Southern California

Remains of Missing El Segundo Woman Found in Utah, Police Say

The body of Mackenzie Lueck has been recovered in Utah, weeks after the college student from El Segundo, California went missing after returning to school.

A suspect was arrested last week in the death of the University of Utah student who vanished after returning to Salt Lake City on a flight from her native Southern California, police said.

Her remains were found Wednesday in Utah's Logan Canyon, more than 80 miles north of Salt Lake City, police chief Mike Brown said Friday morning at a press conference. Forensics confirmed the remains were Lueck, Brown said.

Thirty-one-year-old Ayoola A. Ajayi will be charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body in the death of 23-year-old Lueck, prosecutors said.

Chief Brown said at a news conference last week that Ajayi met Lueck at Hatch Park, where she was last seen after taking a Lyft from the airport at 3 a.m. on June 17.

The two had connected a day before Lueck's disappearance, Brown said. He said they communicated electronically, but did not provide details.

Brown said burned evidence, including Lueck's belongings and her remains, were found at his home, which was searched on June 26 and 27. Witnesses told investigators that they saw the suspect burning something in the backyard of the home on June 17 or 18, Brown said.

Ajayi was the man previously identified as a person of interest. He was arrested June 28 at an apartment complex.

Brown added that the suspect, when interviewed by police, admitted to text conversations with Lueck on June 16 but denied having personal contact with her. The chief said phone records indicated he was at Hatch Park at the same time as Lueck -- 3 a.m. June 17.

"This was the same time as Mackenzie's phone stopped receiving any further data or location services," Brown said.

Brown notified the victim's family June 28 of Lueck's death. 

"This is one of the most difficult phone calls I've ever made," he said.

Lueck was a pre-nursing student and senior at the University of Utah, majoring in kinesiology, according to a school spokesman. Her grieving uncle spoke at a news conference with police last week, thanking investigators for their work during the 11-day search.

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