A new ESPN documentary airing later this month will retell the story of the murder of University of Utah student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, detailing the school’s mistakes and the fallout that continued for years to capture attention and drive reform.
The 90-minute documentary is titled “LISTEN,” centered on the failures of those who were supposed to listen to McCluskey as she reported her concerns in the weeks before she was killed, including both campus officers and university housing officials.
A later independent review concluded little was done in response. And in October 2018, McCluskey, then 21, was shot to death outside her dorm by Melvin Rowland, a man she had briefly dated and who she had tried to warn police about. He died by suicide later that night.
A trailer released by ESPN on Wednesday includes campus surveillance footage of McCluskey and Rowland in the days leading up to her murder, as well as video of McCluskey sitting with a friend in the lobby of the campus police department, where she filed a report.
The clips are combined with previously reported audio from the calls McCluskey made to police when Rowland started extorting her for nude images she had taken of herself.
“I’m being blackmailed,” she says in the clip.
“He was lying to her, and he’s actually a sexual offender,” added her mom, Jill McCluskey, in a different call.
In addition to McCluskey’s parents, ESPN interviewed law enforcement officials, including a parole agent who had previously supervised Rowland when he was released from jail after being convicted of sex crimes. They also talked to the campus police officer who was supposed to handle Lauren’s case.
Later reporting from The Salt Lake Tribune — which was confirmed by an independent state investigation — revealed that one officer, Miguel Deras, had showed off the intimate photos of Lauren to his co-workers outside of a staff briefing, without a work-related reason. In the trailer, Deras says: “There’s no way. I wouldn’t do that to her.”
The state’s review from August 2020 said: “Sometime after the briefing, Officer Deras showed the images to a group of officers.” Several recounted either making or hearing crude comments.
The documentary includes a high-profile clip of then-U. President Ruth Watkins speaking during a news conference in December 2018, on the day the university released the independent report that detailed the many missteps made by the school in handling Lauren’s concerns.
Still, Watkins said at the time: “This report does not offer us a reason to believe that this tragedy could have been prevented.”
As a counterpoint to that, the trailer includes Diamond Jackson, a graduate housing adviser, who says: “These parents lost their kid, and you have the audacity to try to cover your a--.” In 2020, the University of Utah acknowledged it could have better protected McCluskey and failed — and agreed to pay out $13.5 million to her parents as part of a legal settlement.
The documentary was directed by Nicole Noren, an ESPN investigative producer. It airs on ESPN+ on Tuesday, March 28 at 5 p.m. MDT.