A 32-year-old former IT specialist pleaded guilty to murder charges Wednesday in the grisly slaying of University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck.
Ayoola Ajayi was accused of kidnapping, killing and burning the 23-year-old sorority girl after she went missing June 17, 2019 — with her charred body later found in a shallow grave about 85 miles from Salt Lake City in Logan Canyon, KSL-TV reported.
Ajayi pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and desecration of a human body as part of a plea deal that will spare him a potential death sentence.
Utah prosecutors agreed to drop aggravated kidnapping and obstruction charges as part of the agreement, KSL said.
Ajayi was arrested 11 days after Lueck’s disappearance.
The bubbly coed had just returned from a trip to California when she took a Lyft ride from the airport to meet Ajayi. A short time later her phone was turned off and never turned back on.
Police later found her burnt phone and other items in Ajayi’s backyard, and tied it to the victim through DNA testing.
Salt Lake City District Attorney said Lueck died from a blow to the head and said Ajayi, a former National Guard member, poured gasoline over her body and set it on fire.
Her body was found in the canyon on July 5.
Authorities said Ajayi, a Nigerian immigrant, had been banned years earlier from the Utah State University campus, where he was once a student, for allegedly stealing an iPad and skipping classes.
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