What really happened to Lauren McCluskey? The inside story of her tragic death

In a Deseret News exclusive, Lauren McCluskey's parents are speaking out about their daughter’s murder and why they believe she was failed by the institutions charged with protecting her.

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  • DistantThunder Vincentown, NJ
    June 3, 2019 1:18 p.m.

    If I were University president, I would want to know about every harasser, every stalker, every abuser, every criminal on campus and the status of each case with immediate updates. It's like a cancer and has to be addressed when it's budding and starting to escalate. Any small suspicious spot of skin cancer is studiously observed. The president is at fault for not having a high expectation, and personal awareness of these situations. Look at the chaos it's created for the U, and who know, it could have turned into a mass shooting. The U of U president should be fired over this massive security failure. The buck stops with her.

    Also, I would suggest to any parent, that if a child is struggling with this, to get involved, and inform the highest authorities, in this case it would have been the president of the University. Demand they pay attention. Parents, you call the local domestic violence group, and get them involved. They know people and have contacts in the system who will be responsive. Take BIG action on behalf of your child. Call the chief of police. Call the county sheriff. Call the mayor's office. I'm very serious. Don't stop until you have a BIG guy on your side.

  • Jim Schwartz Fort Lauderdale, FL
    June 1, 2019 10:02 p.m.

    @iamsmarterthanyou and all the other victim blamers and shamers,

    The killer was not due to be paroled until May 2019. He should have been in prison until yesterday. The killer violated parole. He threatened to harm others. There was no reason to release him early.

    Your claims have no basis because he never should have been released:. You said, "AP&P couldn't send him back to prison without cause. He had paid for previous crimes so they basically could not justify just keeping him. It was up to either AP&P to catch him doing something that would violate his parole, but they also need some indication that he needs a closer watch."

    AP&P should not have had to send him back to prison because he had multiple violations and after the second parole violation he should have remained in prison. He didn't need "a closer watch." He needed to serve his full sentence:

    "When he returned to prison, according to an episode relayed during his next parole hearing, Rowland said he didn’t want to be paroled again." google: "Man who killed Utah student Lauren McCluskey had a history of sex assault that was downplayed in the criminal justice system"

  • kim c DFW, TX
    June 1, 2019 2:44 a.m.

    I may be wrong, but I seem to recall in earlier articles about this case that campus police offered something (possibly an escort) to Lauren and she turned them down. I’m just curious if that actually happened because it wasn’t included in this report. Was that narrative left out because the university and campus police chose not to participate in this interview? It’s clear that Rowland’s actions were beyond that of a reasonable person. The fact that he hid under her window watching her and listening to her, sent her threatening messages, and blackmailed her are all clear signs that this situation should be taken seriously. At the very least, police departments need victim advocates that can inform victims of steps they can take to help protect themselves and resources available.

  • Cougsndawgs West Point , UT
    May 31, 2019 6:01 p.m.

    Zabilde and UtahBruin:
    This wasn't about police "protection" or acting as a "bodyguard", this was unconscionable negligence by a department to follow up on a reported CRIME. Criminal harassment is a crime, and without question Rowland violated the conditions of his parole with said crime. This wasn't about putting an officer on Lauren 24/7, this was about doing your job to follow up when a criminal complaint has been made...a simple search would have produced the veracity of Lauren's accusations, at which time the parole officer is called and this criminal goes back to prison for violating his parole (at least...charges of criminal harassment/stalking could also be filed in addition to the parole violation.

    This is such a tragedy, and the U trying to escape accountability is just salt in Jill and Matt McCluskey's wounds.

  • Pageturner Kaysville, UT
    May 31, 2019 3:53 p.m.

    Reading between the lines here, it seems that every single contact with the U of U police was met with a "let's just get her off the line or out of the office so we can leave too" attitude. That police department is inept and is completely at fault. And the university is at fault for protecting them.

  • Flashback Kearns, UT
    May 31, 2019 2:53 p.m.

    Sounds like everyone dropped the ball on this one. If they are going to de-certify BYU's PD, I don't see any reason that the U 's PD shouldn't face the same thing due to this screw up by them.

    AP&P also bears some responsibility for not monitoring this recalcitrant parolee with a little more supervision.

    May 31, 2019 2:40 p.m.

    Thank you for the support but the comment is gone. Chalk up another victory for PC over free speech.

  • Scott1 Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 2:01 p.m.

    Whether this paper writes more about this story or Jimmer Fredette is a close race.

  • 1covey Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 2:00 p.m.

    Was the U of U police report made public ? Did the University substantiate her claim that action by Campus Police would not have made a difference ? The system did not save Lauren McClusky. And predators do know how to entrap their victims and play the system. The system is most likely so overloaded, that it is mostly ineffective, the cry of 'wolf' heard so much that sometimes little heed is given. Much needs to be done to train our children how to be wise and careful; something young adults may not like to hear, so training must begin earlier. Get to know people in large group activities, not singly in a bar or elsewhere- forget movies - they are totally scripted in a writer's mind, not real life. Get reliable information about someone from a trusted source. Don't be a lone pigeon, that makes you an easy target; associate with good friends - a church group, for example. We teach traffic safety, let's teach personal safety.

