University of Utah settles with family of murdered student Lauren McCluskey and renames its violence prevention center in her honor

The University of Utah has settled two lawsuits with the parents of Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old student who was killed by an ex-boyfriend she had complained about to police more than 20 times.



Sadie Feighan looking at the camera: Lauren McCluskey


© University of Utahq
Lauren McCluskey

McCluskey’s body was found in the back seat of a car on campus two years ago. She had been shot and killed by 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, a convicted sex offender who had spent more than a decade in prison. He killed himself hours later after a police chase, university police had said.

Lauren McCluskey’s parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, filed a $56 million lawsuit last year alleging the University of Utah had failed to protect their daughter.

“The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation,” University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said in a statement on Thursday.

“As a result, we failed Lauren and her family.”

The university will pay the McCluskeys $10.5 million and make a charitable donation of $3 million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

The university also said it has also been making improvements to campus safety after the death, including implementing new policies and trainings and adding a new shuttle service.

University: McCluskey’s murder was ‘preventable tragedy’

McCluskey and Rowland had met at a bar and dated for about a month. When McCluskey learned Rowland had a criminal conviction, and had lied about his age and name, she ended the relationship.

Over the course of the next two weeks, she called campus police a number of times to report he was sending her harassing messages, as well as attempting to extort money from her. She told police she sent $1,000 to an account in the hopes of keeping compromising photos of her private, according to a review of the incident.

Audio from McCluskey’s 911 calls to Salt Lake City Police show that she was increasingly frustrated by the pace of the university investigation.

The university said in the settlement “that the murder of Lauren McCluskey was a brutal, senseless, and preventable tragedy and acknowledges the unspeakable loss the McCluskey family has suffered and continues to suffer.”

‘Hope for the future’

As part of the settlement, the University of Utah said it will raise funds to construct an indoor track facility that will be named after Lauren McCluskey, who was a track athlete at the school.

The university will also rename the newly launched Center for Violence Prevention as the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention.

“We share with the McCluskeys an interest in working to improve safety for all students, not only on our campus but on campuses across the country. With our commitment to learning from our mistakes, we honor Lauren and ensure her legacy will be improved campus safety for all students,” Watkins said.

As part of the campus safety improvements, the university has also consolidated evening classes in

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Family of murdered college athlete Lauren McCluskey settles with University of Utah for $13.5 million

Lauren McCluskey was killed by her ex-boyfriend in October 2018.

Two years to the day after the brutal murder of University of Utah athlete Lauren McCluskey, her parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, and the university announced a $10.5 million settlement in a lawsuit against the school. In addition, the school will donate $3 million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

“The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation,” University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins said during a press conference held Thursday. “As a result, we have failed Lauren and her family. If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren.”

Lauren McCluskey was found dead in a parked car near a residential hall on campus in October 2018. Melvin Rowland, McCluskey’s former boyfriend, allegedly shot and killed her before killing himself the same night.

McCluskey, 21, had reported to the university police that Rowland, 37, was harassing and stalking her. McCluskey ended their brief relationship after learning he was a registered sex offender who lied about his identity and criminal history, including a 2004 conviction of enticing a minor, police said.

The settlement comes after the McCluskeys filed a second lawsuit in June saying the university violated the state constitution. The complaint states in the weeks leading up to Lauren’s murder, she was being “sexually and physically abused, stalked and threatened by her killer” and that the police “dismissed and avoided her requests for help.”

PHOTO: Jill McCluskey, the mother of slain University of Utah student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, speaks during a press conference announcing they have reached a settlement in their lawsuit against the university Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Jill McCluskey, the mother of slain University of Utah student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, speaks during a press conference announcing they have reached a settlement in their lawsuit against the university Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Lauren and her friends reported incidents of abusive behavior to university officials in addition to their fears of violence, according to the complaint. The complaint also states the university officials dismissed her requests for help.

In an interview with ABC News in January 2019, her parents said the university did not take Lauren’s complaints seriously.

“They seemed to show no curiosity about this person who had lied about his age, his name, his … he was a sex offender,” Matt McCluskey told ABC News. “And then they found out that he’s also a felon.”

