Ayoola Ajayi, 31, was being booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a body and obstruction of justice after a SWAT team took him into custody Friday morning at a West Temple apartment complex, said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.
“I will not be saying the killer’s name again,” Brown said.
Lueck’s family released a brief statement thanking police and others who helped with the investigation.
Lueck, a 23-year-old University of Utah student, has been missing since June 17, when she arrived back in Salt Lake City from California, where she was attending her grandmother’s funeral. Her parents reported her missing on June 20 and the search since then has drawn national attention.
The arrest come two days after police served a search warrant at a home in Rose Park, and were seen carrying bags — of what appeared to evidence — out of the home. They said that search was also related to Lueck’s disappearance and that the homeowner was a “person of interest.” That homeowner is Ajayi and Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said the last person Lueck communicated with using her phone was Ajayi.
In an interview, Brown said, with Ajayi claimed he texted Lueck on June 16 at about 6 p.m. but had no further contact with her. He stated he didn’t know what Lueck looked like and said he hadn’t seen photos or online profile. despite having those photos himself.
Witnesses observed him burning something using gas on June 17 and 18 in his backyard. Police conducted a forensic excavation. Brown said police found evidence, including human tissue and personal items tied to Lueck
Ajayi who has no criminal history in Utah, previously lived less than a quarter mile from Hatch Park in North Salt Lake, which is the last place Lueck was seen.
A friend of Ajayi who lived with him in the house for a few months in 2018 said the allegations are stunning for a man who tended carefully to his image as an educated, cultured professional. According to Ajayi’s LinkedIn profile, he has worked in information technology for Dell, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Comcast and the U.S. Army. He also modeled for fine art photographs.
“He’s definitely a guy that likes to maintain an appearance,” said Sakari Moore, who said he first met Ajayi when they were in basic training together with the U.S. Army in Fort Jackson, S.C. In January 2018, Moore relocated to Utah and temporarily moved into downstairs rooms that Ajayi has advertised for rent on Airbnb.
“A.J. was a very bright guy, he knew his material. This is why it comes as a bit of a shock. To maintain his rapport of being well-read, with computers, with clients, and then to just flip a switch — I can’t really imagine it,” Moore said. “AJ would be the kind of guy that’s, ‘Hey, let’s go to the Asian supermarket and buy a couple of crabs and go back to my house and eat.’”
As a roommate, Ajayi also “tends to have some anger issues,” Moore said. He would suddenly become “irate and disruptive” over small matters, Moore said, like disagreements over how furniture was arranged, or the heat level used in cooking.
“He doesn’t like to be told anything other than his way,” Moore said. “He snaps or loses his temper, [then] he comes back to his sweet self.”
Moore said he moved out because the tension was too persistent.
“I was nervous because the polarity in his emotions [was] just switching very quickly,” he said.
But Moore said he never saw Ajayi act violently, toward him or anyone else.
“I can’t really get a picture or a visual of him being this malignant person,” Moore said.
Moore said he wasn’t sure how Ajayi might behave in a dating relationship. Ajayi entertained a lot of different women while Moore lived there, Moore said, but he didn’t have any long-term romantic relationships.
In fact, Moore said he didn’t even know that Ajayi had been married. Ajayi and his ex-wife married in 2011 in Texas, and they separated in 2017; their divorce was finalized in January, according to court records.
Ajayi in 2018 wrote a crime novel titled “Forge Identity.” According to the author’s biography, he was born and raised in Africa; his national origin is not identified, but the characters in the book live in Nigeria.
“[Ajayi] has survived a tyrannical dictatorship [and] escaped a real life crime,” the bio states. “He has been a salesman, an entrepreneur, and a writer.”
A plot summary on Goodreads.com states that “Forge Identity” is about a character named Ezekiel, who is 15 when he witnesses two murders and, in his trauma, is enticed to a life of crime.
“Ezekiel must decide if he will join the ranks of a criminal mastermind, or fight to escape the tyranny that has surrounded his young life. Or even beat them at their own game,” the summary states. “When trust is lost, can he even trust himself?”
Moore said he did not know when Ajayi moved to the United States. On his LinkedIn profile, Ajayi writes that he studied computer science at Utah State University from 2009 to 2017 — but an attached resume states that he studied at London South Bank University in London, England, from 2011 to 2015.
Court records show he received unemployment benefits at some point in 2017, and in 2016 he was a defendant in eviction proceedings in Davis County. According to the LinkedIn profile, he has been employed in IT since 2017.
Airbnb reviews for Ajayi’s home date back to September 2018 and describe him as a “great responsive host” and “the kindest person.”
Moore said Ajayi did not rigorously screen guests, and there were some “who looked like they were homeless, who never cleaned up after themselves,” Moore said. He wondered whether any of them were involved in Lueck’s disappearance.
“I’m not sure what characters he’s allowed to live in his house who may have done this thing,” Moore said.
The Salt Lake Tribune will update this report.