SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Authorities are filing murder and kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Mackenzie Lueck, a University of Utah student missing for nearly two weeks, after the SWAT team arrested the suspect without incident early Friday morning.
Ayoola A. Ajayi, 31, who police have identified as the suspect, will be charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body in the death of Lueck, 23, according to Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.
“This is one of the most difficult phone calls I’ve ever made, as both Greg and his wife, Diana, were devastated and heartbroken by this news,” Brown said.
Ajayi met Lueck at a Salt Lake City park where she was last seen after taking a Lyft from the airport at 3 a.m. on June 17, police said. It was not immediately clear how or whether the two had known each other previously but police said they had communicated electronically the day before she disappeared. They did not elaborate on details of that communication.
The police chief said burned evidence, including Lueck's things and her remains, was found at his home. Ajayi was the man previously identified as a person of interest.
Investigators searched the home on Wednesday and Thursday and removed items from the property for further forensic evidence. They also removed a vehicle from the suspect's home.
Police said an investigation uncovered a fresh dig area, charred female human tissue and items belonging to Lueck in the backyard.
Investigators have also been searching for a mattress given away from the home last week.
Ajayi was the man previously identified as a person of interest.
The suspect is on his way to be booked in the Salt Lake County jail, police said.
It wasn't immediately clear if Ajayi had an attorney.
Brown said investigators were seeking to determine if others were involved.
Lueck’s family provided a statement through her uncle: “The Lueck Family would like to express their gratitude for the effort put forth by the Salt Lake City Police Department and all partnering agencies that assisted, as well as all of the people that provided tips on this case. They are also grateful to her community, her friends, and others around the nation who have supported this investigation.”
Lueck was a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing. She has been a student since 2014 and has an off-campus apartment.
She is from El Segundo in the Los Angeles area and flew to California for a funeral before returning to Salt Lake City, police said.
Her family reported her missing on June 20 and became more concerned after she missed a planned flight back to Los Angeles last weekend.
Earlier on Friday, Brian Wolf, a local contractor in Utah, told Fox News that the person of interest that police had identified in the search for Lueck asked him to build a secret, soundproofed room with hooks on its walls in the basement of his home.
“He slowly added on other requests, like building a secret door and adding hooks to the wall,” Wolf said, adding that the individual asked him to come to the home and give him an estimate for the potential project.
Wolf, who owns a home-repair business in Utah, said the person said he wanted construction done as soon as possible, “before his girlfriend got back into town.”
The contractor told Fox News that he was “weirded out” by the scenario and turned down the job offer.
Another neighbor told Fox News on Thursday that "many women" frequented the suspect’s home.
"There were always so many women coming in and out at all hours of the night," the neighbor, who did not want to be identified, told Fox News.
Tom Camomile, another neighbor, told Fox News that the suspect is a “professional man” and “a nice guy.”
“I’m surprised because I wouldn’t take him for that but then we never really know who, what, when, where, or why but I would be really, really surprised if it turns out that he is actually involved in it,” Camomile told the channel.
Ajayi previously worked as a senior technical support analyst for Dell at the company's Draper, Utah office, a Dell spokesperson confirmed, adding that he is no longer employed by the company.
Fox TV Stations’ Hyeji Suh and Mary Stringini contributed to this report. The Associated Press contributed to this report.