Ayoola Ajayi planned to kill MacKenzie Lueck, a University of Utah student, before they ever met in person, his lawyer said in court Wednesday. In an agreement with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty, 32-year-old Ajayi pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and desecration of a human body in connection to the killing of the 23-year-old last year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Ajayi and Lueck met for the first time at Hatch Park in North Salt Lake on June 17, 2019, the Tribune reported. After they returned to his home, he reportedly bound and strangled her, then burned and hid the college student's body. Police and Lueck's family were searching for her body for over two weeks until they found in a Northern Utah canyon.
Lueck was returning to Salt Lake City from her hometown in El Segundo, California where she was visiting to attend her grandmother's funeral, the Tribune reported. Surveillance video from the airport captured Lueck arriving, luggage in hand, around 2:09 a.m. the day of her murder. From the airport, she texted her mother that she arrived safely and then ordered a Lyft where she met Ajayi.
His lawyer Neal Hamilton stated in court this week that the murder was premeditated, KTLA reported. Ajayi apparently turned off the video in his home-security system before he met Lueck in the park just before 3 a.m. Upon arriving back to his home, he tied her up and began choking her. When she struggled, he put a belt around her neck, pushed her onto her stomach, and strangled her, KTLA reported.
He then burned her body and buried her in his backyard, but when detectives came to his door to question him he took her body and buried her in a shallow grave in a canyon about 100 miles north of Salt Lake City, KTLA reported. Some of her charred remains were found in Ajayi's backyard, which led to his arrest on June 28. Ajayi eventually disclosed on July 3 that her body was in Logan Canyon –– where she was found, her hands bound behind her.
Police believe Lueck died of blunt force trauma to the head, the Tribune reported. It was recently discovered that Ajayi, originally from Nigeria, connected with Lueck on Seeking Arrangement, a dating website that is branded for wealthy men or "sugar daddies" to meet women or "sugar babies" on dates. Ajayi worked in information technology and was in the U.S. on a green card, KTLA reported.
Ajayi also pleaded guilty on one count of forcible sexual abuse in another case that also involved a woman he met on a dating app in 2018, the outlet reported. He allegedly abused her while they were watching television.
Under the terms of the plea deal, he was dismissed from 19 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor related to child pornography discovered on his devices during the Lueck investigation. He is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 23 to life in prison by Judge Vernice Trease and will not be granted the possibility of parole, the District Attorney's office wrote in a statement.
Lueck had an active life involving bike rides to the Pacific Ocean, competing on the swim team, and playing water polo at her Southern California high school, the Tribune reported. She was a kinesiology major set to graduate the following year, ABC reported.
“The goal is to try to give them the opportunity move on with their lives," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said. “There is no perfect justice in a tragedy like this, but [Ajayi]'s being held accountable for this murder."