A Utah man who authorities said had the charred remains of a missing university student in his backyard appears to have previously published a book that includes the burning deaths of two people.
The man, Ayoola Ajayi, 31, is suspected of killing the student, Mackenzie Lueck, shortly after she returned to Salt Lake City from a trip to California.
Police said Lueck, 23, who attended the University of Utah, took a Lyft from the airport in the early morning hours of June 17, went to a park to meet someone, and disappeared.
After authorities began investigating Ajayi, they became aware of a book that had been published under his name last year. The book appears to have been removed from Amazon, where it was offered for sale.
Lueck was reported missing on June 20, and an investigation eventually took Salt Lake City police to the property of Ajayi, who they said had been the last person to communicate with her.
"The arrested person's neighbours informed detectives that they observed him burning something in his backyard with the use of gasoline," Mike Brown, chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department, said at a news conference Friday after Ajayi's arrest.
There was a freshly dug area on Ajayi's property, and charred remains from the site matched Lueck's DNA, police said. The police did not say how Lueck was killed.
Brian Wolf, a contractor in Utah, told The Deseret News that Ajayi had asked him in April to build a secret soundproofed room with hooks on the wall. Wolf said that he had been uncomfortable with the request and turned it down and that he contacted police after realising Ajayi's home was being investigated in connection with the killing.
Ajayi is being held without bail on suspicion of murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a body and obstruction of justice. It was unclear whether he had a lawyer. The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office plans to formally file charges against Ajayi next week.
Sim Gill, the Salt Lake County district attorney, said investigators were "aware" of Ajayi's book.
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The Amazon page for the book, Forge Identity, described the protagonist, Ezekiel, as a teenager who "must decide if he will join the ranks of a criminal mastermind, or fight to escape the tyranny that has surrounded his young life." It appeared to be self-published, and some reader reviews suggested that it was poorly edited.
It is unclear when or why the Amazon page, which now contains an error message, was taken down; Amazon did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. An author biography page for Ajayi on Amazon said he "was born and raised in Africa," and "has been a salesman, an entrepreneur, and a writer."
Ajayi, who is from Nigeria, studied at Utah State University in the city of Logan. University police documents show that in 2012, he was barred from campus for several reasons including problems with his visa and accusations that he had stolen an iPad.
He was allowed back on campus in 2015 after resolving his visa issues, a spokesman for the university said. He studied computer science but did not graduate.
In a statement, the North Park Police Department of North Logan, Utah, where Ajayi once lived, said he was investigated for rape in 2014. The woman who accused Ajayi did not pursue charges, police said.
Lueck was studying kinesiology at the University of Utah, where she expected to graduate next year, the school said in a statement.
She was also a member of a sorority. "We hope that our Alpha Chi Omega sisters who knew Mackenzie best can find peace and comfort as they reflect on the lasting impact she made on the lives of her family members, friends, and sisters," the University of Utah chapter said in a Facebook post.
"She's like a nurturer," Kennedy Stoner, a friend and sorority sister to Lueck, told The Salt Lake Tribune. "She's almost a mother to me."
Lueck's parents were "devastated and heartbroken" by her death, Brown, the police chief, said in the news conference Friday.
Written by: Jacey Fortin and Elisha Brown
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