The detective assigned to investigate Lauren McCluskey’s complaints about harassment and extortion — which the student reported weeks before she was killed by the man she told officers about — has left the University of Utah’s police department.
The woman, who started working at the campus in March 2016, is no longer in her post as of Wednesday, said U. spokesman Chris Nelson. He declined to say whether she resigned voluntarily or was terminated.
“We won’t talk about personnel issues,” he added.
When reached by phone, the detective said: "I do not have a statement at this time.” She did not respond to a question asking whether she quit or was fired. She retained an attorney Thursday, who also said he would not comment.
Officers who are disciplined can file an appeal. The university has denied an open-records request by The Salt Lake Tribune asking for any documentation of discipline of the officers involved in handling McCluskey’s case.
McCluskey, a 21-year-old track athlete, was killed Oct. 22 outside her campus dorm by Melvin S. Rowland, a 37-year-old registered sex offender who had lied to her about his age and name. He later died by suicide.
McCluskey had called the campus police department several times starting on Oct. 12 to report concerns about Rowland, including threatening text messages from him, after she had ended their brief relationship. University police did not open a formal investigation until seven days later.
But even then, no work happened because the assigned detective was off, and she did not return to the investigation until after McCluskey was killed.
An independent review of the university’s handling of the case found the detective never talked to McCluskey in person and never connected McCluskey to the university’s two victim advocates in its wellness center. But it also found gaps and shortcomings in the way the department trained its officers, and said the detective had been “placed in a position for which she lacked the expertise to recognize subtle indicators of domestic violence cases.”
Chief Dale Brophy has led the campus department since January 2015. U. President Ruth Watkins said in December that Brophy “has my full confidence” to continue to lead the department and train its officers to recognize the warning signs of potential relationship violence; she also said no officers would be disciplined.
The university, through its spokesman, later amended that statement to say it “does not comment on or publicize employee discipline,” and it is possible that staff may be required to undergo training or may receive a corrective letter as the school continues to investigate.
McCluskey’s parents have repeatedly called for the detective and another officer who worked on the case to be disciplined, saying they need to be held accountable for “neglecting [Lauren’s] numerous, persistent attempts to seek help.” They declined to comment Thursday because it was unclear whether the detective had been forced to leave over her handling of the case or if her departure was unrelated.
On the day she died, McCluskey attempted to contact the detective, but she didn’t hear back. She emailed her several screenshots of messages from Rowland trying to lure her out of her dorm, which the detective didn’t open until after McCluskey was killed.
The detective, who was supposed to be off until the next day, never checked her inbox during her time away from the office and didn’t talk to another detective about covering the case in her absence.
The university has since changed that setup and has a detective on-call 24/7.
The independent review of the case also criticized the detective assigned to McCluskey’s case for not checking whether Rowland was on parole — which he was — “when she had evidence that he was a convicted felon and [McCluskey] identified Rowland as a suspect.” In fact, investigators found that no officer on the force had ever run such a check and all were unfamiliar with how to do so.
Some of McCluskey’s allegations, as well as others reported by her friends to housing officials but never forwarded to police, could have led to Rowland’s arrest for violations of the terms of his release.
The woman assigned to McCluskey’s case was hired by the university in 2016 and promoted to detective in September 2017, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before that, she worked as a compliance enforcement officer for Salt Lake City and as an officer in Arizona.
Utah’s police regulators, Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), would investigate the detective only if she were accused of committing a crime or violating the state’s rules for police. Otherwise, she could seek employment at another police force.
Currently, she still has an active certification and does not have any open investigations with POST.
— Salt Lake Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle contributed to this article.