A female student athlete at the University of Utah was shot and killed while on campus on Monday evening by her sex offender ex-boyfriend who lied to her about his name, age, and criminal history.
Lauren McCluskey, of Pullman, Washington was found dead in the backseat of a car in her dormitory’s parking lot following a dispute with 37-year-old Melvin Rowland.
The 21-year-old had broken up with Rowland after a month of dating on October 9 when she learned of his true identity and that he was jailed for attempting to sexually abuse a minor. Days later she reported him to campus police for harassment.
She was on the phone with her mother on Monday and returning from a night class when she was attacked and killed by her embittered ex-boyfriend.
Her mother said she heard McCluskey yell ‘No, no, no!’ then the phone went silent.
‘I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her. My husband called 911. I kept the line open and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren’s things were on the ground,’ her mother said in a statement released Tuesday.
McCluskey was a senior studying communications, was ‘an accomplished student athlete’, and a star on the school’s track and field team, the school said in a statement released Tuesday.
The University of Utah was placed on lockdown after the shooting was reported at 9pm Monday evening, according to University of Utah Police Lt. Brian Wahlin.
The lockdown was lifted before midnight as police determined the suspect shooter was no longer on campus.
Multiple law enforcement agencies worked together to locate Rowland, a black male 6ft 3in tall and weighing 250 pounds.
By 12.01am Rowland was identified as the shooting suspect as he was seen fleeing the dorm Medical Towers around the time of the shooting.
He was later found dead inside the Trinity AME Church at 1.47am of a self-inflicted gunshot.
‘They chased him to this location, where they found that he had forced entry into the church. After clearing the building, they found our suspect deceased in a room in the church, suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound,’ Lt. Brian Wahlin said to ABC.
Rowland broke in through the back door of the church. Officers followed him inside and heard a commotion on the second floor of the church then heard what sounded like a gunshot and discovered his body upstairs afterwards.
Rowland was a resident of Salt Lake City and in 2004 was convicted of attempted forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor over the internet, according to court records. He was released from Utah State Prison in 2013 after nine years behind bars.
It’s not clear how he was able to obtain a gun with his criminal history.
He formerly worked as a registered agent for a now defunct company called Andronicus LLC that staffed medical assistants and nurses that was located near campus, according to Heavy.
Cops were flagged to the scene after university police received a report of a possible abduction in the parking lot outside of the dormitory Medical Plaza around 8.20pm.
When they responded and searched the area they found her dead body in the parked car near the south tower of the Medical Plaza.
The university announced the death on social media and the school’s website Monday evening and canceled Tuesday’s classes.
‘It is with tremendous sadness that I share the news that Lauren McCluskey, an accomplished student athlete who came to the University of Utah from Pullman, Washington, was killed Monday night on our campus,’ University President Ruth V. Watkins said in a letter to the campus.
‘Lauren was a highly regarded member of the university’s track and field team and an outstanding scholar, a senior majoring in communication,’ she added.
The school said McCluskey’s family is ‘in shock’ and ‘heartbroken’ with the news.
The school and the Athletics Department are planning a vigil for Lauren for Wednesday at 5pm.
Mother Jill McCluskey released a statement following Lauren’s sudden death, shedding light on her relationship with Rowland.
‘It is with deepest sadness that we let you now that our daughter Lauren McCluskey, age 21, was the University of Utah student who was killed last night. Lauren previously dated her killer for about one month. He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history. Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018,’ she said.
‘He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accompany her on October 10, 2018 to get the car back. She blocked his and his friends’ phone number and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed. Last night a little before 9pm, she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone,’ she added.
The call was likely her final moments before she was shot.
Days after the break up she reported Rowland to campus police for harassment twice on October 12 and 13.
According to a press conference Tuesday afternoon, McCluskey was working with a detective to build a harassment case against Rowland.
University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy said Tuesday that police didn’t have a correct address on file for Rowland who was living in a halfway house.
He was not affiliated with the university.
The family said Lauren was an ‘outstanding student’ with a 3.75 GPA set to graduate in May 2019.
She attended Pullman High School in Washington where she graduated with honors in 2015 and was a state champion in the high jump and was a school record holder in 100 meter hurdles.
She loved to sing and ‘had strength and determination’, her family said.
The University’s Director of Athletics Mark Harlan lamented her sudden death on Tuesday saying: ‘Senior track standout Lauren McCluskey was tragically killed in a senseless act. This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core.’
The Pac-12 Conference also released a statement following the student’s tragic death.
‘The Pac-12 Conference joins the University of Utah and our conference community in mourning the loss of Lauren McCluskey, and expressing our deepest condolences to her family. Lauren was an accomplished and exceptional young woman and student-athlete, and our thoughts are with the University of Utah community and all those who were touched by Lauren as we grieve this tragic loss,’ the statement said.
A GoFundMe Page has been set up to raise money for her memorial.
This is the second deadly shooting to take place at the university since last year.
In October 2017 student Austin Boutain, 24, was arrested for fatally shooting 23-year-old computer science major ChenWei Guo.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Marlene Lenthang