SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A University of Utah student missing for over a week was last seen meeting an unknown person at a park at 3 in the morning, authorities said Monday.
The Lyft driver who took Mackenzie Lueck from the airport and dropped her off at a park in a Salt Lake City suburb on June 17 told detectives the woman didn’t seem in any distress when she met the person, said Salt Lake City assistant police chief Tim Doubt.
The chief declined to say if she met a man or a woman and said detectives are trying to find the person. Police have searched the area around the park several times and reviewed surveillance video footage, Doubt said. It is located in North Salt Lake about 20 minutes from Lueck’s apartment.
Doubt said there is no evidence the 23-year-old woman is in danger but said they are concerned since she’s not been heard from. She has not been on social media, has missed classes and wasn’t on a planned flight to Los Angeles on Sunday.
He acknowledged that sometimes people who are reported missing don’t want to talk to family and friends and issued a plea if that’s the case for her to reach out to police.
“We just want to make sure you are safe and we will respect your wishes,” Doubt said.
Lueck is a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing, spokesman Chris Nelson said. She has been a student there since 2014, he said.
Lueck returned early June 17 to the Salt Lake City airport after going home to California for a funeral, Doubt said. She texted her parents at about 2 a.m. that she had arrived.
She was dropped at just about 3 a.m. at the park in North Salt Lake that sits in a popular downtown area nestled between apartment complexes and restaurants. A police station is located up the street and the park is a popular spot for families and community events with two playgrounds, a basketball court, baseball diamond and a large, grassy field.
Police have no reason to doubt the Lyft driver’s story and have cleared him as a suspect, Doubt said. The Lyft driver, whose identity has not been revealed, gave other rides after dropping off the woman, he said.
Lyft spokeswoman Lauren Alexander said the route the driver took contained no irregularities and ended at the address requested by Lueck.
Jacob Wood, who lives in the area, said he frequently brings his children to play in Hatch Park.
“It’s a relatively safe neighborhood, there’s no reason to believe it’s not a safe area,” he said Monday.
Ashley Fine, one of Lueck’s friends, told The Salt Lake Tribune that Lueck’s phone has been off since last Monday. She didn’t show up for her job at a Salt Lake City laboratory or her classes, she said. Fine described Lueck as a dedicated student and said missing classes was not something she did.
Lueck’s cat and car remain at her house. Her luggage hasn’t been located either, Fine said.
Lueck’s parents reported her missing Thursday. Friends spent the weekend passing out flyers and asking people to spread the word about Lueck’s disappearance. They have set up a Facebook page to collect information that may aid police.
“We are all worried and looking out for you 24-7, I cannot sleep at night knowing you are out there,” said Kennedy Stoner, a friend of Lueck, during a news conference Sunday. “I am constantly thinking of you.”