  • SorryNotSorry Draper, UT
    May 31, 2019 1:58 p.m.

    Sad to see the part about the guy impersonating a police officer and the university police didn’t act on that.

    Rowland is first and foremost to blame. Careless policing is certainly at fault. .

    It’s also very sad that she chose to date, be intimate with, and escalate a relationship so quickly without the opportunity to really see who this man was.

    We know men and women who hide who they are throughout a relationship just to manipulate a person. Hiding can last months and years.

    That said, more time, more samples of behavior, more waiting, more “courtship” can protect people from intimate partner abuse by decreasing the possibility of deception and injury.

  • 871256 Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 1:17 p.m.

    CH Cougar - you are spot on. Everyone’s thinking it, and you said it. Thank you DN for not blocking the comment.

  • mecr Bountiful, UT
    May 31, 2019 12:55 p.m.

    For the one saying that police is not there to protect but to investigate and clean up after a crime is wrong. The police motto is to serve and protect. Yes, they are to protect people. There are so many what-ifs in this situation where the end would have been different. But most of them fall into the university police. Not only they failed miserably, but they also didn't do their job. if they had checked he was on parole, all they needed to do was to contact his parole officer. A simple call. Unfortunately, she met the wrong kind of guy and when she found out, he wouldn't leave her alone. This is also a lesson to all people: do not judge others. Her mom didn't step in because she was called a helicopter parent. When people are going to realize is not of your business how others raise their children?

  • Utahn via Houston Houston, TX
    May 31, 2019 12:28 p.m.

    If police do not have a responsibility “to protect and serve” then what purpose do they serve? How about we agree upon a straight forward definition from our friends at Wikipedia?

    “The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by a state to enforce the law, to protect the lives, liberty and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime and civil disorder.”

    Lauren became a casualty even after alerting both the University of Utah and Salt Lake City police departments about the erratic and concerning behavior of someone with a long history of criminal behavior. The police in this situation failed both to prevent a crime and protect a life.

    More could and should have been done to protect Lauren and in this case the University of Utah police and administration deserve the lion share of the criticism for their collective inaction and negligence.

  • tmilovich Logan, UT
    May 31, 2019 11:56 a.m.

    I can tell you as someone who has been trying to help protect a young woman and child from a person with diagnosed mental illness who has threatened to kill them repeatedly that no one listens!!! No One!! Not the Police, Not ICE, Not Representatives, Not the courts!!! The perpatrators rights FAR outweigh the victims!! THINGS NEED TO CHANGE!! Threats need to be taken seriously!!

  • Pageturner Kaysville, UT
    May 31, 2019 11:54 a.m.

    Her parents are so right. There were so many missed opportunities to help her. The university's response to this is embarrassing and shameful. Her father is exactly right, for them to say the mistakes wouldn't have prevented her death while saying they need to make changes is a slap in the face. The campus police department up there is ran like a boys golfing club and their work ethic shows through in all the mistakes that were made. The way that department is ran and mistakes made by numerous individuals falls squarely on the chief. This is not the first murder to happen at that campus. When will it accept accountability? That's the real change that needs to happen and I don't blame the parents for suing.

  • Oh Really? Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 11:42 a.m.

    Universities do not hold themselves accountable. Let’s make a list:

    - the football player in Maryland who died of heatstroke and dehydration after neglect and abuse by coaches and training staff: “Not our fault.”

    - The hundreds of girls abused by a team doctor at Univeristy of Michigan: reports ignored.

    - Sexual is boys by Penn State football coach. Report ignored by administration, report swept under the rug by Joe Paterno, (for decades) fans enraged when people tried to hold Paterno accountable, and now University trying to restore Pateno’s legacy.

    - Utah State officials ignoring reports of a football player rapist.

    Universities try to CYA. They should never, NEVER be able to investigate themselves and evaluate themselves. Their motive is to maintain their reputation and jobs, not to admit culpability and improve.

    Campuses also should be allowed to have their own police force. They don’t have the breadth of experience nor the resources to do the job adequately, and they, too, serve the interests of the themselves and the university, not the student nor the community.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    May 31, 2019 10:56 a.m.

    I can't imagine the grief of a parent loosing a child. Its beyond something I can comprehend.

    That said, the police are there not to act as body guards. Threats are made daily, often by people with criminal records. That does not authorize the police though to pick someone up because they might commit a crime. Its just a hard cold fact of how our justice system is setup. It was not the police's job to put her in 24 hour protective custody either.

    Unfortunately the world is filled with too many bad people. I wish we could do something with them.... but we can't. I am sure the University wishes they could have done something to keep her safe, but the reality is that is just not possible many times.

    Just like all the many other murders and acts of violence in this state, it is impossible to prevent these acts from happening. Police and others do their best, but they can only do so much. Bad people are just that.... bad.

  • Third try screen name Mapleton, UT
    May 31, 2019 10:29 a.m.

