Investigating Utah student’s killing: Videos, pictures, social media all part of evidence collected

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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

FILE – Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown talks about the investigation into Mackenzie Lueck’s disappearance during a press conference at the Public Safety Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 28, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — More than two dozen search warrants, over 3,000 photographs, and both audio and video interviews from multiple people.

That’s just some of the evidence the Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office has collected in its case against Ayoola Adisa Ajayi, 31, who is accused of kidnapping and killing 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck.

On Friday, the district attorney’s office filed a response to the defense counsel’s request for discovery. The court filing gives the public a first glimpse of the type of evidence that has been collected during the investigation.

Lueck, a University of Utah student, flew into Salt Lake City early on June 17 after returning from California after attending a family member’s funeral. She took a Lyft to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, where she allegedly met up with Ajayi, according to charging documents.

Lueck’s cellphone was powered off at 2:59 a.m. and never came back on, the charges state. Forensic evidence collected by police placed Ajayi’s cellphone back at his Salt Lake residence, 547 N. 1000 West, at 3:07 a.m., the documents show.

According to the new court filing by prosecutors, 28 search warrants have been served during the investigation. As of Tuesday, none of them had been publicly released. But according to the court filing, warrants seeking information were served on bank accounts, a camera memory card owned by Lueck, a safe, the phones of at least two other people, and several social media and dating accounts of both Lueck and Ajayi, including Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder, Text Me and Seeking Arrangements.

Phone interviews were conducted with at least seven people and video interviews with five, including Ajayi, court records state.

Surveillance video from various places was also collected, including video from Salt Lake City International Airport and the store where Ajayi allegedly bought a gasoline can.

The human tissue collected is described as “scalp muscle tissue” in the court filing.

Something called “Ajayi pole cam videos” are part of the prosecution’s discovery, as well as “Mackenzie SD camera cards” with subsections “bed cam” and “living room cam” were also turned over to the defense, according to the court filing,

Prosecutors also have a “social media comprehensive report” on Ajayi, according to the court filing.

Social media and dating apps became a point of interest in the investigation early on when Lueck was still missing. One dating app allegedly showed her profile and activity on it on June 17.

The reports of the dating apps Lueck was allegedly on prompted the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition to issue a statement asking the public not to victim shame.

“The recent disappearance of Mackenzie Lueck has resulted in many people speculating on what may have happened to her and why — with much of the speculation being a blatant form of victim blaming. While we do not know the details of Mackenzie’s disappearance, we do know that victim blaming and shaming is inappropriate and unacceptable. In addition to perpetuating myths about abuse, assault, and violence, victim blaming wrongly excuses the perpetrator’s behaviors,” the coalition said in a prepared statement.

Both Gill and Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown have called the investigation cutting edge in the way local, state and federal law enforcers worked together to follow “digital footprints.”

Gill said Tuesday he could not talk about evidence in the case or comment on the court filing.

Police formally became involved on June 20 when Lueck was reported missing.

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On June 26, a large number of police officers served a search warrant on Ajayi’s home, collecting multiple bags of evidence. They were also seen digging holes in his backyard near the area where neighbors had previously seen him pouring gasoline on items and burning them. Female human tissue was found in the backyard. An autopsy conducted by the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office determined Lueck died from blunt force trauma to the left side of her skull.

On June 28, Ajayi was taken into custody by a SWAT team and later charged with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, desecration of a human body, a second-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony.

After she was killed, prosecutors say Ajayi poured gasoline on her body and burned it. Her charred remains were found by police in a shallow grave under a grove of trees in Logan Canyon on July 3.

Ajayi’s next scheduled court date is Aug. 26.

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