The suspect in the gruesome slaying of Utah college student Mackenzie Lueck self-published a novel about a teenager who witnessed his friend and his neighbor burn to death, and began advertising the story one year before Lueck was killed.
Now Ayoola Ajayi’s book, titled Forge Identity, has been pulled from Amazon’s website as Lueck’s friends and family mourn her death, and more details of the accused murderer’s troubled history—including allegations of rape and domestic abuse—come to light.
Lueck disappeared June 17 after returning from a trip to California to attend her grandmother’s funeral. According to police, the 23-year-old kinesiology major at the University of Utah, who went by the nickname “Kenzie,” texted her parents around 1 a.m. after her plane had landed. Then she took a Lyft to Hatch Park in North Salt Lake.
It was there that police say Lueck met Ajayi, a 31-year-old IT specialist who was arrested last Friday on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, desecration of a body, and obstruction of justice. Ajayi was the last person Lueck contacted before she vanished, and both their phones both pinged to the park within a minute of each other, according to phone records. Lueck’s cellphone went dark around 3 a.m.
On Friday, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters Ajayi admitted in an interview to texting Lueck on June 16 around 6 p.m., but denied speaking with her after that. Ajayi also claimed he didn’t know what Lueck looked like and that he didn’t see photos or an online profile of her. But Brown said Ajayi did have images of Lueck.
While police executed a search warrant on Ajayi’s property, neighbors told cops that they noticed the suspect burning something in his backyard on June 17 and 18. Brown said investigators discovered a “fresh dig area” along with Lueck’s charred belongings and “female human tissue” which was linked to Lueck through DNA testing.
Authorities haven’t disclosed a motive for Lueck’s murder, how she died, or how she might have met the alleged murderer. According to KUTV, a CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City, both Lueck and Ajayi had profiles on “sugar baby” websites, where younger women can meet older men.
On Monday, Lueck’s friends told Fox News they believed the alleged killer was “hunting for women” and demanded that social media users stop blaming the victim.
“No person regardless of their gender or dating life deserves to die,” said one friend of Lueck’s, Ashley Fine. “Mackenzie is not responsible for the death and murder of Mackenzie. There’s only one person responsible for that, and we’re here to hold him responsible and we’re going to keep holding him responsible.”
As The Daily Beast reported, the website Barstool Sports fired one of its writers over the weekend for publishing a blog post mocking Lueck’s disappearance, her Instagram account, and her alleged activity on “sugar daddy dating websites.”
Police believe Ajayi burned Lueck’s body.
Ajayi’s novel, published in August 2018, also refers to the burning deaths of victims—with the cover claiming to be “Inspired From True Events.”
“Ezekiel was almost 15 when he witnessed a gruesome murder. An angry mob burned his neighbor alive in the street and the man died at his feet. Sadly, it was not the last time he witnessed such horror,” stated a description of the book on Amazon’s website.
“With his well respected father as guide and mentor, Ezekiel saw this death, then a death much closer to home when a loved one was killed in the same brutal, terrifying way 50 feet from him, and he could do nothing to stop it,” the novel’s summary continues.
“Staggering to recover from these severe traumas, he finds relief and joy in meeting his first love, becomes embroiled in grand theft, and experiences heartbreaking betrayal. 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. When trust is lost, can he even trust himself?”
In his author bio, Ajayi says he was “born and raised in Africa” and “has been a salesman, an entrepreneur, and a writer” who “survived a tyrannical dictatorship, escaped a real life crime, traveled internationally, excelled professionally in several industries, and is currently curating a multi-platform advertising campaign for his debut novel.”
Amazon did not return messages about the book.
Sgt. Brandon Shearer of the Salt Lake City Police Department told The Daily Beast that detectives would look over Ajayi's book, along with several hundred tips that authorities have received in the case.
Starting last June, Ajayi was plugging his debut novel with a Facebook page, which commenters have targeted since his arrest. “This isn't a novel, this is a true crime fantasy of a REAL LIFE monster,” someone wrote.
Meanwhile, Ajayi's estranged wife told the Daily Mail she went into hiding because she was terrified of her husband, who she claimed attempted to tie her up with a phone cord, and chased her into the street with a knife and slashed her.
“I kept telling him I don’t want to be with you, I want a divorce. He wouldn’t sign the papers. His friend from the Army kept calling me, saying they were going to kidnap me,” the woman, 35-year-old Tenisha Jenkins Ajayi, told the tabloid.
Tenisha said she and her former husband—known as “AJ” to friends and family—lived together in Dallas, Texas. Ajayi threatened to kill her, she told the Daily Mail, if she didn’t relocate to Utah with him.
Of Ajayi’s novel, Tenisha said, “AJ told me about the book but I didn’t know he had really written it, I hadn't seen him for years.”
According to the AP, Ajayi attended Utah State University on and off from 2009 to 2016, without picking a major or earning a degree. Ajayi also served in the Utah Army National Guard for six months but didn’t complete his basic training. He was discharged in June 2015.
Two months before Lueck died, Ajayi reportedly sought to build a sound-proof room with a fingerprint lock inside his home.
One self-employed contractor named Brian Wolf told the Deseret News that he turned down Ajayi’s job offer because he felt uncomfortable with the request. Wolf said that Ajayi wanted his secret room to have hooks installed high on the concrete walls.
"As soon as he said he wanted the hooks above head height, I was like, 'Why do you need big hooks up there?'" Wolf told the Salt Lake City newspaper. “And he said it was to hang a wine rack. I said, ‘Well, I can hang a wine rack and make it look a lot nicer than these big, gaudy hooks.’”
Wolf, who shared his text messages with Ajayi with the Deseret News, said the suspect wanted the soundproof room in a “hollowed out area under the front porch." Ajayi allegedly told Wolf that money was no object and that “he wanted it done as soon as possible.”
This isn’t the first time Ajayi was investigated by police.
On Monday, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Ajayi was accused of raping a coworker at a financial company in November 2014. The woman told police the assault took place inside Ajayi’s residence, but that she didn’t want to file charges.
The accuser was only filing a police report, according to the Tribune, “in case he did the same thing to someone else.” She met authorities at Cache Valley Hospital after the encounter, which she said started off as consensual until she told him to stop.
“She kept saying to me that she felt that it was her fault, because she was not assertive enough,” one police officer wrote in the report. “I explained that all she needed to do was to say no, and that should be enough.”
Nothing happened with the case, because the woman allegedly didn’t want to cooperate. Ajayi wasn’t interviewed by police, the Tribune reported.
The University of Utah will hold a vigil for Lueck on Monday night.