Lauren McCluskey was worried about how long University of Utah police would take to respond to her reports that she had received harassing messages and an extortion threat. She decided to reach out to Salt Lake City police.
“Hi, I’ve been blackmailed, um, for money,” Lauren McCluskey said during the start of her Oct. 13 phone call to the Salt Lake City Police Department, which released a recording of the call Friday.
McCluskey explained she already filed a report with the police at the University of Utah, but she hadn’t heard any update. “I was just concerned because I wasn’t sure how long they were going to take to file an arrest,” McCluskey told the Salt Lake City police dispatcher.
McCluskey, a 21-year-old heptathlete on the U. track team, was killed Oct. 22 outside her campus dorm by the man she had told law enforcement about, Melvin S. Rowland, a registered sex offender on parole who later died by suicide.
She had contacted the campus police department on Oct. 12 to report getting harassing messages; she had called campus police again the next day to report she was getting messages threatening to distribute compromising photos of her with Rowland.
Salt Lake City police on Friday released recordings of the two calls McCluskey also made to them, as well as one call her father made after Rowland abducted her and a search was underway. In her two calls to Salt Lake City police, McCluskey expressed frustration that campus law enforcement wasn’t moving quickly enough.
University of Utah police did not formally open a case until the day of McCluskey’s second call to Salt Lake City police. An independent report released Wednesday found shortcomings in the campus police department’s response, including a failure to see that her case raised issues of possible interpersonal violence and delayed responses to information she was providing.
Her parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, dispute the university’s assertion that the report showed there’s no “reason to believe” the slaying could have been prevented — and they want individuals disciplined for failing to act. “The recordings speak for themselves,” Jill McCluskey said in a Friday statement issued through a family spokesman.
Salt Lake City police redacted the parts of the Oct. 13 call where McCluskey describes how she is being extorted, as well as where McCluskey gives her address and describes where she lives. When the dispatcher realized McCluskey lived on campus, she asked if McCluskey had called university police.
“I’ve called them already,” McCluskey replied. “I just wanted to call you, as well.”
The Salt Lake City dispatcher explained that campus police should have given her a case number and will follow up. Then McCluskey said she was concerned about how long university police would take. After about three minutes, the Salt Lake City dispatcher transferred McCluskey to a dispatcher at the U.
In the Oct. 19 call, McCluskey expressed more concern about the time lapsing.
“Last Saturday I reported,” McCluskey told a Salt Lake City police dispatcher, “and I haven’t gotten an update.”
“They haven’t updated or anything,” McCluskey said again a few moments later.
McCluskey also worried aloud that someone at the campus police department was tipping off Rowland about its investigation. The independent report said there was no insider; that it appeared Rowland still had access to McCluskey’s email account and could see the messages she was sending to police and others.
McCluskey’s Oct. 19 call ends with the dispatcher telling her to call the U. detective assigned to her case. Then the dispatcher tells McCluskey that if she sees her blackmailer off campus, Salt Lake City police is the best agency to call.
McCluskey was on the phone with her mother on Oct. 22 when Rowland approached her in the parking lot of her campus residence hall. Rowland forced McCluskey into a car and shot and killed her.
McCluskey’s parents called campus police to report their daughter had been abducted. While a search was underway, McCluskey’s father, Matt McCluskey, then called Salt Lake City police to make sure officers there knew what was happening, too.
“I just want to make sure that you guys know about that,” he said.
After some discussion back and forth between Matt McCluskey and the dispatcher, the dispatcher conferred with others in Salt Lake City’s dispatch center and confirmed city police were aware of the situation.