CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Student killed at U. was track and field athlete

Oct 23, 2018, 9:45 AM | Updated: 3:25 pm
Lauren McCluskey...
This Aug. 21, 2018 photo, provided by the University of Utah, shows Lauren McCluskey, a member of the University of Utah cross country and track and field team. McCluskey, a University of Utah student was shot and killed on campus by a former boyfriend Melvin Rowland, who was found dead hours later inside a church Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, authorities said. (Steve C. Wilson/University of Utah via AP)
(Steve C. Wilson/University of Utah via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah identified a student who was shot and killed Monday night as Lauren McCluskey, a senior majoring in communications and a member of the track and field team from Pullman, Washington.

Police gather near the South Medical Tower on the University of Utah campus during a search for a man they say shot and killed a University of Utah student outside of a dormitory on campus, Oct. 22, 2018. (Kristin Murphy//The Deseret News via AP)

“Her family is understandably in shock at this news about their daughter. They are heartbroken. We have and continue to offer our full support to them at this terrible time,” said University President Ruth V. Watkins in a statement released early Tuesday morning.

Campus police say McCluskey was shot and killed just before 9 pm in the parking lot of the Shoreline Ridge dormitories. That’s in the area of South Medical Plaza and Red Butte Canyon Road.

Police locked down the campus and launched a search for 37-year-old Melvin Rowland.

student killed at university of utah

Police say he broke into the Trinity AME Church downtown, and early Tuesday morning, he died by suicide.

Investigators are trying to piece together any connections between the suspect and the victim, but the McCluskey’s mother, Jill, reached out to KSL Tuesday morning to confirm her daughter had had a brief relationship with Rowland, which ended earlier this month. Her statement reads:

It is with deepest sadness that we let you know that our daughter Lauren McCluskey, age 21, was the University of Utah student who was killed last night.  Lauren previously dated her killer for about one month.  He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history.  Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018.  He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accompany her on October 10, 2018 to get the car back.  She blocked his and his friends’ phone numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed.  Last night a little before 9 pm, she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone.  Suddenly, I heard her yell, “No, no, no!” I thought she might have been in a car accident.  That was the last I heard from her.  My husband called 911. I kept the line open and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren’s things were on the ground.

Lauren was a senior student athlete on the University of Utah track team.  She was an outstanding student with a 3.75 GPA majoring in Communication and was excited to graduate in May 2019.  She was a 2015 honors graduate of Pullman High School where she was Washington state champion in the high jump and the school record holder in the 100 meter hurdles.  She attended Capital Church in Salt Lake City.  She loved to sing and had strength and determination.  She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, campus police confirmed they had been contacted around Oct. 12 or 13 about Rowland, and a detective had been working with McCluskey to build a case against him.

In this Aug. 30, 2017 photo, provided by the University of Utah, shows Lauren McCluskey, a member of the University of Utah cross country and track and field team, runs in Salt Lake City. McCluskey, a University of Utah student was shot and killed on campus by a former boyfriend Melvin Rowland, who was found dead hours later inside a church Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, authorities said. (Steve C. Wilson/University of Utah via AP)

McCluskey’s track and field community was clearly stricken. Director of Athletics Mark Harlan said the team met early Tuesday to process the news “with hugs.”

“This isn’t right. I don’t really have any words,” he said. “When something like this happens, it just defies any logic and any reason.”

Classes have been canceled at the U. for Tuesday, though campus will remain open and support services will be available to any student who may feel like they need someone to talk to.

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Student killed at U. was track and field athlete