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Family of slain student said 37-year-old gunman lied to her about his age, sex offender history

SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a University of Utah student who was shot and killed on campus Monday night says the man accused of killing their daughter lied to her about his age and his criminal history during their brief relationship.

Lauen McCluskey (Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah)

Lauren McCluskey was found dead near campus housing Monday after police responded to a report of an attempted abduction. The suspected gunman was found dead later inside a church in Salt Lake City.

The McCluskey family says the two had dated for about a month and that 37-year-old Melvin Rowland lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history. Rowland is a registered sex offender and was convicted for attempted forcible sex abuse in 2014, according to KSTU.

The family states that after Lauren learned about Rowland’s past, she ended the relationship on October 9. She requested assistance from the University of Utah Police in getting her car back from the man on October 10.

The family further states Lauren blocked the man from contacting her and reported to police she was being harassed.

Monday night, he encountered her on the U of U campus.

37-year-old Melvin Rowland, suspected of killing female University of Utah student.

Lauren’s mother, Jill, stated she was on the phone with her daughter when the attack began.

“Last night a little before 9 pm, she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone,” Jill McCluskey stated. “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.”

The family says Lauren was an outstanding student with a 3.75 GPA and a standout on the school track team. She was set to graduate in May of 2019.

The full statement from the McCluskey family:

“It is with deepest sadness that we let you know that our daughter Lauren McCluskey, age 21, was the University of Utah student who was killed last night. Lauren previously dated her killer for about one month. He lied to her 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. 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. Last night a little before 9 pm, she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone. 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.

Lauren was a senior student athlete on the University of Utah track team. She was an outstanding student with a 3.75 GPA majoring in Communication and was excited to graduate in May 2019. She was a 2015 honors graduate of Pullman High School where she was the Washington state champion in the high jump and the school record holder in the 100 meter hurdles. She attended Capital Church in Salt Lake City. She loved to sing and had strength and determination. She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.”

Classes have been cancelled at the University on Tuesday. A vigil for McCluskey is scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m. on the steps of the Park Building.

President Ruth K. Watkins said she will attend the vigil, and she expressed her grief Tuesday in a letter.

“As a campus community, we share grief over this tragic loss of life,” Watkins stated. “Our deepest sympathy is extended to Lauren’s family and friends.”

U of U Athletic Director Mark Harlan also issued a statement on McCluskey’s death.

“Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our own. 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.”