Family speaks out after University of Utah student allegedly killed by ex-boyfriend
Liesl Nielsen, KSL.com
Published at | Updated at
SALT LAKE CITY (KSL.com) — Lauren McCluskey was walking home from a Monday night class at the University of Utah while chatting with her mother on the phone, when her mother heard her yell, “No, no, no!”
“That was the last I heard from her,” her mother, Jill McCluskey, said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
She thought she might have been in a car accident.
Lauren McCluskey’s father quickly called 911, and her parents left the phone line open for a few minutes, straining to hear what was happening, her mother said. Soon after, a young woman picked up the phone and told them their daughter’s things were strewn on the ground.
It wasn’t until later that her parents would learn their daughter had been shot and killed on campus about 9 p.m., prompting a lockdown and sending police searching for the suspected shooter — until he was found dead hours later.
A student who identified himself as Anthony said he was walking on campus Monday evening when he heard four to six quiet gunshots.
“When the shots were fired, I was in the garage that is right next to the parking lot, and I was going for a walk, and I heard the shots, and I looked out the window,” the student said. “The shots were really quiet for gunshots though, that’s why I wasn’t 100 percent sure they were gunshots. When I looked out into the parking lot, I saw a man fitting the description run between the garage and the parking lot, and after that I just ducked behind the wall to stay safe.”
Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old senior at the U. and a member of the university’s track and field team, had dated Melvin Rowland, 37, for about a month before the shooting, her mother said.
“He lied to her about his name, his age and his criminal history,” Jill McCluskey said.
A friend finally told Lauren McCluskey about her boyfriend’s criminal history, and the student ended the relationship with Rowland on Oct. 9. He had borrowed her car, so she requested assistance from the University of Utah police to accompany her on Oct. 10 to retrieve her vehicle, her mother said in the statement.
Lauren McCluskey blocked Rowland and his friends’ phone numbers and told the U. police she was being harassed. Less than a month later, she was dead.
“She loved to sing and had strength and determination. She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed,” her mother said.
McCluskey was an outstanding student from Washington where she was a track-and-field state champion, her mother added.
“This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core,” said university director of athletics Mark Harlan in a Tuesday morning statement. “We have university counselors and psychologists on standby to support Lauren’s teammates, coaches and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all of those dear to her.”
Trinity AME church will hold a prayer vigil tonight at 6:30 for Lauren McCluskey and all those impacted by the heartbreaking events that unfolded at the @UUtah last night. The Pastor says all are welcome, he says he’s thinking of Lauren’s family at this time. ? #ksltv #utah pic.twitter.com/UP5yBpqa3e
— Shara Park (@KSLSharaPark) October 23, 2018
All classes at the U. are canceled Tuesday after police sent out alerts and urged the entire campus to secure in place while they searched for Rowland Monday night. They lifted the lockdown about 11:50 p.m. Monday.
Early Tuesday morning, Salt Lake police learned Rowland was near the historic Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church at 239 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Officers saw Rowland and pursued him on foot until he forced his way inside the church through the back door.
Once inside the church, officers found Rowland dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.
U. officials announced the situation was “all clear” shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday, saying, “Melvin Rowland, the suspect in the fatal shooting on campus, has been located and is no longer a threat.”
Police did not know if Rowland had any association with the church. The church will hold a prayer vigil for McCluskey Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.
Rowland, a registered sex offender, was convicted of enticing a minor over the internet and attempted forcible sexual abuse in March 2004. A woman petitioned for a protective order against Rowland in January 2004, but the petition was denied, according to court records.
The shooting occurred just days before the one-year anniversary of the death of U. student ChenWei Guo, who was shot and killed on campus by a man who attempted to steal his car and kidnap a woman who was with him.
Officials will be giving an update on the incident at 9:30 a.m. Watch it live here:
This article was originally published by KSL.com. It is used here with permission.