw Him ‘Burning Something in His Back Yard’
What authorities say happened to Lueck, who was a nursing student, is grisly and very disturbing.
According to Brown, a search of the suspect’s property (the home was listed on Airbnb), found a burned area that contained charred items consistent with personal items of Lueck. Horrifically, “female human tissue,” was then also found, and it matched via DNA testing to MacKenzie Lueck, the chief revealed in a news conference. The suspect’s neighbors had told detectives they allegedly saw Ajayi “burning something in his back yard with the use of gasoline” on June 17 and 18.
Lueck was in her senior year at the University of Utah.
“Other charred material was located which has now been forensically determined to be female human tissue,” said the chief. On July 5, 2019, police said they found Lueck’s body in Logan Canyon.
Fox News reported that a Utah handyman claims Ajayi once asked him to build a secret, soundproof room in his house complete with hooks and a fingerprint lock. The contractor told Fox the request creeped him out and said Ajayi told him he needed the room to hide alcohol from his Mormon girlfriend.
Lueck’s last communications “were with the arrested person,” the chief alleged. Police accuse Ajayi, 31, of admitting having some text communications with Lueck on the evening of June 16, but they said he denied that he met with her or had seen a photo of her despite “having several photos of her and (her) profile photo.” The pictures were on his phone. Ajayi was briefly a member of the Utah Army National Guard in the past, but he was discharged, officials said.
The location of Lueck’s and Ajayi’s phones pinged at a park within less than a minute of each other, at which time her phone stopped receiving data around 3 a.m. on June 17, said Brown, who added that police would continue investigating Lueck’s death to see if Ajayi allegedly “had help.” The motive was not clear.
The unnamed Lyft driver who dropped Lueck off at Hatch Park was ruled out early on in the investigation, as police determined he had dropped Lueck off at the location she had requested he take her to and then left to pick up other rides throughout the early morning hours.
MacKenzie’s emotional uncle read a statement for the family, expressing “their gratitude for the effort put forth by the Salt Lake City Police Department and all partnering agencies…” They also thanked the community and people who provided tips. The family did not take questions. The uncle said nothing further. Authorities also did not provide additional details of the crime or how Ajayi and Lueck allegedly first came into contact with each other beyond the texting.
2. Ayoola Ajai Was Born in Nigeria & Wrote a Self-Published Book on Murder
Authorities announced the break in the case on June 28, 2019 after earlier revealing that they were seeking information about a mattress offered up for free by a homeowner associated with the case; they gave out an address linked to Ajayi in online records. A dramatic photo showed the suspect being arrested by a SWAT team on June 28, 2019 at the Parkside Condominium complex at 1000 S. West Temple. People in tears were seen entering the Police Department before the press conference. The suspect was previously a person of interest in the case.
Ajayi’s booking record in the jail says he was born in Nigeria and was also called “Joy” and “AJ.” His full name is Ayoola Adisa Ajayi.
There is a self-published book for sale on Amazon called “Forge Identity.” The author, Ayoola Ajayi, says in his bio: “Ayoola Ajayi was born and raised in Africa. He has been a salesman, an entrepreneur, and a writer. He has survived a tyrannical dictatorship, escaped a real life crime, traveled internationally, excelled professionally in several industries, and is currently curating a multi-platform advertising campaign for his debut novel, Forge Identity, a sample of which can be found on Kindle, Amazon, Facebook, and any current social media. He lives in salt lake.”
The book’s description says:
Ezekiel was almost 15 when he witnessed a gruesome murder. An angry mob burned his neighbor alive in the street and the man died at his feet. Sadly, it was not the last time he witnessed such horror. With his well respected father as guide and mentor, Ezekiel saw this death, then a death much closer to home when a loved one was killed in the same brutal, terrifying way 50 feet from him, and he could do nothing to stop it. Staggering to recover from these severe traumas, he finds relief and joy in meeting his first love, becomes embroiled in grand theft, and experiences heartbreaking betrayal. Ezekiel must decide if he will join the ranks of a criminal mastermind, or fight to escape the tyranny that has surrounded his young life. Or even beat them at their own game. When trust is lost, can he even trust himself?
Ayoola likes the book’s Facebook page through his personal account. That page’s top post is a 2018 update that reads, “The high octane action escalates upon arrival in Detroit, where Ezekiel encounters the F.B.I. and an unknown assassin. Inner and outer conflict join forces to push him to the brink of insanity, whilst fighting multiple foes for his very life. He must find out at last, who can he trust?” The Facebook page has just over 1,800 likes. (KSLT also reported that Ajayi had a modeling background and was an author.)
3. Ayoola Ajayi Appeared on Modeling Websites
According to KUTV, Ajayi appears in the above video as a football player.
A modeling website in the name of Ayoola Ajayi says he is 31, stands 6 foot 1 inches tall, and has a 45 inch waist. He lists his ethnicity as “Black/African roots.” In posts that are riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, he compared himself to the actor Samuel L. Jackson and described himself as “buffed” and funny. He had also once booked a job with a production company in which he was dressed in a football uniform, KSL-TV reported. However, his booking information presents a picture of a different physique, saying he is 5 foot 11 inches tall and weighs 235 pounds.
He wrote on the modeling profile that he “made this page to help me get in touch with some great photographers, agencies, or clients looking for a classy and professional modeling.”
“My goals (sic) is to be one of the best in this business, and will love to meet any organization with same goals. I love trying out new ideals, so if there is any new ideals and suggestions photographer think might work, i am open to try them out or talk about it,” he wrote.
