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Ayoola Ajayi: Mackenzie Lueck's family confronts 'monster' in court as he is given life for killing 23-year-old

Ajayi has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to having strangled Lueck to death in June 2019
(Salt Lake County Jail)
(Salt Lake County Jail)

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: Ayoola Ajayi, 32, has been sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole for having strangled nursing student Mackenzie Lueck, 23, in June 2019. He was confronted during the sentencing by Lueck's family, who called him a "monster" during the hearing. Lueck and Ajayi had met online and arranged to meet in a park. Ajayi then went to his home to turn off CCTV cameras in preparation for their meeting. After meeting with Mackenzie, Ajayi took her to his home, where he tied her up and began to choke her. According to his attorney, when she began to protest, he put a belt around her neck, pushed her onto her stomach, and strangled her. While the motivation for his murder isn't clear, prosecutor Marc Mathis felt that evidence suggested that Ajayi wanted to know what killing felt like. "This was murder for murder's sake," said Mathis, during the hearing.

Mackenzie's father, George Lueck, said at the hearing that he has no compassion for Ajayi, as the killer had no compassion for his daughter. He said, "'I'm not sure you even have anything to look forward to in the afterlife, if you believe in that. My daughter Mackenzie Lueck was a sweet, amazing young lady with the world ahead of her. She was a kindhearted person that cared about others. Now, I will not have the opportunity to see her blossom in life."

Her cousin, Carly Stevens, fought tears as she said, "This is a nightmare you can't wake up from. I will never be able to forgive what happened to her. I will never forgive the monster who took her life. Never in my life have I felt anger the way I have the last 16 months. Never have I been so fearful for my life because I know how real evil is in this world."

The proceedings were livestreamed for media viewing. Ajayi listened to the family members with his head held down, and apologized afterwards, saying, "Mr and Mrs Lueck, I'm sorry for what I did," he said. "I deserve what I'm going to get. I know this won't bring her back." Ajayi had pleaded guilty to Mackenzie's murder at the beginning of the trial on the agreement that prosecutors would remove the possibility of the death penalty. According to the Daily Mail, prosecutors dropped charges of aggravated kidnapping and obstructing justice

Lueck's charred remains were found in Ajayi's backyard in the summer of 2019. Ajayi later told police where to find the rest of her body - in a shallow grave in a canyon about 100 miles north of his home in Salt Lake City. She had been buried with her arms tied behind her back.

Mackenzie's cousin also reminisced about the summers spent with her in Californiat. "I replay those final moments together in my head over and over, stricken with grief that I cannot somehow keep her with us just a little bit longer. The pain of Kenzi's loss and the permanent fracture it has left in our family is indescribable," Chloe Stevens said, at the trial. "It haunts me daily that I was not able to protect her."