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.