true crime

Lauren McCluskey was talking to her mother on the phone. Moments later, she was murdered.

As 21-year-old University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey walked home on Monday night, she spoke to her mother Jill on the phone.

The track and field athlete from Pullman, Washington was going through a difficult time – she had recently broken up with her boyfriend and he had been harassing her.

Moments later, while she was still on the phone to her mum, that same ex-boyfriend killed her.

The Salt Lake Tribute reported that her ex, identified as 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, went to the University campus and shot and killed Lauren before fleeing and fatally shooting himself at a Salt Lake City church.

In a statement to media Jill McCluskey said Lauren had dated her killer for about one month. He had lied to her about his name, age and criminal history and when she discovered this, she broke off the relationship on October 9.

Rowland was a convicted sex offender in Utah. In 2004 he was convicted of attempted forcible sexual abuse and enticing a minor over the internet.

Melvin Rowland
Melvin Rowland. Image: Utah Department of Corrections.

Lauren requested assistance from university police to get her car back from Rowland following the breakup. She had blocked his and his friend's phone numbers and later reported being harassed by him to university police.

A spokesperson for the Utah Department of Corrections told the Tribune that university police didn’t notify them of McCluskey’s complaints. As he was out on parole, if they had he may have been sent back to prison.

Given his parole, he was prohibited from owning a gun.

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In her statement, Jill recalled her final phone call with her daughter: "Suddenly, I heard her yell, ‘No, no, no!’ I thought she might have been in a car accident,", she said. "That was the last I heard from her."

Jill stayed on the line and a few minutes later, a young woman picked up the phone and said Lauren's belongings were on the ground.

Lauren's body was found in a car on campus shortly after 8:20 p.m.

lauren mccluskey
Lauren was a gifted track and field athlete. Image: University of Utah.

Utah's track and field head coach Kyle Kepler said in a statement that Lauren's death was devastating.

"There are no words to express the emotions and grief we are experiencing right now. Lauren was a wonderful person, an excellent student and a dedicated member of our track and field team.

"She showed a relentless drive to improve every day over the last three and a half years and was always kind and supportive of her teammates. Those are just some of the reasons why her loss has hit us so hard."

In her statement, Jill said her daughter was an outstanding student who was excited to graduate.

"She was a 2015 honours graduate of Pullman High School where she was Washing state champion in the high jump and the school record holder in the 100 metre hurdles. She attended Capital Church in Salt Lake City. She loved to sing and had strength and determination.

"She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed."

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