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Body of slain Utah college student found in a canyon

Mackenzie Lueck disappeared June 17, after returning from a trip to California for her grandmother's funeral.

SALT LAKE CITY — The body of a slain college student has been recovered in a Utah canyon about 85 miles away from a backyard in Salt Lake City where other remains were found last week, police said Friday.

The disclosure came 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."

Credit: AP
This undated photo taken from the Facebook page Find Mackenzie Lueck shows Mackenzie Lueck, 23, a senior at the University of Utah.

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 Ajayi.

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.

RELATED: Suspect in Utah student's death had been barred from campus, report says

Credit: AP
This booking photo provided by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office shows Ayoola A. Ajayi. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said, Friday, June 28, 2019, that Ajayi was being charged with aggravated murder, kidnapping and desecration of a body in the death of 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck. (Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Lueck was missing for nearly two weeks before Ajayi was arrested.

Lueck has been remembered as a bubbly, nurturing person. She 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 had stints with high-profile companies and was briefly in the Army National Guard.

He has no criminal history but was investigated in 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 led to him being banned from the campus for about three years.

A native of Nigeria, Ajayi is now a U.S. citizen, 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.

Credit: AP
This undated photo provided by Kennedy Stoner shows herself, from left, posing with Mackenzie Lueck and Grace Peterson. Friends and mourners planned to remember Lueck, a Utah college student, Monday night who was missing for nearly two weeks before police arrested a man accused of killing her and burying her charred remains in his backyard. (Courtesy of Kennedy Stoner via AP)

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.

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