A neighbor and an Airbnb guest renting the basement of the man suspected of killing Utah college student Mackenzie Lueck told police they witnessed him start a fire in his backyard where her remains were discovered.
Ayoola Adisa Ajayi, who has been charged with 23-year-old Lueck’s murder and desecration of a body, was seen burning items in his yard by an Airbnb guest and a neighbor, according to newly released court documents.
A neighbor described the smell of the blaze as ‘something I’ve never smelled before’, while his Airbnb guest said he ‘could not believe Ayoola had ignited the fire in his backyard’.
The tech worker, 31, claimed he was burning pallets near his home in the Fairpark neighborhood of Salt Lake City.
Lueck’s charred body was found with her arms bound behind her in Logan Canyon, 85 miles north of Salt Lake City, in August. Some of her remains and belongings were discovered by police in a shallow grave in Ajayi’s backyard. She died from blunt force trauma to the head.
‘Ayoola had the pallets and what he described as a white door on fire behind the garage. He said he stayed on the patio and did not approach the fire. [He] said a neighbor lady then started yelling at Ayoola and telling him if he did not put the fire out she was going to call the fire department.
‘[The renter] said he could not believe Ayoola had ignited the fire in his backyard and went inside because he did not want to be involved with the incident,’ a search warrant affidavit filed in 3rd District Court revealed, according to Deseret News.
Recently unsealed search warrants served during the investigation into the killing have revealed potential witnesses who may have been inside the suspect’s house when Lueck disappeared.
According to warrants, one man or possibly two were staying at Ajayi’s house at the time Lueck was allegedly killed. The second claims to have left the residence before Lueck went missing on June 17.
A man from Texas, believed to have been the Airbnb guest who witnessed the blaze, said he woke up on June 17 to find Ajayi already awake, the warrant states. ‘[He] said Ayoola was sitting on a trash can in front of his open garage next to his Kia Optima. [He] said Ayoola asked him if he knew how to get gas out of a vehicle.’ the warrant says.
The man alleged that Ajayi said he ‘had been trying to siphon gas out of his car and had been unsuccessful. The warrant continues: ‘Ayoola then told him he had been up all night and was ‘going on no sleep.’
Police found a human bone, charred muscular tissue, part of a scalp with hair and personal items including a cell phone in the excavation area of Ajayi’s yard, charging documents state.
Charred items were also found in an alley next to Ajayi’s home. ‘Those items included what looked like black clothing and a possible strap from a purse or backpack. Mackenzie Lueck was wearing a compact backpack, black in color, in surveillance video from the SLC Airport, the last location where she was seen on camera,’ a warrant states.
Lueck disappeared shortly after returning from visiting her hometown in California for her grandmother’s funeral and taking a Lyft from the airport to a park.
She exchanged text messages with Ajayi and met him at the park, apparently willingly, but her phone was turned off a minute after the final text and wasn’t turned back on, prosecutors have said.
Police say Lueck was last seen getting into Ajayi’s car on June 17. She was reported missing three days later.
Police and prosecutors have not said how Ajayi and Lueck were connected, but court documents show that investigators searched social media and dating sites while trying to find a link between them, including one called Seeking Arrangement, which bills itself as a way for wealthy ‘sugar daddies’ to meet women known as ‘sugar babies’.
On June 22, Lueck’s father told police he found his daughter had been using a credit card that he did not know she had, according to the warrants, as well as a separate bank account. She was also using TextMe, a third-party messaging application for cell phones.
Ajayi was charged with aggravated murder, obstruction of justice, aggravated kidnapping and abuse or desecration of a human body in connection with Lueck’s death.
In a separate case, Ajayi is also accused of assaulting a woman, who has not been named, who he met on Latter-day Saints dating app, Mutual, in March 2018 at his house.
He has pleaded not guilty to aggravated kidnapping and three charges of forcible sexual abuse and is due to face trial in this month.
The woman was allegedly sexually assaulted and reported the crime to police after Ajayi was charged over Lueck’s death.
Investigators have also said they are looking into a report from a construction contractor who said Ajayi approached him in April about building a secretive and soundproof room in his home.
In early August, Ajayi was also charged with 19 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor after investigators discovered child pornography on his computer.
Ajayi had images of children as young as four years old, prosecutors said in charging documents. He has not yet entered pleas to those charges.
They had taken the computer as part of the investigation into the death of Mackenzie Lueck.
The Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, which has been assigned to represent Ajayi, said it does not plan to make any comments on the charges.
Lueck has been remembered as a bubbly, nurturing person who loved spending time with her family and looked forward to a career in medicine or health care.
A California native, Lueck was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and a part-time senior at the University of Utah studying kinesiology and pre-nursing. She was expected to graduate in spring 2020.
Ajayi is an information technology worker who had stints with high-profile companies and was briefly in the Army National Guard.