He added: “I am tall, buffed, Funny. I am a victim, Romantic, Violent and character actor. If i am to described myself using one or two of the celebraties (sic); i will chose Samuel L Jackson and Dennis Haysbert.”
The police chief wasn’t sure why Ajay and Lueck met in the park or how they knew each other if at all; he had once lived near the park. Where, how or exactly when Lueck was killed is not clear.
4. MacKenzie Lueck, a College Student, Was Returning Home From Her Grandma’s Funeral
MacKenzie Lueck landed at Salt Lake City International Airport on Monday, June 17, at 1:35 a.m., police said at a press conference. She texted her parents at 2:01 a.m. to tell them she had landed safely. At 2:42 a.m. she got a Lyft rideshare and was taken to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, where the driver dropped her off at 2:59 a.m.
Lueck was a kinesiology and nursing student.
Lueck was in her senior year at the University of Utah, studying nursing and health education and promotion with an emphasis in emergency medicine management, according to her Linkedin profile.
Lueck, who lived in a Trolley Square apartment with roommates, has also been working at PRA Health Sciences, a lab in Millcreek, Utah, as a lab associate. She has had that job since August 2018. She previously worked as a plasma processor, phlebotomist and donor center technician at Grifols, a plasma donation center.
After Lueck was reported missing on June 20, her sorority sisters in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority at the University of Utah began rallying together to help spread the word that she had disappeared. They passed out flyers in Salt Lake City and posted information on social media.
“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,” Ashley Fine told the Salt Late Tribune. 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.
She was returning home from her grandmother’s funeral in El Segundo, California, where her family lives and where she grew up.
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.”
5. Ayoola Said He Worked as a Computer Support Specialist But He Was Discharged From the Utah Army National Guard Despite Touting False Military Service Online
On LinkedIn and other social sites, Ayoola Ajayi claims to be an IT support specialist. On Facebook, he wrote, “Systems Administrator at Goldman Sachs.”
His LinkedIn page claims he was a “Senior Technical Support Analyst at Dell” based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He says he was employed at Dell as a “technical support analyst” from September 2018 to present and worked as a “mobile tech” for Goldman Sachs from 2017 to present.
His page also claims he worked as an “IT specialist” for “Microsoft/unisys” from 2017 to present in the Provo, Utah area and that he was an “Information Technology Specialist Information Technology Specialist (25B)” for the US Army from 2014 to 2016.
However, the Army gives different information.
“Private Ajayi, Ayoola A. was discharged from the Utah Army National Guard on June 10, 2015 after six months of service,” Major David Gibb, Public Affairs Officer, Utah National Guard, told Heavy in a statement.
“Private Ajayi was a member of the 214th Forward Support Company based out of Tooele, Utah, but did not attend Basic Training or Advanced Individual Training. As a result, he did not receive any certificates or awards from the Army National Guard. He was therefore ineligible to deploy or conduct any tours of duty with the Utah Army National Guard.”
Asked if the information listed on the LinkedIn page was false, the Army wrote Heavy, “If he didn’t go to Basic or AIT, he would not have been awarded that occupational specialty by the Army.”
Ajayi also claims he worked for Comcast from 2012-2014 and studied computer science at Utah State University from 2009 to 2017.
“Extremely seasoned and reliable system Technician with a strong CCNA Routing and Switching background and excellent client service record,” he wrote. “Great at explaining complex concepts and processes to clients and non-technical personnel in a clear and understandable manner. Able to multitask effectively and bring several simultaneous installation, maintenance and repair projects to achievement with full accuracy and efficiency.”
He attended Utah State University in fall 2009, fall 2010, spring 2011, spring 2015, and fall 2016, according to KUTV.
According to the Lyft driver, Lueck got out of the Lyft and met someone in another vehicle when they arrived at Hatch Park.
“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.
Sources told CBS News’ David 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.”
On a Meet Up site for Utah, there is a profile in Ayoola’s name. “my name is Ayoola. system administrator and gym rat. trying to get into outdoor stuff,” he wrote. It gave his location as Salt Lake City, Utah and said he had been a member since 2017.
The estranged wife of Utah murder suspect Ayoola Ajayi is named Tenisha Jenkins Ajayi. In an interview with Daily Mail, she claimed she fled the marriage when he allegedly “slashed her with a butcher’s knife and threatened to kidnap her.”
She told Daily Mail she “went into hiding and changed her cell phone because of his violent outbursts.”
Police confiscated “27 boxes of AR-15 223 ammunition and a pitchfork,” from Ajayi’s residence, according to KUTV. KSL-TV reported that Ajayi advertised his home, which he owned, on two pages for Airbnb, which he joined in 2016. He offered accommodations “in the basement of the home,” the television station reported.
Lueck, who goes 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.
The North Park Police Department in North Logan Utah released a press release from Chief Jeff Simmons that said:
“Ayoola Adisa Ajayi (DOB 4/22/1988), who is in custody as suspect of the Salt Lake City Police Department in relation to the disappearance of MacKenzie Lueck, lived in North Logan, Utah from 2013-2015, according to our local police records. In 2014, North Park Police Department investigated a Sex Offense/Rape complaint with Mr. Ajayi listed as the suspect. The adult female victim in this incident did not wish to pursue charges in this matter.” North Park police did not provide additional details.
Ajayi had a divorce that was finalized in January, and he had an eviction in 2016, according to KSL-TV. The television station reported that neighbors said he kept to himself. KUTV reported that it’s believed Ajayi has no previous criminal history. He did receive unemployment benefits for a time.