Members of the University of Utah community gathered on Monday to honor the life of one of their own, while authorities noted the man arrested in Mackenzie Lueck's murder had previously faced an unfounded rape accusation.
Classmates, schoolmates, friends and family of Lueck tearfully held candles and each other as loved ones spoke of what they lost when her life was taken.
Those who knew Lueck best said the 23-year-old pre-nursing and kinesiology student, affectionately known as “Kenzie,” was caring and bubbly, a consummate “nurturer” who put the needs of others before her own.
“Everyone who knew Kenzie knew how fun she was to be around,” Kennedy Stoner, one of Lueck’s sorority sisters at Alpha Chi Omega, said during the vigil. “It breaks my heart knowing she died alone in such a scary place.”
Lueck was last seen June 17 by a Lyft driver who dropped her at a park after picking her up at the Salt Lake City Airport. Investigators said she then met someone in a car about 3 a.m.
Salt Lake City police said they believe that someone to have been Ayoola Ajayi, 31, who was arrested on Friday on suspicion of aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body.
Police said investigators found burned evidence that included personal items and human tissue matching Lueck’s DNA when they executed a search warrant at Ajayi’s home. The investigation is ongoing.
"We will continue to look into this situation to determine if he acted alone or if he had help," Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said, according to USA Today. "Salt Lake City is a tight-knit, caring, family-oriented community and I hope that we can all work together to help prevent this from ever happening again.”
Lueck and Ajayi communicated electronically the day before she disappeared, according to police. Details surrounding the nature of their relationship or the reasons behind their meeting were not immediately clear.
It was revealed Monday that Ajayi was accused in 2014 of raping a co-worker who allegedly told police he had nonconsensual sex with her at his home, according to a North Park police report obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune.
The woman told police she did not want charges filed but wanted to report the incident “in case he did the same thing to someone else.”
She said she went to his home on Nov. 24, 2014, and that they began “doing stuff,” and that “one thing led to another” and “she found herself in a compromising position,” the Tribune reported.
The woman told police she said no and told him she did not want to continue, but that he had sex with her anyway.
“She kept saying to me that she felt that it was her fault, because she was not assertive enough,” a cop reportedly wrote in the report. “I explained that all she needed to do was to say no, and that should be enough.”
Ajayi was never interviewed by police in that case, as the woman did not want to participate in a follow-up interview and did not want to cooperate with the investigation.
Ajayi has no known criminal history in Utah, other than several traffic violations.
Ajayi’s hobby of writing has also come under scrutiny, as his self-published novel has been pulled from Amazon’s website after it was found to reference the burning deaths of victims. The cover of the book, published in 2018, claimed that the story was “inspired by true events.”
About two months before Lueck’s disappearance, Ajayi allegedly sought out a local contractor to build a soundproof room in his home, the contractor told KTVX-TV.
Ajayi also wanted the room to have hooks drilled into concrete walls and a secret entrance with a thumb lock, the contractor said.
“In my opinion it was for something bad,” contractor Brian Wolf told KTVX-TV.
Ajayi allegedly said he wanted to hide his alcohol from a girlfriend who didn’t know he drank and wanted the room to be soundproof should he want to listen to music, Wolf told WXIN-TV.
“In my gut, when I walked out of there, I felt like something weird was going on,” Wolf said.
He refused to build the room that was requested, and called police to report the encounter after learning of Ajayi’s arrest, he said.
Charges against Ajayi are expected to be formally filed this week.
Loved ones have create a GoFundMe account to offset costs for Lueck’s funeral. More than $20,000 has been raised as of Tuesday.