SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said that prosecutors haven’t decided whether they will pursue the death penalty in the murder of Mackenzie Lueck but death penalty cases are extremely rare in the state of Utah.
Most of Lueck’s fellow students at the University of Utah were just kids the last time Utah executed someone. That was nine years ago when Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death by a firing squad.
Ayoola Ajayi, 31, could face a similar fate if he’s convicted of the aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping charges filed on Wednesday. While Ajayi is presumed innocent until proven guilty, ABC4 News asked U of U students what would be the appropriate sentence if he’s convicted of killing Lueck, then burning and burying her body.
“In a case like this where it was so horrific, I can’t even imagine how the family feels for Kenzie”, recent graduate Aris Livica said. “But I think the death penalty is appropriate in this case in my opinion.”
“He should just maybe sit and think about it every single day in a cell for the rest of his life like I could see that being just as bad as a punishment,” junior Hanna Thistle said. “But I think that whatever he did to her he should be able to take the same punishment.”
Alexis Ortiz disagreed.
“I just don’t see the punishment as being an eye for an eye. That’s just my value system,” Ortiz said. “I don’t want to make light of anything he did at all and respect the family. Of course, what he did was horrible but…I don’t agree with the death penalty in general.”
If Ajayi is eventually sentenced to death he likely won’t be executed for decades. There are currently nine men on Utah’s death row and all except one have been there for 20 to 34 years.