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Lauren McCluskey. (Utah University)
Lauren McCluskey. (Utah University)

Multiple complaints

Disturbing new details emerge on what transpired in days before 21-year-old college track star’s murder

By WITW Staff on October 29, 2018

Lauren McCluskey, the 21-year-old track star and University of Utah student who authorities say was killed by her ex-boyfriend last week, reached out to university police multiple times to express concerns about the man’s behavior, according to a report in Rolling Stone.

McCluskey was talking on the phone to her mother on October 22 when 37-year-old Melvin Rowland grabbed her and shot her to death in the back of a car. She had recently broken up with Rowland after learning that he had lied to her about his name, his age, and the fact that he was a registered sex offender.

New information released by university police shows that McCluskey’s mother had contacted campus security to ask that they accompany the victim when she went to pick up her car, which Rowland had borrowed. McCluskey initially declined the escort, but later requested that campus security go with her to retrieve the car from the parking lot of the university’s stadium.

On October 12, McCluskey contacted university police to say that she had been getting strange messages from people she believed to be Rowland’s friends, whom she thought were trying to “lure” her away from her dorm. The messages claimed that Rowland was dead and she was to blame.

On October 13, McCluskey made another complaint, saying that the messages were now demanding that she pay $1,000 to prevent compromising images from being leaked online. McCluskey did make the payment, and also told university police that Rowland was a registered sex offender.

McCluskey reached out once again on the day of the murder to say that she had received another suspicious text message purporting to be from the campus deputy chief of police and asking her to come down to the station. University police believed that message came from Rowland, but they “never contacted him,” Rolling Stone reports, “nor did they alert the Salt Lake City Police Department or the Department of Corrections, which would have considered the harassment accusations a violation of Rowland’s parole.”

University police chief Dale Brophy said during a news conference that authorities did not begin an extortion investigation until six days after the McCluskey’s October 13 report due to “workload issues,” reports The Associated Press. Brophy added that there were no indications Rowland had threatened physical violence toward McCluskey, and that university police did not have sufficient information to pass on to other law enforcement groups. Hours after McCluskey was found dead, police said they discovered the dead body of Rowland in a nearby church, after they said he shot himself to death.

External investigations are being launched into campus security and police protocols, University of Utah president Ruth Watkins said.

“Clearly in hindsight, we’re going to say, ‘You should have done this, you should have done that,'” Governor Gary Herbert said during a televised news conference, according to the AP. But, he maintained, “[y]ou never know when these things are going to occur.” In audio recordings from Rowland’s previous parole hearings released last week, Rowland could be heard describing himself as a “womanizer” who liked to prey on young women and girls who he found to be vulnerable in some way.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.


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