Student Repeatedly Sought Cops' Help Before Her Killing

Investigations examine murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2018 7:21 AM CST
Updated Dec 28, 2018 11:05 AM CST
Student Repeatedly Sought Cops' Help Before Her Killing
This undated photo provided by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office shows Melvin Rowland.   (Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office via AP)

In the weeks leading up to her murder, University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey repeatedly asked campus police for help—and ended up calling 911 twice because she was frustrated by their lack of action. The 21-year-old told police she was being harassed and blackmailed by Melvin Rowland, a 37-year-old man she had recently ended a brief relationship with. Her last appeal came just two days before her death. Now, two investigations into what happened, one by the university and one by the state, are raising questions about culpability. Details:

  • Anxious call: "I'm worried because I've been working with the campus police at the U, and last Saturday I reported and I haven't gotten an update," McCluskey says in an Oct. 19 call to 911 obtained by CNN. "They haven't updated or done anything," she said. The next day, she sent police screenshots of threatening text messages she had received. Rowland shot and killed her two days later and killed himself after a police chase.
  • The audio: Hear McCluskey's earlier call to 911, on Oct. 13, via KUTV.
  • First warnings: McCluskey's friends first contacted university authorities on Sept. 30 with concerns about Rowland, Deadspin reports in a look at all the times McCluskey sought help. McCluskey herself first called campus police on Oct. 12, days after ending the relationship. Her first call to Salt Lake City police was on Oct. 13. She said she was nervous because she didn't know how long campus police would take to deal with her case—but the dispatcher transferred her to campus police.

  • The relationship: Rowland—a convicted sex offender who had spent more than a decade in prison—lied to McCluskey about his name, age, and background when they first began dating after meeting at a bar. She broke off their relationship when she found out about a month later.
  • Her parents: McCluskey's parents say that contrary to the state's conclusions that found no "lapses in individual performance," officers missed numerous opportunities to act during the time their daughter was "expressing repeated, elevating, and persistent concerns about her situation." McCloskey's mother called university police herself on Oct. 10, worried that Rowland might hurt her daughter when returning the car he had borrowed.
  • University investigation: Read it here. Among other things, it found that campus officers did not know how to look up information on someone's criminal background or parole status.
  • State investigation: Read it here.
  • Criticism: “The president and her police director should be fired immediately before another tragedy occurs,” says former prosecutor Bob Bianchi of Law&Crime. What's more, "an investigation of all cases that may have been similarly reported, but not acted upon, should occur immediately before another person becomes a victim of fear, attack, or, like in this case, murder.”
(Police say Rowland extorted $1,000 from McCluskey over "compromising" photos.)

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