Lauren McCluskey was a 21 year old Pullman, WA native and student athlete at University of Utah who was tragically murdered by her ex-boyfriend. She dated her killer, 37 year old Melvin Shawn Rowland, for one single month before learning from a friend that he had lied about his name, age, and sex offender status. Once she learned the truth, she ended the relationship and tried to move on with her life, but he couldn’t let it go.
Rowland began stalking and harassing Lauren, even managing to get $1000 from her by means of extortion so he wouldn’t release her nude photos, but despite over 20 calls to University of Utah campus police and a number of calls to the Salt Lake City Police Department by Lauren and her parents, she was murdered on the evening of October 22, 2018. Lauren was on the phone with her mother when she was confronted by her killer, dragged across the parking lot into a borrowed car, and was shot to death. Rowland was then picked up by another woman, went on a date with her, and after she recognized him from the news and turned him in, he was chased on foot by officers to a church where he killed himself.
Lauren’s mother, Jill McCluskey claims that campus officers “tried to minimize her and have her go away, they were not caring, they were not helpful.” Honestly, based off the statements and actions from both the police and the university, I don’t think she was wrong. A statement from the school claims that there’s “no reason to believe” that Lauren’s murder could have been prevented. In fact, they honored the dispatcher and two school officials in a ceremony for their “job well done.” Hours later, they issued an apology to the McCluskey’s via Twitter.
Per an independent review of the case, here’s where things went wrong:
- Housing officials had taken reports by friends that Rowland talked about bringing a gun to campus but never reported it to police
- Nobody in the campus police department or the SLCPD ever referred Lauren to a victim advocate line, instead they communicated with her via text and email instead of in person and held an interview with her in the public lobby of the police station
- The officers never discovered that Melvin was on parole or recognized any warning signs of domestic violence
- The detective didn’t open a case until a week after the initial call of threatening text messages and extortion, and then she didn’t even work on the case until after Lauren was killed because the she was off duty. She did not relay any info to another on duty officer.
Lauren tried reaching out to the assigned detective hours before her death but couldn’t get in touch with her. Lauren emailed a number of screenshots of text messages where Melvin was attempting to lure Lauren out of her dorm that same morning by posing as an officer, but the detective never even opened them until after she was killed. When she finally did speak to Lauren later that same day, she didn’t relay any concerns to anyone else in the department.
The detective has since left the university but there’s no indication on if it was voluntary or if she was fired. A university officer that failed to relay information hours before Lauren’s death was recently reprimanded for failing to do the same in a separate case from February, despite new training by the school officials.
Jill and Matthew McCluskey have now filed a $56 million dollar lawsuit against University of Utah. Stay tuned with True Crime Society for updates on the case.
If you’d like to help support the McCluskey’s efforts in improving campus safety, helping student athletes, or supporting animal welfare in Lauren’s name, please visit www.laurenmccluskey.org