The slain 21-year-old University of Utah student spent days after breaking up with her boyfriend – who was a registered sex offender – telling university police that he was harassing her.
According to Lauren McCluskey’s mother, her daughter broke up with 37-year-old Melvin Rowland on Oct. 9 after she was informed by a friend about his criminal history. Days later, she told university police he had begun harassing her.
On Monday night – about 13 days after the breakup – Rowland shot and killed McCluskey as she returned to her apartment from a night class. He fatally shot himself at a Salt Lake City church in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy told reporters Tuesday that McCluskey filed a police report against Rowland on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13. He would not elaborate on what those reports involved.
“It was assigned out to a detective. The detective had been in contact with Ms. McCluskey and they were working to build a case against our suspect at the time,” he added.
The police chief said his officers could not locate Rowland in the days leading up to the fatal shooting because “we don’t have a correct address for him.”
However, the Department of Corrections told the Salt Lake Tribune that parole officials knew where Rowland was living. The spokeswoman told the newspaper that university police officers did not inform them about the harassment allegations against Rowland.
“We had no notification of any of that,” Kaitlin Felsted, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Corrections told the newspaper.
She said Rowland was “not fully compliant” with his latest parole and that he was working with his parole agent “to get through those” violations.
At a news conference, Brophy was asked if the university’s police did enough to protect McCluskey. He responded: “I want the answer to that question as well, when we have it we will share it with you.”
McCluskey’s mother, Jill, said in a statement released Tuesday that Rowland had lied to her daughter about “his name, his age, and his criminal history.
"Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018," the statement said. "She blocked his and his friends' phone numbers and complained to the University of Utah police that she was being harassed."
Rowland was convicted of attempted forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor over the Internet in 2004. He was released from prison in 2013.
Rowland was prohibited from owning a gun while on parole and it was unclear how he obtained one.
Jill McCluskey said she had been talking on the phone with her daughter as Lauren returned from a night class and heard her yell, "No, no, no!" A few minutes later, a woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren McCluskey's belongings were on the ground.
"I thought she might have been in a car accident," Jill McCluskey said. "That was the last I heard from her."
University President Ruth Watkins said classes were canceled Tuesday and a vigil would be held Wednesday night.
"As a campus community, we share grief over this tragic loss of life," Watkins said in a statement.
Lauren McCluskey was set to graduate in May 2019 with a degree in communications. She was on the University of Utah's track and field team.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.