SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The body of a slain college student has been recovered in Logan Canyon, about 85 miles away from a backyard in Salt Lake City where other remains were found last week, Utah police said Friday.
The disclosure came at a news conference in the case involving 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.
Authorities previously said some of her charred remains and personal belongings were found in a suspect’s backyard in Salt Lake City. The body was discovered Wednesday in Logan Canyon, north of the city.
“I spoke with Mackenzie’s family this morning. Another devastating call,” Salt Lake City police Chief Mike Brown said. “Despite their grief, we hope this will help them find some closure and justice for Mackenzie,” he said.
Later, Cache County Sheriff Chad Jensen explained that the Salt Lake Police Department notified his office on Wednesday that they would be searching for the victim’s body between 2nd and 3rd Dams in Logan Canyon. They had also requested some tactical gear from Cache County Search and Rescue to assist in the recovery.
Jensen said those items were not needed though, once police located Lueck’s body. Deputies also brought in drones to help investigators gather evidence.
The canyon is near Utah State University, where 31-year-old suspect Ayoola A. Ajayi sporadically attended classes for several years without earning a degree.
Lueck disappeared June 17, after she returned from a trip to her hometown of El Segundo, California, for her grandmother’s funeral and took a Lyft from the airport to a park where she met someone.
Ajayi was the last person she communicated with, and his cellphone puts him in the park at the same time as Lueck, police have said.
He’s being held on suspicion of aggravated murder, kidnapping and other crimes. Charges are expected to be filed next week, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said. No attorney has been listed for him.
Police have not discussed a motive for the killing or how Lueck died. It isn’t clear how Ajayi and Lueck knew each other.
Authorities did not take questions at a Friday news conference or provide other details about the case.
Lueck was missing for nearly two weeks before Ajayi was arrested.
Lueck has been remembered as a bubbly, nurturing person was a member of a sorority and a part-time senior at the University of Utah studying kinesiology and pre-nursing.
Ajayi is an information technology worker who attended Utah State University on and off but never earned a degree and was briefly in the Army National Guard.
He has no formal criminal history, but has been previously investigated on a 2014 rape allegation and was arrested in a stolen-iPad case at Utah State in 2012. The arrest and the expiration of his student visa got him banned from the campus for about three years.
A native of Nigeria, Ajayi is now a U.S. citizen, police and jail records show.
His ex-wife has told reporters she was afraid of him, and police have investigated a report that he asked a contractor to build a secretive and soundproof room in his home.
Neighbors reported a fire in his backyard at the time Lueck disappeared, police have said.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski commended investigators handling the case.
“I and this community are here for the Lueck family as you continue to go through this process of grieving, of seeking justice and letting go of your loved one in a very tragic circumstance,” she said.
Will Feelright contributed to this report