Lauren McCluskey, a senior from Pullman, Wash., at the University of Utah, competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon. Her accused killer, a sex offender, was someone she had dated and who was harassing her, according to her mother.
Lauren McCluskey, a track and field athlete for the University of Utah’s track and field team, was found shot to death Monday night in a car outside a campus residence hall. The suspect, a 37-year-old registered sex offender named Melvin Rowland, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a church near downtown Salt Lake City, according to multiple reports.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, McCluskey’s mother, Jill, described her daughter’s final moments.
“Last night a little before 9 p.m., she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone,” she said. “Suddenly, I heard her yell, “No, no, no!” 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.”
Jill McCluskey also said her daughter had “previously dated her killer for about one month” before she ended the relationship on Oct. 9 after learning of Rowland’s criminal history. McCluskey also said that Rowland harassed her daughter after the breakup.
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“He lied to her about his name, his age and his criminal history,” she said in the statement obtained by Shara Park of KSL-TV. “Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018. 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 numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed.”
Lauren McCluskey, a senior from Pullman, Washington, who was majoring in communications, competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon. According to her team bio, she ranks 10th all-time at Utah in the pentathlon (3,181 points) and was a named Pac-12 all-Academic team honorable mention in 2017. Her mother said she was set to graduate in May and had a 3.75 grade-point average.
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“Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our own,” Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “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. 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.”
The school canceled classes Tuesday in the wake of the shooting.
According to Watkins, university police received a report of a possible abduction in a parking lot outside a residence hall at around 8:20 p.m. local time on Monday night, with students reporting that they heard an argument and then gunshots. McCluskey’s body was found inside a parked car near the south tower of the Medical Plaza, a residential hall on campus. Police then placed the campus on lockdown as they searched for Rowland, who was identified as a suspect in a university alert that was issued at 12:01 a.m. At 1:47 a.m., the school ended the lockdown, saying Rowland “has been located and is no longer a threat.”
KSL-TV reports that police learned Rowland was near Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church, about four miles west of campus near downtown Salt Lake City. Officers spotted him and pursued him on foot until he forced his way into the church through a back door. They found him inside, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to the Utah sex offender registry, the 37-year-old Rowland was convicted of enticing a minor and forcible attempted sexual abuse, both felonies, in 2014.