Cops: Before He Killed Her, He Extorted $1K Over Photos

University of Utah's Lauren McCluskey reported extortion to police 9 days before her slaying
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2018 10:50 AM CDT
Cops: Before He Killed Her, He Extorted $1K Over Photos
University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy, left, and President Ruth Watkins speak during a press briefing on Thursday.   (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Lauren McCluskey's killer was a master manipulator who penned messages under various names—even posed as a police officer—in an effort to lure and extort the 21-year-old University of Utah student before her death, according to police. Nine days before she was fatally shot on campus by an ex-boyfriend later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, McCluskey told university police she'd wired $1,000 to an account to prevent the release of "compromising" photos of her and the killer, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, says University Police Chief Dale Brophy, per Fox News and ESPN. McCluskey had ended her relationship with the registered sex offender days earlier after discovering he'd lied about his background. "If his lips were moving, he was lying," Brophy says of Rowland, who described himself as a manipulator of women at a 2012 parole hearing.

Rowland told an acquaintance, for example, that he needed a gun because his girlfriend wanted to learn to shoot, reports CBS News. After shooting McCluskey multiple times in the backseat of a car he’d driven to campus, Rowland was picked up by a woman he'd met online. Before she recognized him as the murder suspect and called police, the pair went to dinner and back to the woman's apartment where Rowland showered before leaving, Brophy says. Meanwhile, the investigation into McCluskey's extortion complaint had been delayed by workload issues, and the Utah Department of Corrections had yet to be notified. Gov. Gary Herbert announced an investigation into the handling of the case on Thursday. Hindsight is 20/20, but "you never know when these things are going to occur," he said. (McCluskey was on the phone with her mom at the time.)

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