A Nigerian man, Ayoola Ajayi, has been arrested in Salt Lake City in the US state of Utah in connection with the disappearance and alleged murder of Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old student of the University of Utah.
The Salt Lake Tribune, quoting Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, reported that 31-year-old Ajayi was arrested at his apartment Friday morning by a SWAT team.
He was subsequently booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a body and obstruction of justice.
A judge ordered him to be held without bail.
Lueck disappeared on June 17 after returning to Salt Lake City from California, where she was attending her grandmother’s funeral and her parents reported her missing on June 20, triggering a search that has drawn nationwide attention.
Brown said on Friday that Utah State Crime Lab confirmed tissue found at Ajayi’s home belonged to Lueck, nearly 24 hours after he said that there was no evidence of foul play in Lueck’s disappearance.
According to the police chief, phone records showed Ajayi was the last person Lueck communicated with before she disappeared.
He disclosed that the phone records further showed that Ajayi’s and Lueck’s phones were in Hatch Park, close to Ajayi’s home, within a minute of each other and the park was also the last place Lueck’s phone transmitted data.
Brown said that Ajayi admitted to police that he texted Lueck about 6 p.m. June 16, but had no further contact with her. He said he didn’t know what Lueck looked like and said he hadn’t seen her photos or online profile, Brown said, but he had several photos of her, including an image from an online profile.
On Wednesday, investigators began an all-night search of Ajayi’s home in Fairpark. Neighbours reported seeing Ajayi using petrol to burn something June 17 and 18 in his backyard, Brown said, and police found a “fresh dig area” in the same spot in the yard. They conducted a “forensic excavation” of that part of the yard and found several charred items matching the description of Lueck’s personal belongings, Brown said.
Police also found charred human tissue, Brown said. DNA testing showed a match for Lueck.
It remains unknown if the duo had a romantic relationship.