Hours before authorities confirmed that they had found Lueck's remains, Barstool Sports contributing writer Francis Ellis wrote a piece calling the student a "proud sugar baby" based on reports that Lueck was registered on a sugar daddy dating service. He also drew attention to her "pretty weak" following on Instagram. The post has since been deleted.
In an apologetic statement, Ellis explained that prior to writing the piece, Lueck's sorority sisters saw Lueck's Instagram activity as a "hopeful sign" and that a report from People Magazine said "no foul play suspected," leaving him to conclude that Lueck was "fine."
"Tragically, a few hours later, it was discovered that Mackenzie had been killed. It was only then that I realized just how horrible my judgement had been," Ellis wrote. "Even if that hadn't been the case, I simply should not have written about the story. It was a horrific mistake and I am sorry to the Lueck family for their unfathomable loss... The last thing they need is some fool on the internet offering thoughts on their ordeal."
He continued, "This was my error alone. Barstool Sports gave me complete liberty to post my work without oversight, and I abused that trust with my piece. For that, [Barstool Sports founder] David Portnoy fired me today, and I feel that was entirely justified."
Portnoy confirmed the firing in a video message on Friday, calling it an "absolutely insane move" by Ellis.
"He put it up and deleted it before I even knew it existed, but the damage is done. You just can't do it," Portnoy said. "Francis is a talented guy and he'll be fine... I wish we didn't have to fire him, but we do."
Lueck was last seen on June 17 in a park near Salt Lake City at around 3 a.m. Authorities announced Friday that they had found burnt skin tissue matching the University of Utah student. Ayoola Ajayi, 31, has been arrested and charged with aggravated murder.