“They should’ve investigated,” her father added. “They would’ve very quickly found his parole status in one call and it would … we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

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Family of slain University of Utah athlete Lauren McCluskey reach $13.5M settlement with school

The family of slain University of Utah track athlete Lauren McCluskey has reached a $13.5 million settlement with the school.



a group of people playing football on a field: Family of slain University of Utah athlete Lauren McCluskey reach $13.5M settlement with school


© Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Family of slain University of Utah athlete Lauren McCluskey reach $13.5M settlement with school

The settlement was announced Thursday, which was the second anniversary of her death. University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said the school “acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have.”

Under the settlement, the state of Utah will pay the McCluskeys $10.5 million by March 31. The University will contribute $3 million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation by the same date.

The school also pledged to build an indoor track facility that will have her name by Dec. 31, 2030. If the facility is not finished by that time, then the school will make an additional $3 million contribution to the foundation no later than June 30, 2031.

The university also will rename its Center for Violence Prevention as the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention.

“We share with the McCluskeys an interest in working to improve safety for all students, not only on our campus but on campuses across the country,” Watkins said Thursday. “With our commitment to learning from our mistakes, we honor Lauren and ensure her legacy will be improved campus safety for all students.”

Melvin Rowland, the man McCluskey dated for just a few weeks, kidnapped and shot McCluskey seven times in October 2018 before taking his own life.

Two months after her death, Watkins said that an internal review hadn’t found anything to suggest that her death could have been prevented.

McCluskey’s family filed a suit in June, alleging that before her death, she turned over photographs Rowland used to blackmail her to officer Miguel Deras, who McCluskey’s parents claim saved the images and shared them with other officers.

Deras’s attorney told KSL NewsRadio in May that the allegations were “absolutely untrue.”

The McCluskeys filed a separate lawsuit for civil rights allegations, claiming that their daughter’s case was treated differently due to her gender. The family sought $56 million for both suits.

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Family of slain student Lauren McCluskey gets $13.5M settlement from University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The parents of a University of Utah track athlete who was killed by her ex-boyfriend on campus two years ago reached a $13.5 million settlement Thursday with the university, which acknowledged that it didn’t handle the woman’s case properly.

University of Utah President Ruth Watkins and the parents of Lauren McCluskey announced the settlement at a joint news conference in Salt Lake City that came on the second anniversary of her death. The case brought new national attention to campus safety and dating-violence issues at universities, spurring several changes at the University of Utah.

McCluskey, 21 of Pullman, Washington, had contacted university police more than 20 times to report harassment by the man she had dated before she was found fatally shot in a car near on-campus student housing in October 2018.

Remembering Lauren McCluskey

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“We failed Lauren and her family,” Watkins said. “If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren.”

That marked a shift from what Watkins said back in December 2018 when she said that she hadn’t found anything in an initial review of the case to indicate McCluskey’s death could have been prevented.

Jill and Matt McCluskey bristled at those comments and sued the university in 2019, seeking $56 million while claiming the college was negligent in failing to protect their daughter.

An independent review commissioned by the university found multiple missed warning signs before Lauren McCluskey was killed by 37-year-old Melvin Shawn Rowland after she dumped him because she discovered he had been lying about his name, age and status as a sex offender. Rowland took his own life after the attack as police tracked him down.



a person wearing a costume: Image: Ruth Watkins, Jill McCluskey (Rick Bowmer / AP)


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Image: Ruth Watkins, Jill McCluskey (Rick Bowmer / AP)

The university will pay the McCluskeys $10.5 million and give another $3 million to a foundation founded in their daughter’s name that is designed to improve campus safety, as well as help collegiate track athletes and animal shelters. An indoor track facility will also be built and named after Lauren McCluskey as part of the settlement.

The McCluskeys said all the money will go to the Lauren McCluskey foundation.

“This settlement is important for many reasons,” Jill McCluskey said. “It addresses how Lauren died, but it also honors how she lived.”

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Lauren McCluskey’s Parents And University Of Utah Reach Settlement In Lawsuits

On Oct. 22, 2018, Utah track and field athlete Lauren McCluskey was senselessly murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Melvin Rowland, a convicted sex offender who lied about his age and identity, tried to extort her for the sexual images she had shared with him during their time together.

While the murder and ensuing case made national news, the time the followed was nearly as difficult as the murder itself. Interesting pieces of the murder, and what led to it, detailed a flawed investigation by the University of Utah and the police department. Reports showed that both McCluskey and her mother Jill contacted the campus police as many as 10 days prior to the murder.

