A Nigerian-born American citizen, Ayoola Ajayi, has pleaded guilty to killing a college student whom he contacted through a dating website last year.
Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old pre-nursing student at the University of Utah, went missing on June 17, 2019 shortly after arriving at the Salt Lake City airport following her grandmother’s funeral in Los Angeles.
Investigators discovered that Ajayi, 32, was the last person the deceased communicated with, and he was taken into custody on June 28 after a search of his home led to the discovery of a freshly dug area along with burnt human tissue and personal items belonging to Lueck.
Lueck’s corpse was later recovered, on July 3, in Logan Canyon, about 85 miles north of Salt Lake City, where he had buried her a second time.
Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill,announced on Wednesday, October 7, 2020 that Ajayi pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated murder and one count of desecration of a human body.
Gill said Ajayi will avoid a possible death sentence and will be sentenced later in October to life in prison without parole, according to a report by the New York Times.
The DA said Lueck’s family has been informed about the plea agreement.
“Hopefully, this is the beginning of closure for them, and maybe for the retrieval of some measure of justice for this incredible loss they’ve suffered as a family,” he said.
Lueck was discovered by authorities with her arms bound behind her back by a zip tie and rope.
Prosecutors said he planned to kill her before their June 17, 2019 meeting in a park after they met on Seeking Arrangement, a dating website.
The information technology worker turned off the video on his home security system before leaving his apartment to meet her at the park.
Ajayi took Lueck back to his apartment, tied her up and choked her, first with his hands and then with a belt.
He then proceeded to bury her in his backyard and burned her body, clothing and belongings to try to cover up the killing, according to prosecutors.
Ajayi’s problems with authorities
Ajayi was banned from campus by the Utah State University in 2012 after the expiration of his student visa.
He was also arrested in connection to a stolen iPad, as well as investigated in 2014 for the alleged rape of a co-worker at a Logan financial company.
The alleged victim decided to not press charges.
Despite the expiration of his visa, Ajayi was not deported because he had married an American woman, Tenisha Jenkins Ajayi, in 2011, a union that made him a legal U.S. citizen.
Jenkins said she was forced to flee the turbulent marriage and go into hiding after he slashed her with a butcher’s knife and threatened to kidnap her.
Gill said on Wednesday Ajayi also pleaded guilty to forcible sex abuse in a separate episode in March 2018 with another woman he met online.
He invited her to his house for dinner and then assaulted her as they watched television on his couch.