DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.
As you probably know by now, the worst possible outcome has happened in 23-year-old MacKenzie Lueck’s disappearance: She was killed.
A homeowner in Salt Lake City’s Fairpark neighborhood, who was originally a person of interest in the case, was charged with aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping and desecration of a body.
Lueck disappeared June 17 after flying back to Salt Lake City from a trip to her home state of California. Police say a Lyft driver took her to a park in North Salt Lake where she got into another vehicle with someone else. At that point, her phone went dark and she was never heard from again. Police say the digital footprint indicated her phone and the suspect’s were in at the park at nearly the same time.
I don’t always jump in after a big news event and say this is what’s right and this is what’s wrong. But I do think it’s appropriate to view MacKenzie Lueck’s homicide as a cautionary tale for young people — even older folks.
We live in a strange time. It’s so easy to be deceptive online today and also so easy to be preyed upon. Here’s a few sobering statistics about online dating:
- 81% of people lie on their profiles. The majority lie about height, weight, or age.
- 1 in 10 registered sex offenders has an online dating account.
- Over half of online daters are already in a relationship. 12% are married.
- 1 in 10 members of free dating websites are scammers.
I’ve said this before: Handing a teenager a cellphone, without the proper warnings of the danger associated it, is like handing them the keys to the family car without telling the teen how dangerous, even deadly, careless driving can be.
One day years ago, I found out one of my children had developed an online relationship with a stranger. I tried to convince my child that is very easy to be deceived online because we think we know what the bad guy looks like and talks like. I used technology to end that online relationship. Fortunately, my kid wasn’t lured out to meet a stranger.
Danger lurks online
To be clear: Nothing MacKenzie Lueck did justified her death. All of the responsibility lies with the killer. But when someone makes choices that can lead to harm, then those choices need to be discussed. Meeting with strangers online needs to be viewed as risky behavior. Never meet at a stranger’s house, and take your own transportation. If you have to, meet strangers in a public place.
When I lived in Hawaii one of my best friends, who I knew for three years, turned out to be a wanted pedophile. Seemed normal to me. Never would have guessed.
Offenders don’t fit the “profile,” which makes it easier to deceive others.
Anyone can be deceived, but the chances of being deceived go up exponentially when you are online. In person, you can pick up non-verbal cues, which are hard to detect online.
It’s possible MacKenzie Lueck did everything right: Maybe she had met the suspect before, in public the first time, she followed all precautions, but in the end, she was still a murder victim.
When you are working with a dangerous piece of machinery, you have to take precautions. If you don’t, danger can happen. Same with meeting strangers: There is a right and wrong way to do it.
The police deserve credit for bringing this case swiftly to justice, and for bringing to the family and the community closure.
Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show, weekdays from 12:30 to 3 p.m. on KSL Newsradio, as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.