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University of Utah

'There isn't much we can do': U. releases Lauren McCluskey's reports to police 10 days before murder

By Ashley Imlay, KSL | Updated - Oct. 30, 2018 at 9:10 p.m. | Posted - Oct. 30, 2018 at 7:49 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — After Lauren McCluskey broke up with a man she'd just learned was a convicted sex offender and 16 years her senior, she began receiving harassing texts and emails.

When she first reported to University of Utah police she believed the messages were connected to her breakup with Melvin Shawn Rowland, she was told campus law enforcement didn't have a way to help her.

That is according to McCluskey's police reports released Tuesday by the university.

"I explained that without any threats or anything of a criminal nature that there isn't much we can do, but I told her to contact us if this escalates," according to the officer who filed McCluskey's first police report 10 days before Rowland, 37, gunned her down on campus.

In the reports, McCluskey, 21, twice said she was scared.

U. police and communications did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

But in the days following McCluskey's death, U. Police Chief Dale Brophy said McCluskey didn't inform police that she felt physically threatened.

"We did believe that Rowland and/or his associates both were threatening her financially and reputationally. But there was no indication from Lauren to us at any point in this investigation that he was threatening physical harm. … He was very, very good at getting people to trust him, and Lauren was no different," Brophy said.

On the night McCluskey planned to break up with the man she had known as Shawn, the report filed Oct. 12 says that "while waiting for Shawn to come to her dorm room, Lauren saw that Shawn was (peeking) through her dorm window."

And she told police "that scared her," according to the report.

When Rowland knocked on her door just moments later, McCluskey said she confronted him about his age and his sex offender status. He admitted to being a sex offender but denied lying about his age, according to police.

"Shawn was really upset with her because she had ended the relationship," the report states.

Two days later, McCluskey began receiving messages she believed came from Rowland's friends, telling her he had died and it was her fault. That is when she made her first report to police.

"McCluskey said that she doesn't believe that Rowland is dead, but she is concerned that his friends are trying to lure her into a trap for some reason," police wrote.

The officer advised McCluskey that she would need to tell the friends to stop contacting her before the messages could be classified as harassments — and not to meet up with them if "she thinks they want to do something to her."

McCluskey was also told that if anything else happened, she should let the department know. The next day, she did.

At about 6 a.m., McCluskey received an email telling her to contact the sender if she wanted "to protect her dignity and image," police wrote.

"The email also states that if she calls the cops that the pictures will go viral including her family," according to the report.

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Rowland demanded $1,000 to delete the pictures. McCluskey sent the money to an account provided in the messages.

"Lauren stated that she was scared and did not know what to do because she did not want her pictures to go online," police said.

The officer asked her to meet to give more details and fill out a statement.

In that meeting, the officer told McCluskey to contact her bank to try to stop the payment. The bank said the payment could not be stopped because McCluskey had sent it voluntarily, according to the report.

The officer also "advised her to stop communication with Shawn."

"Based on the elements of the crime detectives can screen for sexual extortion," the report states.

But a formal investigation didn't begin until Oct. 19, six days later, due to the department's case load, Brophy said last week. At that point, detectives began trying to "identify all suspects involved," as police did not know which of Rowland's friends, if any, aided in the extortion.

When the department ran a criminal background history on Rowland, they learned he had been convicted with enticing a minor over the internet and forcible sex abuse and was listed on Utah's sex offender registry. However, Brophy said last week it didn't appear the department checked to see whether he was on parole, and did not reach out to any other agencies, including Adult Probation and Parole, about what was happening.

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He also said that as the investigation got underway, police did not know of a physical danger to McCluskey. She was murdered three days later.

Brophy revealed last week that from Oct. 19 until the day of McCluskey's death, security camera footage showed Rowland around campus, "looking for Lauren without her knowledge."

On the morning of Oct. 22, McCluskey again reached out to police after she received a text from a number she did not recognize. The person who sent the text claimed to be the department's deputy chief, Rick Mclenon, and requested she come to the police station. Brophy said investigators believe the text was a ploy by Rowland to try to get McCluskey to leave her dorm.

That evening, Rowland grabbed McCluskey outside the dorm building as she talked on the phone with her mother, dragged her across a parking lot and threw her in the back seat of a car, and shot her multiple times, killing her, according to police. Several hours later, Salt Lake police spotted Rowland and pursued him on foot to Trinity A.M.E. Church, 239 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (600 South), where he fatally shot himself as police closed in.

U. officials last week announced two independent investigations into its police department's protocols. Details of those investigations, including who will complete them or when they will begin, have not been released as of Tuesday.

On Saturday, McCluskey's mother, Jill McCluskey, shared her daughter's obituary and tweeted, "It's a very dark time for us right now, but we hope that her light will continue to shine through the people she touched with her kindness."

According to the obituary, "Lauren has been described as quiet, but more accurately, she chose her words carefully. Her professors were delighted by how she was engaged and made incisive, on-point comments. … She was a deep, independent thinker with an interest in philosophy and a strong sense of right and wrong."


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