Tech worker pleads guilty in Utah college student’s death

West

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JUNE 27: Salt Lake City police investigators go through a house of a person of interest in the MacKenzie Lueck missing person case, gathering and removing evidence after issuing a search warrant on June 27, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. MacKenzie Lueck who is from California and attends the University of Utah has been missing since the early morning hours of June 17, 2019, when she returned from California where she attended her grandmothers funeral. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (NewsNation Now) — Ayoola Ajayi, pleaded guilty in the death of a University of Utah student Wednesday. Ajayi was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck went missing in June 2019, after returning from a trip home to El Segundo, California, for her grandmother’s funeral. Lueck exchanged text messages with Ajayi, 32, and took a Lyft to meet him in a park, apparently willingly, prosecutors have said. Her phone was turned off a minute after the last text and never turned back on, charges state.

The search for Lueck went on for nearly two weeks before some of her remains were discovered in Ajayi’s backyard and he was arrested.

Her body was later found dumped in a canyon, with her arms bound. She died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Ajayi pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and desecration of a corpse in an agreement with prosecutors that took the possibility of the death penalty off the table.

He was an information technology worker who had stints with high-profile companies and was briefly in the Army National Guard.

Authorities have not discussed a motive for the killing or how they knew each other. Ajayi said little at Wednesday’s hearing.

Lueck has been remembered as a bubbly, nurturing person. She was a member of a sorority and a part-time senior at the University of Utah studying kinesiology and pre-nursing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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