The man who pleaded guilty in connection with the vicious killing of a University of Utah student has been sentenced to life in prison. Ayoola Ajayi, 32, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of aggravated murder and desecration of a human body in a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Mackenzie Lueck was a 23-year-old "true spitfire," her mother, Diana, said.
“This sentence today will not bring back MacKenzie,” the mom said. “But I hope it will keep this defendant out of the public eye and unable to commit these heinous crimes again.”
The victim's father told the court, “I can only hope that it will be a slow, painful death.”
“I’m sorry for what I did,” Ajayi said, his voice muffled by his face mask. “I know this won’t bring her back.”
Prosecutors said the two connected on the dating website Seeking Arrangement. They met in a park, after a Lyft driver dropped her off on June 17, 2019. She had just flown home from attending her grandmother's funeral in California and had summoned the Lyft to pick her up at the Salt Lake City airport.
At the park, she was met by Ajayi, who took her to his home. He told investigators he planned to kill the college senior from the time he arranged their meeting.
Once they were at his home, Ajayi beat, bound and strangled her, then burned her remains and hid them in his backyard and in a canyon some 100 miles away. Police searched for her for more than two weeks.
She died from blunt force trauma to the head, an autopsy found.
Ajayi has been jailed since his arrest on June 28, 2019. He later told his attorneys where to find her remains.
During the sentencing hearing, Deputy Salt Lake County District Attorney Marc Mathis said Ajayi was driven purely by "murder for murder's sake."
Most killings "have clearly identifiable motives: financial gain, revenge, perceived wrongs,” he said.
“But that doesn’t exist in this case. Without having met her in person before ... Ayoola Ajayi simply wanted to know what it felt like to kill."