Twice in 2015, Salt Lake City police suspected Melvin Shawn Rowland — who last week fatally shot student Lauren McCluskey on the University of Utah campus — of burglarizing the apartment of another woman he had dated, according to documents released Monday.
Rowland was not charged with a crime in either of those two burglary reports. In a third case in 2015, a woman reported she was afraid of Rowland, but it was that woman who was then arrested on suspicion of theft.
The four reports provided by Salt Lake City police on Monday further develop the portrait police and people who knew Rowland have painted of him — and of previous law enforcement contact with him — since he stalked and killed McCluskey outside her dorm on the night of Oct. 22. University of Utah police Chief Dale Brophy has called Rowland a liar who took advantage of others in order to get a weapon, find McCluskey and kill her. Other women who dated Rowland have described him as a manipulator who displayed possessive and harassing behavior.
Rowland was convicted of sex crimes in 2004, was paroled for the first time in 2012 and was back and forth to the Utah State Prison until he was paroled for the final time in April 2018. The Salt Lake City Police Department took its first report about Rowland on April 27, 2004, about six weeks after he pleaded guilty to enticing a minor over the Internet and attempted forcible sex abuse.
Rowland’s roommate told police Rowland volunteered to take over his cellphone contract, ran up $1,200 in charges in about three months and refused to pay, the report said. The contract was still in the roommate’s name. The report indicates police officers didn’t investigate; rather, the cellphone provider wanted the roommate to make a police report to document what happened so Rowland could be pursued through civil processes.
Rowland was sentenced and sent to prison about 12 weeks after the report was filed.
Then on Feb. 16, 2015, as Rowland was on parole, a woman calling herself his ex-girlfriend reported she came home to find a small television and a BluRay player missing from her residence in the Central City neighborhood. Rowland was supposed to have returned his house key and leave it under the doormat. Instead, he left the key where the television had sat.
The woman told police the electronics had been gifts from Rowland, and she believed he took them in retaliation for their breakup. Two days after making the first report, the woman told another Salt Lake City police officer that she would pursue the belongings in a civil action.
The next month, the woman called police to say she had been burglarized again. This time, the woman came home and found someone had entered through a bedroom window and took a television, DVD player and coffee maker.
The woman told police that Rowland had returned the items taken in February. The report lists Rowland as the suspect in the March 2015 burglary and said a crime scene unit was deployed to search for fingerprints.
The last report discussing Rowland starts in the last few minutes of Nov. 1, 2015. The woman who contacted police said a woman came upstairs to where she was living, said she was afraid of her boyfriend — Rowland — and needed a place to hide.
The resident let the woman inside, they talked and went to bed. Then the resident woke up to find the woman in her bedroom crawling on her hands and knees.
The woman said she was looking for a cellphone. As the resident got out of bed, the woman left. That’s when the resident realized some of her possessions, including a $750 laptop computer, were missing.
The resident lived next door to Rowland, and police officers who responded to the theft complaint went to his residence to ask questions. According to the report, a police officer saw what he or she described as “property” strewn across Rowland’s floor.
Police found the girlfriend there, too, and she said she didn’t steal the laptop, claiming she had permission to take it. She said she had been using the laptop to look up buying a Greyhound ticket to get away from Rowland.
The officers arrested her. The report doesn’t specify why she was afraid of Rowland or whether he was home when police arrived. Salt Lake City police redacted the name of the girlfriend.
Salt Lake City police Detective Robert Ungricht said fingerprints in the March 2015 burglary were compared to those in a law enforcement database and no matches were found.
“They couldn't prove that he did it,” Ungricht said.
There’s no indication Salt Lake City police told Utah’s parole agency that it was investigating Rowland. Ungricht said the detectives probably wouldn’t have known Rowland was on parole unless someone told them or they looked it up.
If they did know, it would have been at the detectives’ discretion whether to seek help from Rowland’s parole agent.
“Generally speaking,” Ungricht said, “we don’t just send stuff off to” the parole agency.
Whether parole agents should have been contacted has come up in McCluskey’s slaying. University police were investigating whether Rowland extorted McCluskey but did not tell his parole agent. Parole agents can search their parolees’ homes, computers, phones and possessions without warrants. [Update: The failure by campus police to investigate whether Rowland was on parole was one of a series of missteps cited by independent investigators.]
Rowland was sent back to prison in February 2016 after he was found using the internet to meet women for sex. The parole board had forbid him from using social media. He was paroled in April 2018 completing another round of sex offender treatment.