Police arrest man suspected of killing Utah college student

National/World
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah college student last seen in a Salt Lake City park 11 days ago was abducted and killed and her remains burned in the yard of a man now facing aggravated murder and other charges, authorities said Friday.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, who became emotional at times during a morning press conference, said Ayoola A. Ajayi was being charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.

He was arrested without incident earlier Friday morning by a SWAT team.

Brown said he told the missing woman’s parents in Southern California about the arrest earlier Friday morning. “This is one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made,” he said. “We are devastated and heartbroken by this news,”

Salt Lake City police take a man into custody in connection with missing University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 28, 2019. Salt Lake City police said the man was brought in Friday morning, but did not immediately provide further details. Lueck disappeared after taking a Lyft June 17 from the airport to a park. (Kristin Murphy/The Deseret News via AP)

Police say Ajayi, 31, met Lueck at the park after taking a Lyft from the airport. It was not immediately clear how or whether the two had known each other previously but police said they had communicated electronically the day before she disappeared. They did not elaborate on details of that communication.

The police chief said investigators were seeking to determine if others were involved.

Brown says burned evidence, including Lueck’s remains and personal belongings, was found at his home when it was searched on Wednesday and Thursday. Ajayi had previously been identified as a person of interest in Lueck’s disappearance.

Police investigators carry in multiple rakes and shovels into the backyard of a home at 547 N. 1000 West in Salt Lake City as part of the disappearance of University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. Police said Thursday that the owner of a home they searched in connection with the disappearance is a “person of interest” and that they are trying to find a mattress that had been inside his home. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

It wasn’t immediately clear if Ajayi had an attorney. He had not returned previous messages from The Associated Press prior to his arrest.

Lueck was a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing. She has been a student since 2014 and has an off-campus apartment.

She is from El Segundo in the Los Angeles area and flew to California for a funeral before returning to Salt Lake City, police said.

Her family reported her missing on June 20 and became more concerned after she missed a planned flight back to Los Angeles last weekend.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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