A parole agent spoke with Melvin S. Rowland six days before authorities say Rowland killed University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey on campus, the Utah Department of Corrections said on Wednesday.
The date of that conversation — Oct. 16 — appears to reveal a gap in communication from University of Utah police to parole agents, and a possible missed opportunity to confront Rowland before McCluskey’s Monday slaying.
University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy said Tuesday that McCluskey told campus police Rowland was harassing her, and that she made reports on Oct. 12 and 13. McCluskey had dated Rowland for a month and broke off their relationship on Oct. 9, after discovering he had lied about his name and age and had not disclosed that he was a registered sex offender, her family has said.
Brophy said his officers could not find Rowland. Part of his explanation Tuesday was that Rowland had walked away from a state halfway house for parolees and men transitioning out of prison.
But Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kaitlin Felsted said later Tuesday that was incorrect, and that Rowland was living at the Salt Lake City address listed for him on the sex offender registry.
Felsted on Tuesday did not immediately know the details of contact between Adult Probation and Parole, a division of Corrections, and Rowland.
But the Oct. 16 call she described Wednesday shows parole officials were in contact with Rowland as campus police were looking for him. The last face-to-face meeting between Rowland and an agent was Aug. 15, she said.
When parolees are accused of new crimes, they often can be arrested for violating parole and sent back to prison; Rowland, 37, had repeatedly been returned to prison for violations.
But university police had not alerted Adult Probation and Parole that Rowland was allegedly harassing McCluskey, Felsted said. So the agent who spoke with Rowland Oct. 16 did not know there were allegations that may have been considered a violation of his parole.
University spokesman Chris Nelson declined to comment Wednesday. A briefing by Brophy on the investigation into McCluskey’s shooting is scheduled Thursday.
Rowland was convicted in 2004 of attempted forcible sexual abuse of a 17-year-old and in a separate case, enticing a minor over the internet. Hours after McCluskey’s fatal shooting, police found Rowland dead inside a Salt Lake City church from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
McCluskey was a 21-year-old senior from Pullman, Wash., and a heptathlete on the U.'s track team. Her family said in a statement that University of Utah police had, with McCluskey, located and met Rowland on Oct. 10 to retrieve her car from him. On Tuesday, Brophy said it was unclear whether those officers had been from the campus department. Salt Lake City police say they do not have a record of such a call from McCluskey.
Felsted on Tuesday described Rowland as “not fully compliant” with the terms of his parole, but said the violations were not so severe they would send him back to prison and that Rowland was working toward getting into compliance. She on Wednesday declined to release further information about the violations.