Missing University of Utah student was last seen meeting someone at park at 3 a.m., police say
SALT LAKE CITY - A University of Utah student missing for more than a week was last seen being dropped off at a park to meet an unknown person at 3 a.m., authorities said Monday.
Mackenzie Lueck, 23, arrived June 17 to Salt Lake City International Airport after going home to Southern California for a funeral, said Salt Lake City assistant police chief Tim Doubt during a news conference.
Lueck texted her parents around 2 a.m. that she had arrived. She then ordered a Lyft from the airport to a park in a Salt Lake City suburb and was dropped off just before 3 a.m.
“Detectives have spoken with the Lyft driver and learned that Mackenzie was met at Hatch Park by an individual in a vehicle,” Doubt said.
The Lyft driver told investigators that she didn’t appear to be in any type of distress when she met the person. Doubt said investigators had not yet confirmed the make and model of the vehicle, nor a description of the person.
The park is located in North Salt Lake, about 20 minutes from Lueck's apartment, and sits in a popular downtown area nestled between apartment complexes and restaurants. A police station is located up the street and the park is a popular spot for families and community events with two playgrounds, a basketball court, baseball diamond and a large, grassy field.
Police have searched the area around the park several times and reviewed area surveillance video footage, Doubt said.
Police have no reason to doubt the Lyft driver's story and have cleared him as a suspect, Doubt said. The Lyft driver, whose identity has not been revealed, gave other rides after dropping off the woman, he said.
Lyft spokeswoman Lauren Alexander said the route the driver took contained no irregularities and ended at the address requested by Lueck.
Lueck is a part-time student at the University of Utah in her senior year majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing, spokesman Chris Nelson said. She has been a student there since 2014, he said.
Lueck's parents reported her missing to police on Thursday.
Ashley Fine, one of Lueck's friends, told The Salt Lake Tribune that Lueck's phone has been off since last Monday. She didn't show up for her job at a Salt Lake City laboratory or her classes, she said. Fine described Lueck as a dedicated student and said missing classes was not something she did.
Police confirmed that she missed a midterm exam, as well as a flight to Los Angeles International Airport on the morning of June 23.
Lueck's cat and car remain at her house. Her luggage hasn't been located either, Fine said.
Police said there is no evidence the 23-year-old woman is in danger but said they are concerned since she's not been heard from.
Doubt acknowledged that sometimes people who are reported missing don't want to talk to family and friends and issued a plea if that's the case for her to reach out to police.
"We just want to make sure you are safe and we will respect your wishes," Doubt said.
Detectives were interviewing friends and acquaintances, searching areas she frequents and scouring her social media accounts for any clues, Doubt said.
Friends spent the weekend passing out flyers and asking people to spread the word about Lueck's disappearance. They have set up a Facebook page to collect information that may aid police.
“Finding Mackzenie is a very high priority for us,” Doubt said. “A significant portion of our department has been assigned to work the case. We’ve been in contact with our federal, state and local partners.”
A tip line was also set up by the Salt Lake Police Department for the case at 801-799-4420.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.