Aggravated Charges for Man Who Killed Missing Utah Student

Aggravated charges are pending for a Utah man after authorities located charred DNA evidence of missing college student in the man’s backyard.

Missing college students

Photo by: Tony Webster

In the early morning hours of June 17, 2019, Mackenzie Lueck let her parents know she had arrived at the Salt Lake City Airport before taking a Lyft ride to a park in North Salt Lake. There she met someone in another vehicle and was never seen again. For the next week and a half, Lueck missed her school classes and work and did not take a flight she had scheduled back to California to see her family. Investigators worked tirelessly around the clock, eventually questioning a man that had engaged in electronic communications with Lueck prior to her disappearance.

DNA evidence

Neighbors to the man alerted authorities that the day Lueck had gone missing, the man had been burning things in his backyard with gasoline. After obtaining a search warrant, police were able to find burned remains of Lueck’s belongings as well as charred body tissue. DNA evidence from those findings were linked to Lueck. The owner of the house, 31 year old Ayoola Ajayi was arrested on several charges including aggravated charges of kidnapping and murder as well as obstruction of justice and desecration of a human body.

Aggravated charges

Ajayi is facing four felonies for the following:

  • Third degree desecration of a human body. Utah Code 76-9-704 states “A person is guilty of abuse or desecration of a dead human body if the person intentionally and unlawfully . . . disturbs, moves, removes, conceals, or destroys a dead human body or any part of it”.
  • Second degree obstruction of justice, described by Utah Code 76-8-306 as when a person commits actions with the “. . . intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct that constitutes a criminal offense”.
  • First degree aggravated kidnapping defined by Utah Code 76-5-303 as “ . . . if the actor, in the course of committing unlawful detention or kidnapping: uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon . . . or acts with intent;
    – To hold the victim for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage . . . ;
    – To facilitate the commission . . . of a felony;
    – To hinder or delay the discovery of or reporting of a felony;
    – To inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another; . . .
    – To commit a sexual offense”.
  • First degree aggravated murder. “Criminal homicide constitutes aggravated murder if the actor intentionally or knowingly causes the death of another” and was also involved in sexual offenses, kidnapping, desecration of a human body or other circumstances as stated in Utah Code 76-5-202.

The ultimate penalty

Ajayi is facing up to five years in prison for desecration of a human body, one to 15 years for obstruction of justice and five to life for aggravated kidnapping. The aggravated charges of murder could result in life in prison or the death penalty, depending on if it is charged as a noncapital or capital felony. Section 76-5-202 states “If a notice of intent to seek the death penalty has been filed, aggravated murder is a capital felony. If a notice of intent to seek the death penalty has not been filed, aggravated murder is a noncapital first degree felony”.According to Section 76-3-207.7, noncapital first degree aggravated murder is punishable by “life in prison without parole; or an indeterminate prison term of not less than 25 years and that may be for life. Regarding a capital felony, 76-3-206 notes “the sentence shall be: . . . life in prison without parole or death.

Criminal defense

Regardless of the type of crime committed and whether or not they have been tried already by the public court of social media, anyone facing charges has the constitutional right to be represented by an attorney in a court of law. For more information on the options available for those facing serious charges such as aggravated murder, contact a criminal defense attorney.

First Amendment Freedom of Profanity and Accompanying “Gestures” – Even Towards Police

The First Amendment protects a Utah residents rights to speak their opinions and frustrations, even by the use of profanity and accompanying gestures during dealings with police.

Photo by: John Nakamura Remy

First Amendment

The First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The phrase “freedom of speech” gets thrown around a lot, yet many citizens may wonder exactly how free they can be with their speech, especially when dealing with police.

Profanity

Many individuals would not want to participate in a verbal altercation with a police officer, yet some may blurt out profanity or obscenities before thinking of the possible consequences. Fortunately, freedom of speech protects a person’s right to use profanity, whether spoken or nonverbal like the use of the middle finger. When a Utah resident is dealing with police, there is a good chance that emotions will be running high.

