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SALT LAKE CITY — A man who helped facilitate the straw purchase of the gun used to kill University of Utah student athlete Lauren McCluskey pleaded guilty on Monday.
Nathan Daniel Vogel, 21, of Millcreek, pleaded guilty to making a false statement during the acquisition of a firearm.
Vogel, along with Sarah Emily Lady, 24, of Mapleton, were both accused of making a straw purchase of a Beretta PX4 Storm .40-caliber handgun on Sept. 8, 2018. Vogel later loaned the gun to an acquaintance.
Five days later, Melvin Rowland used the gun to shoot McCluskey in a parking lot outside her campus dorm.
"We went to the gun store in order to purchase a handgun that I needed for my employment. I was unable to obtain a handgun on the day of purchase because I had a waiting period due to my background in the military," Vogel said in his written statement to court accepting the guilty plea. "The plan was for Lady to purchase the gun for me. I had previously given her $400 to pay for the handgun.
"A background check was completed and Lady was allowed to purchase the handgun. We left together. Once outside Lady gave me the handgun."
Vogel and Lady were scheduled to go to trial next week. Monday's plea deal only involved Vogel. A new court date for Lady was expected to be set soon.
“We are pleased with the outcome in this case. Mr. Vogel has taken responsibility for his unlawful conduct, and is now a convicted felon. He is prohibited from possessing a firearm in the future,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said in a prepared statement. “We offer our condolences, once again, to the family and friends of Lauren McCluskey."
Vogel and Rowland were co-workers. According to police reports from the University of Utah recently released through a public records request, Vogel told investigators that he believed Rowland "manipulated" him to get his gun.
On Oct. 17, Vogel had just gotten fired from his job and was discouraged.
"I had told (Rowland) about my problems and stuff like that he offered me $200, so he manipulated me using the guilt trip to use my weapon," Vogel said, according to the report.
He then loaned Rowland the gun he had illegally purchased.
Soon after, Vogel got a call from hotel security at Little America Hotel that the gun had been found there with marijuana and Vogel would need to go in and claim it. Vogel retrieved the gun and Melvin then "talked him into giving him the gun back" and paid him another $200, the report states.
The security director at the hotel recalled the gun being found abandoned in a room, along with 75-100 rounds of ammunition in a box. The security director lectured Vogel about the incident and urged Rowland not to borrow guns, police wrote.
Rowland was supposed to return the gun to Vogel after supposedly taking McCluskey target shooting. The night Vogel expected the gun back, Rowland told him he and McCluskey were stuck in Moab. Vogel continued texting him for days to get the gun back, but Rowland did not reply, according to the report.
Vogel told police Rowland's actions seemed "premeditated."