Tributes, vigil for slain U track star

Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds gathered at the steps of the Park Building on campus Wednesday evening to remember Lauren McCluskey, a University of Utah track star who police say was shot and killed by a man she briefly dated.

They held candles and shared memories of someone they say was caring, kind, talented and smart.

“Words really fail at times like these, incapable of capturing our campus shock and our heartbreak, which we know pales in comparison to what those who love Lauren best are experiencing today. The act of violence that took Lauren’s life defies understanding,” said U. President Ruth Watkins.

The football, volleyball, track and soccer teams all have special decals and patches, and plan moments of silence for the track star at upcoming games or have done so already. Her hometown of Pullman, Washington, also held a vigil on Wednesday.

Even Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell paid tribute, by writing Lauren’s name on his shoes before Wednesday night’s game.

“Obviously, having a little sister, this one really hits with me because if anything happened to her, I’d be devastated,” Mitchell said. “So, for that to happen, my condolences to the family. I don’t know them, I don’t know her personally but it’s so sad to see something like that happen.”

As we’ve reported before, the suspect, Melvin Rowland was on the Utah Sex Offender and Kidnapper Registry since 2004, stemming from two separate charges. He spent time in and out of prison. We also know at least two women filed for protective orders against him.

Campus police say they will hold another briefing updating the case at 4 pm on Thursday.

Mary Richards: Mary Richards is a reporter who's been at KSL NewsRadio since 2002. She is a BYU grad, Missouri native, and the mom of four boys and a girl. Contact Mary at mrichards@ksl.com.