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U. trustees meet behind closed doors with police chief in aftermath of student-athlete's slaying

(KSL TV)



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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah Board of Trustees met behind closed doors with Police Chief Dale Brophy and other key administrators Friday morning in the aftermath of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey's slaying on the campus Monday night.

The meeting, called to discuss "character and competence," according to the board agenda, lasted about 1½ hours.

Also on Friday, court documents were released revealing the details of accused killer Melvin Rowland's convictions and how he repeatedly violated conditions of his supervised release.

In a brief exchange with reporters after the board of trustees' meeting, Chairman H. David Burton expressed "complete confidence" in U. President Ruth Watkins and her team.

When asked if that included Brophy, Burton responded, "Yes."

Brophy was not in uniform but wore a suit and tie to the meeting.

Asked if the trustees were considering personnel changes following McCluskey's homicide, Burton said "personnel changes, if any, will be the province of the administration. The board of trustees does not get down in that level of looking at things, so we're not privy to what may or may not transpire with individuals or if there is even a need for that," Burton said.

The police chief reports to a vice president, who reports to Watkins, said U. spokesman Christopher Nelson.

Burton said the trustees do have a role in determining an appropriate level of resources to the U.'s various departments and suggested that the police department may need more resources to fulfill its responsibilities on the 1,800-acre campus on the city's east bench.

As one of the state's largest employers, the U.'s main campus serves more than 30,000 students, 18,000 staff and faculty. It hosts thousands of visitors to its three major hospitals, sports arenas and cultural venues, the U.'s 2017 Annual Security and Fire Report states.

"We're certainly mindful about the level of resources that are provided for safekeeping there. On a very broad aspect, we're certainly concerned, does the chief have enough resources to handle the broad spectrum of activity that's on this campus from a medical school, all the way through?" Burton said.

Presently, the annual budget for the U.'s Department of Public Safety is about $10 million from an overall institutional budget of just under $5 billion, Nelson said.

According to Nelson, the university has 33 sworn police officers, who include Brophy, four detectives, command staff and patrol officers. U. police officers patrol the Salt Lake campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the 2017 Annual Security and Fire Report.

"The police department is backed by a security staff of over 70 people," the report states.

Separate security teams serve the main campus and hospitals, Nelson said.

During Friday's meeting, Brophy otherwise provided a timeline of events to the trustees and answered other questions about procedure, process and the university's response relative to McCluskey's death, Burton said.

"Certainly there are things that need to be looked at and things that will be reviewed. The administration at the university is going to investigate, and have investigated, several aspects of what transpired. Certainly the entire safety of the institution is a big concern for all of us, and the processes the police department and others have used certainly need to be reviewed to see what we can do better," he said.

The trustees await the reviews ordered by Watkins, one of campus safety and another of the actions taken by university police in response to McCluskey's original complaint, Burton said.

Asked if parents who send their students to the University of Utah can consider them safe, Burton said "Absolutely. The administration, the team here, that's priority No. 1."

During the closed meeting, Brophy explained the university's timeline preceding the slaying of U. student and track athlete McCluskey, who was shot and killed on campus by convicted sex offender Melvin Shawn Rowland. Rowland shot and killed himself in a downtown church early Tuesday morning after being pursued by police.

McCluskey had dated Rowland for about a month when she learned he had lied to her about his name, age and criminal background. She ended the relationship Oct. 9.

On Oct. 12 and 13, McCluskey contacted university police to report suspicious messages she was receiving, first purporting to be from Rowland's friends claiming he was dead and blaming her, and then threatening to post compromising photos of McCluskey and Rowland online if she didn't pay money, according to the timeline released by the U.

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After the first report, "The reporting officer asked Lauren if she felt in danger or threatened by the texts. She stated she did not, but that she felt his friends were trying to lure her somewhere. The officer told her to not go anywhere that made her uncomfortable and to call back if she received additional messages or contact," the timeline states.

A formal investigation of the extortion charges didn't begin until Oct. 19, according to the timeline.

On Oct. 22, Rowland grabbed McCluskey as she was walking across campus, dragged her across a parking lot to a parked car and shot her multiple times, according to police.

The court records released Friday show Rowland's pattern of predatory behavior and failure to comply with the law dating back to 2003.

When Rowland was 22 years old, according to court documents, he went to the home of a 17-year-old girl whom he had met online. Her parents weren't home.

After the teenager and Rowland talked and kissed, he asked for a tour of the house. In her room, he requested she sit next to him. She hinted that she needed to go to bed because she had school in the morning, but he stayed, court records state.

When Rowland asked her to have sex with him, the girl "started to cry" and said she couldn't because she was on her period. She continued crying and held a pillow over her own face while Rowland assaulted her, court documents indicate.

After, "Rowland got up, got dressed, and told (the girl) that she would not have to hear from him again, and that he would leave and would not take anything from the house on his way out," according to court documents. Two days later, he made plans online to have sex with someone he believed was a 13-year-old girl, but who turned out to be an undercover police officer.

When police showed up at Rowland's house to arrest him, he was "chatting online again," according to court records.

On March 15, 2004, Rowland pleaded guilty to attempted forcible sex abuse, a third-degree felony. In exchange for the guilty plea, the original charge of first-degree rape was amended. He also pleaded guilty to enticing a minor over the internet, a second-degree felony.

While on supervised release prior to striking the plea deal, Rowland had been ordered to remain home except for work, school or treatment. An ankle monitor was used to track his movements. He was also prohibited from using the internet.

An affidavit filed among the court documents says he repeatedly violated the conditions of the release by leaving his home, many times without accounting for where he was.

In one instance, Rowland claimed he was out of his home at a "church activity" that he was not authorized to attend. He also did not provide officials verification about that activity, court records indicate.

Court records also claimed Rowland left his home on numerous occasions claiming he was working at a restaurant, but that he couldn't provide any documentation to prove he was employed there.

Rowland also used the internet and provided paperwork and an email address for a "new business prospect," despite being prohibited from going online.

A judge ordered Rowland to return to custody for violating the terms of his supervised release, court records show. He was ultimately sentenced to up to five years in prison on one case and one to 15 years on the other. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

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