In Days Before Her Murder, Utah Track Star Called Police 6 Times to Report Ex Was Stalking Her
Lauren McCluskey reached out to authorities for help after being harassed by an ex-boyfriend, who ultimately murdered her before shooting himself
University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey called police six times in the 10 days before her ex-boyfriend killed her, according to recently released reports of police investigations into her murder.
Reviews into McCluskey’s Oct. 22, 2018, murder — which were conducted by the University of Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah Department of Public Safety and obtained by PEOPLE — show that the 21-year-old track star repeatedly reached out for help when Melvin Rowland, 37, a convicted sex offender, harassed and stalked her after she broke up with him.
The university report cites “shortcomings” in the system, such as “gaps in training, awareness, and enforcement of certain policies rather than lapses in individual performance” when describing how campus police handled McCluskey’s case.
Still, university officials said in the report they don’t believe they could have stopped Rowland from murdering McCluskey.
“This report does not offer us a reason to believe this tragedy could have been prevented,” University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said at a December 19 press conference, the Deseret News reports. “But instead, the report tells us how we can improve.”
McCluskey was found dead in the back seat of a parked car on the night of Oct. 22, 2018, after Rowland, whom she’d dated for about a month and who lied to her about his name, age and criminal background, shot her in the head after harassing her for weeks, according to a statement from the university.
After a police chase, Rowland ran into a nearby church where he fatally shot himself, CBS News reports.
McCluskey broke up with Rowland on Oct. 9 after a friend told her about his criminal history. Rowland was convicted of attempted forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor over the internet in 2004, the reports state.
McCluskey contacted campus police when Rowland began harassing and stalking her, saying she had paid Rowland $1,000 to prevent him from posting compromising pictures of her on social media, according to the reports.
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At a press conference after the murder, University police chief Dale Brophy said police reports had been filed on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 in McCluskey’s case, and that the case had been assigned to a detective.
“The detective had been in contact with Ms. McCluskey, and they were working to build a case against our suspect at that time,” said Brophy.
The report says campus police should have done more to help her. Rowland was on parole when he killed McCluskey, but university police did not check on his parole status, the report says.
Released from prison in April, Rowland was on supervised parole, Utah Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Kaitlin Felsted previously told PEOPLE.
“The UUPS detective involved in the investigation of Lauren’s case should have ascertained his parole status when she had evidence that he was a convicted felon and the victim in her statement identified Rowland as a suspect,” the report says.
On Oct. 19, McCluskey called 911 for help because she said campus police weren’t doing enough to help her.
“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,” she told Salt Lake City Police in a 911 call obtained by CNN.
Daughter’s Murder Was Preventable, Say Parents
On Dec. 20, McCluskey’s parents, Jill and Matthew McCluskey of Pullman, Washington, released a letter criticizing the report, saying more could have been done to help their daughter.
“We respectfully disagree with the conclusion that Lauren’s murder could not have been prevented,” McCluskey’s parents wrote, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Every time McCluskey reached out to campus police, “it was like the first time,” they wrote. “Lauren was asked to frame her concerns anew, repeatedly respond to the same list of questions, and fill out the same forms.”