UTAH — The body of University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck has been found in a canyon north of Salt Lake City, police said Friday.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said in a news conference that he was “relieved and grief-stricken” to report that Lueck’s body was recovered Wednesday in Logan Canyon, about 90 miles north of Salt Lake City. Investigators were subsequently able to forensically confirm it was Lueck, Brown said.
The 23-year-old was last seen in the early morning hours of June 17 when she was dropped off at a park in North Salt Lake City. There, police have said, she met another individual and vanished.
Last Friday police arrested 31-year-old Ayoola Ajayi in connection to Lueck’s death and at the time said he was expected to be charged with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, obstruction of justice and desecration of a body. He’s currently being held without bail.
Police said at that time they had searched Ajayi’s home and property. Neighbors told police they saw Ajayi using gasoline to burn something in his backyard on June 17 and 18, Brown said last week.
A subsequent search of the burn area yielded “several charred items that were consistent with personal items of Mackenzie Lueck,” Brown said.
Police also discovered charred material that was determined to be female human tissue consistent with Lueck’s DNA profile, he said.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who earlier this week was granted an extension to file charges against Ajayi, said at Friday’s news conference that his office would move forward with formally filing charges in the “early part of next week.”
The investigation, Gill stressed, remains ongoing.
A suspect would typically only be allowed to be held in custody for 72 hours before charges are filed or they must be released. Because of the extension, Gill told CNN, his office has until Wednesday at 5 p.m. local time.
The Salt Lake Legal Defender Association said in a statement sent to CNN it had been appointed to represent Ajayi, and stressed that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“The facts in this matter will be established in due course through the processes of the criminal justice system,” the statement said.