Mackenzie Lueck: The Seeking Arrangement Murder

It was 2019, and Mackenzie Lueck had her entire future ahead of her. She was a 23-year-old senior at the University of Utah and had plans for a career in the health sciences. But everything changed when Lueck took a Lyft to a North Salt Lake park in the dark morning hours of June 17, 2019.

Someone in an unknown car was waiting for her, and he was the last person to ever see her alive.

Mackenzie Lueck

Everything changed for her family, too, when they didn’t hear from Mackenzie for three days. On June 20, Mackenzie’s father, Greg, asked the Salt Lake City Police Department to do a welfare check on her. Her parents’ last contact with her was a routine text message sent on June 17 to tell them that she had arrived safely at the Salt Lake City airport after traveling back from El Segundo, California, for her grandmother’s funeral.

When the police arrived at Mackenzie’s house to check on her, they found her car in the driveway, but no sign of Mackenzie. Something didn’t seem quite right about the situation, so homicide detectives were notified, and what these detectives discovered wasn’t a missing person, but a victim of a premeditated kidnapping and murder, facilitated by the website Seeking Arrangement.

Mackenzie was using Seeking Arrangement, a website devoted to helping wealthy older men, or “sugar daddies,” connect with younger female “sugar babies” and pay them for dates and sex. 

Mackenzie Lueck facebook photo

She also had profiles on the dating apps Tinder and Call Her Daddy while she was attending the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. She grew up in El Segundo, California, in a Mormon family with four children, and spread her wings by moving to Utah to attend the University of Utah in 2014, becoming a sorority sister and majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing and minoring in health. 

Investigation into the Disappearance of Mackenzie Lueck

After searching for Mackenzie at her home and finding her nowhere, police learned she had taken a Lyft to Hatch Park in the early morning hours on June 17 after flying back to Salt Lake City from California. 

The Lyft driver revealed that Mackenzie got into another car with someone she appeared to know at the park around 3 a.m. This late-night rendezvous was the last time anyone saw her. The police investigated the Lyft driver but eliminated him as a suspect based on his driving records.

Their next big break in the case occurred when Rob Joseph, a private investigator and ex-police officer, came forward with key information. Joseph had met Mackenzie at a bar three weeks earlier, and she shared a secret with him: she was on Seeking Arrangement. He found her profile on the site after he learned she was missing, and sent a screenshot to the police.

The police pored over her phone records and discovered that she had sent text messages to a burner phone number the day of her disappearance, which had no associated account name but was linked to a Wi-Fi router at the home of a man named Ayoola Ajayi. During questioning at his home on June 24, Ajayi claimed that he rented out rooms through Airbnb and that the phone number could have been linked to any of his guests. 

Ayoola Ajayi, was apprehended in Salt Lake City on Friday under suspicion of the homicide of Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old University of Utah student hailing from El Segundo. (Kristin Murphy / Deseret News via AP)

Ayoola Ajayi was a 32-year-old information technology worker who had served a brief stint in the Army National Guard. Originally from Nigeria, he moved to the US in 2009 to attend Utah State University on a student visa to study computer science. 

He placed profiles on many dating apps and social networks, including Tinder, Snapchat, and Seeking Arrangement, even though he had been married since 2011 to Tenisha Jenkins Ajayi. He also joined a singles ward of the Mormon church, despite being married at the time. His wife told the media that they had not lived together for several years and that Ajayi “threatened to kidnap and kill her if she didn’t move to Utah.” 

The couple finally divorced in January of 2019.

Ajayi Becomes the Main Suspect in the Case

Later in the day on June 24, Ajayi returned to the police department on his own to provide new information: it had slipped his mind that he had texted Mackenzie, and he figured that maybe she had contacted him because he had a Seeking Arrangement profile. He didn’t know her, though, he claimed. 

Mackenzie Lueck police interview
Law enforcement conducts an interview with Ayoola Ajayi, the individual responsible for the tragic loss of University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck. (SLCPD)

This was the beginning of the end for Ajayi, as he unknowingly triggered the investigation into his phone records, setting them on the path to his eventual arrest by giving the police his real cell phone number. 

These records traced him to Hatch Park the same time Mackenzie was there, and it wasn’t a coincidence. Detectives obtained a search warrant for his home on June 26 and found that a mattress was missing. They also spoke to his neighbors, who smelled burning and reported a fire in Ajayi’s backyard the night of Mackenzie’s disappearance. 

Mackenzie Lueck crime scene
Salt Lake City police investigators are seen retrieving evidence bags from a residence connected to a person of interest in the MacKenzie Lueck missing person case, following the execution of a search warrant on June 27 in Salt Lake City. (Image credit: George Frey/Getty Images/TNS)

When they discovered freshly dug soil in the backyard, they called in cadaver dogs, which found human tissue, burnt clothing, and a burnt iPhone. The DNA from the tissue matched Mackenzie, and the police arrested Ajayi on June 28, 2019.

The Search for Mackenzie’s Body

Even though detectives located evidence of Mackenzie’s murder on Ajayi’s property, they still lacked a body, and Ajayi wouldn’t share the location. His cell phone records assisted investigators again, this time tracking the phone’s pings to Logan Canyon, located about 100 miles north of Salt Lake, where they found her burned body with her arms bound behind her. 

Ajayi had reburied the body after the police came to his house to first question him about the Wi-Fi. Afterwards, he dug up her body from his backyard and moved it to the canyon on June 25. 

A subsequent autopsy showed that Mackenzie had died from blunt force trauma to the head. Ajayi finally admitted that he had planned to kill her and detailed the events that led to her death. He revealed that at his home on June 17, where he had already disabled the video surveillance system, he tied her up and choked her, then strangled her with a belt. 

While his motive is unknown, and Ajayi didn’t share his reasons for the homicide, former FBI agent Greg Rogers posits that Ajayi was possibly on a path to becoming a serial killer. 

More Details Emerge

Police also found video of Ajayi buying a gas can at a grocery store the morning Mackenzie disappeared, as well as video of him filling it up. Contractor Brian Wolf came forward to share how Ajayi had asked him, just three months before Mackenzie’s murder, to build a secret soundproof room in his house that could be accessed by a thumb lock. 

When Ajayi asked him about mounting hooks on the wall, he turned down the job. In an interview, he explained, “Then the soundproofing came in and the…fingerprint thumb lock (keypad) thing, and then he was adamant about telling me that money was no (object) and he wanted it done as soon as possible….It just got weirder and weirder, the more he was talking to me.”

The Charges Against Ajayi

On June 28, 2019, Ajayi was arrested and charged with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, and desecration of a body in relation to the Mackenzie Lueck case. He was also charged with the sexual assault of another woman he had met on a religious dating app in 2018, as well as posession of child pornography, which investigators found on his computer. 

On October 7, 2020, he pled guilty to aggravated murder, desecration of a body, and the 2018 sexual assault in order to avoid the death penalty, and prosecutors dropped the aggravated kidnapping and child pornography charges as part of the plea agreement.

In court, he apologized to Mackenzie’s parents: “Mr. and Mrs. Lueck, I’m sorry for what I did. I deserve what I’m going to get….I know this won’t bring her back.” These words rang hollow to her parents, and her father said that “he had no compassion for him because Ajayi had shown no compassion for his daughter, and said he hopes Ajayi spends the rest of his life in prison looking over his shoulder in fear.” 

It was a tragic end to what had been a hopeful future for their daughter, a life cut short by a would-be serial killer.

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