Photo by: Ron Bennetts

Someone facing an arrest or feeling like they were the recipient of a biased traffic stop might have some choice words for attending officers. Perhaps they were able to bite their tongue but couldn’t help flipping the bird toward less than friendly police. Or maybe a person’s normal vocabulary is similar to that of a sailors and using obscenities is just how they communicate with everyone. Regardless of why someone would use profanity with police, it might make officers uncomfortable but it is protected free speech.

Don’t take it too far

While everyone should feel free enough to use whatever language they want or give the middle finger when they feel like it, there are times when profanities and other obscenities could cross the line. If someone uses their harsh language to try to get others to join in a fight against officers, that could be considered disorderly conduct or inciting a riot. Another example is if the foul language being used describes sexual behavior against children that most people would find offensive or disturbing. In these and like incidents, using profanity could end with criminal charges.

Spoken crimes

Photo by: Jennifer Moo

There are some words and phrases beyond profanities that are also not protected under the First Amendment. Some of these include:
Threats of violence – Utah Code 76-5-107 warns residents that verbally “[threatening] to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and [acting] with intent to place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or death” . . . is punishable as a class B misdemeanor.
Threats of terrorism – Utah Code 76-5-107.3 explains that “a person commits a threat of terrorism if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and: threatens the use of a [real or hoax] weapon of mass destruction . . . “ A verbal threat of that magnitude is a second degree felony.
Harassment – Harassing another person or as Utah Code 76-5-106 defines as “. . . with intent to frighten or harass another, [when the actor] communicates a written or recorded threat to commit any violent felony” is a class B misdemeanor.
Obstruction of Justice – According to Section 76-8-306, “An actor commits obstruction of justice if the actor, . . . inten[ds] to hinder, delay, or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct that constitutes a criminal offense”. A couple ways someone could use their words to obstruct justice is by warning a suspect of police activity or by providing false information to law enforcement. Obstruction of justice is charged one degree less than the crime for which the person is obstructing.

Use freedom of speech wisely

Not all talking points or usage of profanities are protected free speech, but the First Amendment can help those who have a tendency to run their mouth when talking to law enforcement. If someone is facing charges due to their use of profanity when dealing with police or if they crossed the legal line with their words, it is best to consult with a criminal defense attorney before attempting to play the free speech card.

Utah Man Waives Miranda Rights, Admits to Murder and Scrubbing Crime Scene

An Ogden Utah Man was arrested after he waived his Miranda rights, openly admitting to murdering a woman and scrubbing the crime scene.

Criminal homicide

Photo by: Rynerson Bail Bonds

The deceased body of an adult woman was found lying in some brush on the side of a road in South Ogden last Monday. The woman appeared to have several stab wounds, and police on scene were unable to locate a suspect or a weapon. Officers proceeded to the woman’s apartment nearby and spoke to her roommates who agreed to accompany officers to the station to be interviewed.

Waived Miranda Rights

Prior to the police interview, one of the roommates named Jesus Martinez Ramos Jr was read his Miranda Rights, warning him that anything he said could be used against him while reminding him he could request an attorney to represent him. Ramos waived his Miranda Rights and spoke openly to police without the presence of any legal representation. During the interview, Ramos admitted to murdering his female roommate, moving her body, scrubbing the crime scene, and throwing away evidence-including the murder weapon. Ramos then went a step further by telling officers where they could find the knife used in the attack. Ramos was charged with first degree criminal homicide and second degree obstruction of justice.

No harm in requesting an attorney

Many people who are facing criminal charges assume if they tell investigators everything they want to hear, maybe they will either be spared or given better treatment for their extra cooperation. Unfortunately, rarely does it work out in the best interest of the suspect to do so. Sometimes, being open and agreeable with investigators can lead to unexpected or unwarranted charges that may not have been true, such as premeditation of the criminal events. Prior to any police questioning, it is always encouraged to request the presence of an attorney to guide a suspect through the questioning. Even if the evidence is stacked against the suspect, an attorney can still ensure they are afforded all rights, including protecting themselves against self-incrimination.