The story of the University of Utah’s failure to appropriately respond to Lauren McCluskey’s concerns will play out for a national television audience on Monday, when the events surrounding her murder are the subject of NBC’s “Dateline.”
The hour, titled “She Did Everything Right,” is “not a typical 'Dateline' story,” said correspondent Josh Mankiewicz, NBC's reporter on the story. “There’s no mystery about who committed murder. The story is what happened before the murder and whether it could have been prevented. And whether the University of Utah met its responsibilities.”
In Utah, the episode of “Dateline” will air at 9 p.m. MDT on KSL-Channel 5.
McCluskey, a 21-year-old senior who was a member of the U.'s track team, was shot to death outside her campus dorm by Melvin S. Rowland, a 37-year-old registered sex offender she had briefly dated. McCluskey had repeatedly contacted campus police to report her concerns about Rowland — who, it turned out, was on parole at the time — but campus police did not take her concerns seriously.
That’s according to a report commissioned by the university itself.
The “Dateline” report isn’t a whodunnit and it’s not about a manhunt. Shortly after the murder, Rowland killed himself while he was being pursued by police.
But the hour is not without mystery. The focus is on how the murder could have happened despite McCluskey’s many attempts to get help from university police.
“You can’t tell the story of Lauren’s murder without also telling the story of how many times she reached out for help to those whom she thought were going to protect her,” Mankiewicz said.
“Dateline” includes interviews with Lauren’s friends and parents; Salt Lake Tribune reporter Courtney Tanner is also featured.
Jill and Matt McCluskey have criticized the U. and called for individuals who failed to help her to be disciplined. But they tell “Dateline” they are “less interested in having any one person fired than they are in bringing about a cultural change at the U. — one in which stalking and relationship violence are taken seriously,” Mankiewicz said. “One in which the campus police department is equipped to deal with that and be more proactive in protecting students.”
Mankiewicz also interviewed University of Utah officials and, according to the NBC News correspondent, they “backed away” from President Ruth Watkins’ statement that the university-commissioned report “does not offer any reason to believe that this tragedy could have been prevented.”
“In our interview, they did own their mistakes and shortcomings,” he said.
The McCluskeys were interviewed before the recent university police awards ceremony that honored three people for their efforts related to their daughter’s murder — which Matt McCluskey told The Tribune “borders on obscene.”
Campus police apologized on Twitter for “the inclusion of Lauren’s name on the program”; they did not apologize for presenting the awards.