    This is a very sad tale. How do we prevent the next one?

    Some ideas. (Warning: Not indicative of the America we know today.)
    *Sex crimes would have 20 year minimum sentences mandatory
    *Requests for restraining orders would mean immediate incarceration
    *Restraining orders would result in 24/7 protection
    *University campuses would be restricted areas with access limited to verified students and faculty
    *Facial recognition surveillance would be applied in all public places

    We could not afford, nor would we want to live in such a "safe" society.

    Or...you can get a college degree via home school.

  • trollover Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 10:07 a.m.

    I have been to the U as a student and a worker, and am confused at what happened and how it could have escalated to where a murder occurred. I know it is hard to read that the school is not willing to take responsibility for their missteps, but workers are tied to what they can and can't do. I hope the direction Dr. Watkins is taking will allow more cooperation with the University Police and Salt Lake City Police and another incident like this does not occur again.
    My heart break for Lauren's parents and hopefully they can heal as best as they can from this. I am glad to hear they are trying to make changes so this would not happen again on campus. I love the U and what it represents, but we must protect all that work and study there.

  • Zabilde Riverdale, UT
    May 31, 2019 9:36 a.m.

    The police are under no obligation to protect you. This was the Ruling of the Supreme Court. Their job is to investigate and clean up after a crime. They are not at fault. It is your responsibility to protect yourself.

    The man who lied to her from day one, then killed her is solely at fault.

  • Utahn via Houston Houston, TX
    May 31, 2019 8:42 a.m.

    As a University of Utah alum, Lauren’s story and the University’s response embarrasses and saddens me.

    The University’s police department failed miserably to do even the basic things that could have made a difference in Lauren’s case. Not only should they be trained about how to respond to campus sexual violence they should be held accountable including Ruth Watkins. Ensuring the success of all students who are pursuing an education at the University of Utah is priority number one of faculty and staff. And, that includes a student’s personal safety when it falls within the University’s jurisdiction.

    To suggest that greater police diligence may not have made a difference is ignorant and shocking coming from the mouth of someone presiding over an institution of higher learning. I will concede that even with the utmost attention Lauren may still have not been safe from Mr. Rowland, but negligence is never an acceptable defense.

    If Ms. Watkins is unable to admit that the institution she presides over failed to do all that it could to protect Lauren then perhaps the University's Board of Trustees should consider a change in leadership. We deserve better!

  • imsmarterthanyou Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 7:19 a.m.

    Unfortunately, I knew the killer personally. Nothing he did surprised me in the least and I expected nothing less from him. He reeked of deception & wrongness. So, my biggest question was why would she even speak to him, much less date him or have anything to do with him. The cops she tried to get help from are the ones who miserably failed. AP&P couldn't send him back to prison without cause. He had paid for previous crimes so they basically could not justify just keeping him. It was up to either AP&P to catch him doing something that would violate his parole, but they also need some indication that he needs a closer watch. But the cops she called apparently didn't take her seriously enough to get out of their chair. They are to blame.

  • tsobserver Mapleton, UT
    May 31, 2019 7:01 a.m.

    A terribly tragic story. My heart breaks for the family. I hope they find some peace and justice. I hope others will read this as a cautionary tale. We cannot rely on police to protect us from bad people.

  • Mayfair Logan, UT
    May 31, 2019 6:12 a.m.

    Although I have seen this girl's picture numerous times, I have never read her complete story til this article.

    Seems police everywhere are always asking the public to call 'crimestopper' hotline numbers with tips or info.
    Or the ubiquitous requests and alerts of "See Something? Say Something."

    But what good does it do if multiple reports, pictures, info, requests for help are given to police if the police just blow them off without checking into them sufficiently or doing something to help?? Or passing the buck back and forth between different agencies?

    The fact that Lauren was the one to take the facts to Them that he was a parolee and registered sex offender- and still nothing was done is very troubling.

    Whatever happened to the police motto: 'To protect and to serve' ??

  • AlanSutton Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 4:22 a.m.

    I graduated from the U of U and I’m embarrassed. The university’s president said the report she ordered offers no reason to believe this tragedy could have been avoided. That’s obviously wrong. University police failed to use resources available to them, where they would have learned of the murderer’s status as a man on parole. They then would know that he had clearly violated the terms of his parole.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    May 31, 2019 1:08 a.m.

    Simply horrible. And it's not just singles affected. There's abuse in married student housing. We had to rescue our daughter from married student housing. The campus cops were duds. But others on campus were helpful, especially EEOC.

  • wer South Jordan, UT
    May 30, 2019 11:24 p.m.

    "...her pleas for help — and those of her friends and family members — were largely ignored. Her messages went unreturned, or were passed from officer to officer, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, leaving Lauren vulnerable and increasingly frantic."

    So, as he parents and many others have asked: "Has anybody at the U been held accountable? Are they going to be? Or, are the failures by members of this public institution going to be simply ignored?"

    It's past time for those who were responsible to be identified, held accountable, and punished for their unconscionable misdeeds.