Now exactly two years later since that fateful day, and after Lauren’s parents had filed lawsuits against the school at the state level arguing that the University was criminally negligent, a settlement between both parties has been reached.

“The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation,” University of Utah president Ruth Watkins said in a formal statement. “As a result, we failed Lauren and her family. If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren.”

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Lauren McCluskey, former Utah track and field athlete

SETTLEMENT DETAILS

As part of the settlement, the University of Utah’s ‘Center for Violence Prevention’ will now be renamed as the ‘McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention.’ The University will also pay the McCluskey family $10.5-million by March 31, 2021, and make a charitable donation of $3-million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

Another part of the settlement will ensure that Lauren’s name lives forever within the walls of Utah athletics. The University said it will raise funds to construct an indoor athletic facility with a track to be named in Lauren’s honor by late 2030.

This will benefit the student-athletes ad Utah and allow them to train year-round, especially during the harsh winter months — which can sometimes last from November-through-March. As of now, athletes must travel to the Olympic Oval to train during the winter, making the commute just under an hour one way. If for whatever reason the funds aren’t raised by June 30, 2031, the University will make another $3-million donation to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

“As part of the settlement, the University of Utah has pledged to build an indoor track facility. … Named after Lauren. We are also honored that her name will be associated with the Center for Violence Prevention,” Jill said. “Track and field was a very important part of Lauren’s life. She was a very hard worker and she was honored to be a member of the Track and Field Team at the University of Utah.”

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Lauren McCluskey, former Utah track and field athlete

INVESTIGATION DETAILS

McCluskey was murdered on October 22, 2018, three days

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Former University of Utah officer who showed off explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey won’t face charges

A former University of Utah police officer will not face criminal charges for showing off explicit photos of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey to his co-workers.



a car parked in a parking lot: (Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Police cars sit in the parking lot of the University of Utah police department.


© Francisco Kjolseth
(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Police cars sit in the parking lot of the University of Utah police department.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Thursday that his office has declined to prosecute Miguel Deras. While he believes the officer’s actions were “definitely reckless,” Gill said there is no Utah law for addressing this type of police misconduct.

“We realized there was no real statute we could use for this case,” Gill said. “We’re incensed like everyone else by the behavior. It was inappropriate. But if there’s not a statute, there’s nothing we can do.”

The decision was announced after the last day Gill could have filed misdemeanor charges for abusing evidence. The statute of limitations has now expired.

Though the Utah Department of Public Safety found in August that Deras had inappropriately shown off the pictures of McCluskey to at least three of his male colleagues without a work-related reason, the actual display occurred two years ago in the days before McCluskey was killed on campus in October 2018.

“We just got it so late and were limited in what options we had,” Gill said.

Without many avenues for charges of officer misconduct, Gill’s office examined whether they could charge Deras under what’s called the “revenge porn law” in Utah. With that, sharing or displaying a compromising photo of someone without the person’s consent can be prosecuted. The statute, though, requires proof that the person in the images was harmed. McCluskey’s death, Gill said, made that impossible.

Members of the person’s family being hurt, such as McCluskey’s parents, doesn’t count.

Jill and Matt McCluskey said Thursday that they were disappointed in Gill for “not pursuing justice” in their daughter’s case.

“Instead of helping her, Deras showed her images to other male officers and bragged about it,” they said in an email. “A consequence of Gill’s decision is that women will hesitate to report extortion and harassment for fear that the private information they provide will be compromised, or even leered at, by officers for reasons unrelated to her case.”

Their attorney, Jim McConkie, doesn’t agree with Gill’s reading of the law.

For one thing, he said, Lauren McCluskey was harmed while she was alive by the officer choosing to show off her photos and not spending the time investigating her concerns. And he believes her reputation should be considered a part of her that lives on now.

“What Gill is saying to women with this decision is ‘We can’t help you. Don’t come to us,’” McConkie added.

Gill said he intends to lobby the Utah Legislature to update state law on officer misconduct, particularly as it applies to viewing or showing off sensitive victim photos. But that won’t change anything in Deras’ case.

“There’s genuine concern over what the officer was engaging in,” the district attorney said. “We

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