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Ajayi sentenced to life in prison for murder of MacKenzie Lueck

File Photo: MacKenzie Lueck
Mug shot: Ayoola Ajayi
Posted at 10:24 AM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 18:38:00-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Ayoola Ajayi, who pleaded guilty to murder in the 2019 death of University of Utah student MacKenzie Lueck, was given a life sentence Friday.

Judge Vernice Trease sentenced Ajayi to life in prison without parole for the crime of criminal homicide.

Ajayi also received sentences of up to five years for abuse and desecration of a human body, and one to 15 years for forcible sexual abuse.

For the Lueck family, it’s hard to come to terms with what happened inside Ajayi’s house 16 months ago, and they say there can be no justice served for what happened to their daughter.

“I’ve waited a long time to confront my daughter’s murderer,” said Greg Lueck, MacKenzie’s father. “I have no compassion for you as you had no compassion for my daughter.”

The 23-year-old University of Utah student went missing the night she returned home from her grandmother’s funeral on June 17, 2019 — a day the Luecks will never forget.

Social media and phone activity from Lueck's accounts ceased around 3 a.m., shortly after she was last seen at Hatch Park in North Salt Lake.

Lueck had taken a Lyft to the park and the driver told police she willingly got into another vehicle, leaving the park with someone that morning.

Through their investigation, Salt Lake City Police learned gruesome details about what followed after Lueck was picked up.

Neighbors described watching Ajayi burn something in his backyard, using gasoline as an accelerant, on June 17 and 18.

It was two weeks later that Lueck's charred remains were found in Logan Canyon on July 3.

“My life has been changed by the selfish, pre-meditated decision you made June 17, 2019,” said Diana Lueck, MacKenzie’s mother. “Instead of planning her graduation, I planned her memorial.”

Ajayi plead guilty earlier in the month to the three charges. In court on Friday, he shared a few short sentences.

"I'm sorry for what I did,” said Ajayi. “I know this won't bring her back.”

Prosecutor Marc Mathis said Ajayi sentence does not bring any closure for the family, but is a process for Ajayi to take accountability.

“That may allow the Luecks to not move on, but to move forward,” said Mathis.

Through their investigation, most homicide cases eventually reveal a clear motive over time for what happened.

With Lueck, Mathis said they still don’t understand why Ajayi would kill someone he had never met before.

"This was murder for murders sake,” said Mathis.

In exchange for Ajayi's guilty pleas, prosecutors removed the possibility of capital punishment.

“There’s no sense of perfect justice here,” said Sim Gill, the Salt Lake County District Attorney. “There is just accountability, and the family and community can rest assured that Mr. Ajayi will spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Though the process is finally over, the memories and scars will remain with the Lueck family forever.

“We are blessed and honored to have had MacKenzie in our lives the last 23 years,” said Gordon Stephens, MacKenzie’s Uncle. “The memories and her spirit will continue to live with us.”