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Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old University of Utah student who was allegedly killed by her ex-boyfriend on Monday, had received “suspicious” texts and email messages in the days leading up to her death, some that threatened to post incriminating photos of her online. However, police took 10 days from her initial complaint to begin a formal investigation. McCluskey was killed three days after their investigation began.
According to BuzzFeed News, University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy said that the department was investigating a “series of suspicious emails and text messages” from various email addresses and phone numbers, which she had reported to police. Brophy said that police believed that the messages were being sent by McCluskey’s ex-boyfriend, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, who McCluskey had broken up with on Oct. 9 after learning that he had lied to her about his name, age, and criminal history, or Rowland’s associates.
On Monday, McCluskey was shot and killed in a parked car on campus. She was standing in front of her dorm, talking on the phone with her mother, when Rowland, identified as the suspect, confronted her, dragged her to another part of the lot, forced her into a car, and allegedly shot her multiple times.
Video surveillance then shows that Rowland was picked up minutes before police arrived, by an acquaintance who Brophy says Rowland had met on a dating site. Around midnight that night, Salt Lake City police located Rowland, who then ran into a church during a foot pursuit and fatally shot himself.
On Oct. 12, three days after McCluskey broke up with Rowland, she reported these suspicious messages to the police. One of the messages claimed that Rowland had died and that it was her fault. The next day, another message threatened to post photos of her and Rowland online. She then sent $1,000 to an account in hopes of keeping the photos offline. At that point, Brophy said, the case was investigated for possible sexual extortion charges.
However, detectives only began their formal investigation on Oct. 19 after McCluskey reported other suspicious messages, and began seeking an arrest warrant for Rowland and possible acquaintances involved. According to Deseret News, Brophy said that the investigation was delayed because of the department’s caseload. Three days after the formal investigation began, McCluskey was killed. According to BuzzFeed News, the department’s investigation into McCluskey’s death is ongoing.
Hours before McCluskey was killed, she had emailed police to report a text from someone alleging to be Deputy Chief Rick McLenon, asking her to come to the police station. Brophy said that investigators now believe that Rowland was behind all the messages to McCluskey, and had used multiple phones, texting apps, and spoofed email addresses to contact her anonymously. Security footage also shows that Rowland had been looking for McCluskey on campus.
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University of Utah president Ruth Watkins told BuzzFeed News that they’re launching “independent reviews” into its campus safety policies, and the campus police’s handling of McCluskey’s complaints.
“We are determined as a university to learn from this tragedy,” Watkins said.
H/T BuzzFeed News
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.