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Utah student’s 911 calls asked police to stop her harasser. Days later she was murdered

(CNN) – Lauren McCluskey was both concerned and frustrated when she called Salt Lake City Police on October 19.

A convicted sex offender whom she had met just a month earlier was continually harassing her after she ended their short relationship. But police at the University of Utah, where she was a student, weren’t doing enough to put a stop to it, she said in a call to 911.

“I’m worried because I’ve been working with the campus police at the U, and last Saturday I reported and I haven’t gotten an update,” she told Salt Lake City Police dispatch.

“They haven’t updated or done anything,” she added.

That 911 call and one other from McCluskey were obtained by CNN just days after a review of the case from the Utah Department of Public Safety examined what could have been done differently to prevent her death.

McCluskey, a 21-year-old University of Utah senior and track athlete, was shot and killed by that harasser, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, on October 22, officials say. Rowland, a convicted sex offender who had spent more than a decade in prison, killed himself hours later after a police chase, university police said.

The review of the killing found that University of Utah officers did not know how to look up criminal background or parole information, CNN affiliate KUTV said. The review also found that Rowland had been released on parole three separate times, and had violated his parole and returned to prison twice.

The university said that these issues were more system-wide and not related to any individual wrongdoing or mistakes.

“The review team’s report identified gaps in training, awareness and enforcement of certain policies rather than lapses in individual performance,” the university said.

McCluskey and Rowland met at a bar in September and dated for about a month until McCluskey learned he had a criminal conviction and had lied about his age and name, the review said. She ended the relationship on October 9, according to a time line of the events.

Over the course of the next two weeks, she called campus police a number of times to report harassing messages as well as an attempted extortion. She told police she sent $1,000 to an account in hopes of keeping compromising photos of her private, according to the review.

Audio from McCluskey’s 911 calls to Salt Lake City Police show that she was increasingly frustrated by the pace of the university investigation. She first called Salt Lake City Police on October 13 to say that she had been blackmailed for money, and the dispatcher advised her to talk to University of Utah police.

“I’ve contacted them already, I just wanted to talk to you as well,” McCluskey said. “Yeah, I was just concerned because I wasn’t sure how long they were gonna take.”

A week later she called Salt Lake City Police again to follow up on the case and said it had been a week since her last update. But again the dispatcher referred her to the school’s police, which had jurisdiction over the case.

McCluskey’s parents, Jill and Matthew McCluskey, posted a rebuttal to the review of her case, according to CNN affiliate KUTV. Their rebuttal lays out a number of instances in which University of Utah police failed to properly escalate what, they say, had become an increasingly dangerous situation.

“We respectfully disagree with the conclusion that Lauren’s murder could not have been prevented,” the parents wrote. “There were numerous opportunities to protect her during the almost two weeks between the time when our daughter began expressing repeated, elevating and persistent concerns about her situation and the time of her murder.”

Julia Leon

Julia is a Digital Content Specialist for KVOA News 4 Tucson. In 2018, she earned a bachelor’s of arts degree in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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