University of Utah police told Lauren McCluskey to report back if her ex-boyfriend’s behavior escalated. She did.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune)
Photos of Lauren McCluskey on display as It's On Us Utah hosts a celebration of McCluskey's life at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Friday Oct. 26, 2018.
When University of Utah student and heptathlete Lauren McCluskey first reported that she was getting harassing messages from friends of a man she dated, campus police told her there wasn’t much they could do.
That changed the next day. McCluskey, 21
, filed a new report — this time saying the man, Melvin Shawn Rowland
, was threatening to release compromising photos of her. McCluskey showed a University of Utah police officer screenshots of her messages with Rowland, who demanded $1,000 or else he would distribute the photos, according to a police report released Tuesday.
Nine days later, Rowland fatally shot McCluskey outside her dorm
. He later died by suicide at a Salt Lake City church.
The two police reports the university provided to The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday — dated Oct. 12 and 13 — corroborate the account police Chief Dale Brophy provided last week
of those two days. He said a detective was assigned to her case Oct. 19 and described later police contact with McCluskey, but those interactions are not included in the two released reports.
The university is not releasing recordings of 911 calls and witness statements related to McCluskey’s complaints to police and the murder itself, said campus spokesman Shawn Wood. He said those documents are part of a planned independent review into Police Department protocols and whether McCluskey’s death reveals any needed changes.
(Courtesy photo) Pictured is Melvin Rowland in a photo he shared with a woman he dated.
University President Ruth Watkins said she will appoint an independent reviewer
to examine those protocols. Wood on Tuesday said the university hopes to announce the reviewer or panel in the next day or two.
McCluskey and Rowland dated for about a month. She broke up with him Oct. 9 after she discovered he was 37 — not 30 as he claimed — and on the sex offender registry
under his full name; she knew him as Shawn Rowland. Rowland pleaded guilty in 2004 to one count of enticing a minor over the internet and a count of attempted forcible sexual abuse.
The police reports begin three days after the breakup. McCluskey said she was receiving messages from Rowland’s friends saying he had died.
“McCluskey stated she doesn’t believe that Rowland is dead,” a police officer wrote, “but she is concerned that his friends are trying to lure her into a trap for some reason.”
The report said McCluskey had not received any specific threats.
“I explained that without any threats or anything of a criminal nature that there isn’t much we can do,” the police officer wrote, “but I told her to contact us if this escalates. I also advised her that she would need to tell them to stop contacting her before it would be harassment. I also advised her to not meet up with the friends if she thinks they want to do something to her.”
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune)
University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy and President Ruth Watkins at a press conference regarding the killing of University of Utah student athlete Lauren McCluskey, in Salt Lake City, Thursday Oct. 25, 2018.
Brophy on Thursday said police have come to believe
it was only Rowland sending the harassing messages and that he used technology to spoof his cellphone number.
On Oct. 13, McCluskey called police again to say Rowland was extorting her. The police report doesn’t describe the photos or even specify whether they existed, but McCluskey used an app to send Rowland the $1,000. Then she decided to call police.
The officer who took the report told McCluskey to rescind the payment. The officer also looked up Rowland’s convictions and entered them into the report; Brophy has said the department did not discover Rowland was on parole. A parole officer could have searched Rowland’s phone and computer without needing a warrant, and could have determined whether there was evidence he was violating the conditions of his parole.
The day after the murder, Brophy said police had unsuccessfully looked for Rowland and explained Rowland had walked away from a halfway house. Later that day and again Thursday, the university said that had been incorrect and Rowland did not abscond from a halfway house. But campus police have not clarified and the released reports do not say whether campus police were searching for Rowland, who parole officers said was living at the address provided on the state’s sex offender registry.
One report gives one previously unreported detail of the day McCluskey broke up with Rowland. As she waited for him to arrive at her dorm, the report says, McCluskey saw that Rowland “was [peeking] through her dorm room window.”
“Lauren stated that scared her,” the officer wrote, “moments later Shawn knocked on her door.”