21-year-old Lauren McCluskey was found shot and killed in a car on the night of October 21, 2018. Lauren was a star track athlete with an outstanding 3.75 GPA and was set to graduate in May 2019. The suspect, her former boyfriend and registered sex offender, Melvin Rowland, was linked to the attack and killed himself later that night. Rowland, a 37-year-old man, and McCluskey were in a relationship for about a month but McCluskey broke things off on October 9 when she learned about Rowland’s lies.
Rowland lied about his age, name and criminal history. On October 10, McCluskey requested for University of Utah police to accompany her to get her car back from Rowland. McCluskey then blocked Rowland and his friends’ phone numbers and filed a harassment complaint.
Melvin Rowland’s Past
Melvin Rowland had previously pleaded guilty to trying to lure an underage girl online and attempted sex abuse charges. He served upwards of ten years in prison for these two separate crimes beginning in September 2003.
Rowland was caught when a police officer posed as a 13-year-old girl in an online sex crimes sting. After being charged, a woman came forward to report being sexually assaulted by Rowland a few days earlier.
After serving eight years in prison, Rowland was released from prison in 2012. He was sent back to halfway houses twice after violating his parole but was living on his own since April 2018. His parole prohibited him from owning a gun.
The Last Call
Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, describes her daughter’s last words in a statement given to the University of Utah on October 23.
Lauren called her mother while walking back to her university apartment after finishing her night class.
Jill McCluskey suddenly heard, “No, no, no!”
She thought that her daughter might’ve been in a car accident and her husband called 911. Jill McCluskey never hung up the phone and, after a few minutes of keeping the line open, a woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren’s items were on the ground.
After linking Rowland to the murder via eye-witness descriptions and evidence at the scene, police began to search for Rowland, but he had killed himself in a church.