The University of Utah releases phone calls from the McCluskey murder

Jan 17, 2019, 2:06 PM | Updated: Feb 26, 2019, 12:14 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)

Jill McCluskey was worried that her daughter Lauren was in danger.

The concerned mother called campus dispatch in early October to request assistance from university police.

Jill’s phone call was one of fifteen calls that preceded Lauren’s murder released by the University of Utah on Thursday.

“Someone’s going to hurt her.”

In the first call on October 10, 2018, Jill tells dispatch that Lauren had been dating someone and had her car. Lauren had broken up with him and wanted her car back. He had not returned her car yet, the mother said.

“I’m worried that he’s dangerous,” Jill McCluskey said.

On the recording, campus dispatch tells Jill she should have Lauren call for help. Jill requested that dispatch call Lauren and dispatch agrees to to make the call.

Jill said that the man, Melvin S. Rowland, is a sexual offender and lied to Lauren about his age.

Jill explains that Rowland agreed to bring Lauren’s car to the parking lot of the Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah. Due to many of Lauren’s friends being away for fall break, Lauren’s mother was worried that she would go get her car back alone and believed her daughter was in danger.

“I’m worried she is going to go there alone and someone’s going to hurt her,” Jill McCluskey said. “He’s a bad person.”

When university police called Lauren, she said that a friend of her ex-boyfriend wanted to drop her car off at her place.

A subsequent investigation showed that it was indeed Rowland who contacted Lauren. He spoofed a telephone number pretending to be a friend of his.

The recording shows dispatch suggested Lauren have the person bring her car to the parking lot of the campus police and the campus police would bring her to the stadium parking lot to get the car back.

Lauren told dispatch she preferred her car be brought to her place.

Dispatch replies to this plan by suggesting that Lauren could have the man bring her car to a parking lot near Lauren’s dorm.

Dispatch called Jill back and told her that the plan was for Lauren to go to the nearby lot and the man would bring Lauren’s car to that location. However, Jill emphasized to the dispatcher that she was still concerned for Lauren’s safety.

In the recording, dispatch tells Jill that Lauren declined a police escort. Instead, dispatch assigned a security officer to be in the area of Lauren’s dorm, to “walk around the area” at the time of the drop off.

Dispatch tells Jill that this is, “unfortunately, a pretty common occurrence on campus.”

Campus authorities then called a security officer to let them know that a sex offender has Lauren’s car, that Lauren did not want a police escort when she went to pick up her car, and that Lauren’s mother was really worried about her daughter.

Later, Lauren called campus dispatch to ask for a police escort to pick up her car, now set to happen at the stadium parking lot.

Dispatch offered and Lauren agreed to have a security officer wait with her at the parking lot.

Jill then received a phone call from campus dispatch to receive an update on the plan. Jill again tells the campus police that Melvin Rowland is a “bad man” and “something bad could happen.”

After Lauren regained possession of her car, the campus dispatch informs Jill that Lauren left the drop off and pick-up safely.

“I think they are trying to lure me somewhere.”

In another recording from a call placed on October 12, 2018, Lauren calls campus dispatch to report a new development with her ex-boyfriend.

Lauren says that she had received some texts from certain people telling her that Rowland was in the hospital. Then, she received text messages telling her he had died. She then says she received a text from Rowland, which indicated he was alive.

Another text from an unnamed person invited Lauren to go to Rowland’s funeral.

“I think they are trying to lure me somewhere,” Lauren tells campus dispatch.

Lauren reports she had received text messages telling her to not go to the bar where Rowland works. She says she had not asked him to stop texting her but she had blocked a few phone numbers.

At this time, Lauren did not have a protective order against Rowland.

“I am being blackmailed for money.”

On the morning of October 13, 2018, Lauren called campus authorities to report Rowland was trying to blackmail her. Lauren says he sent messages through text and email wanting money to not send out an explicit photo of her and Rowland.

“I am being blackmailed for money. It’s, so, a, a photo of my, me and my ex. They’re threatening to send it out to everyone. And he is asking for a thousand dollars,” Lauren tells campus police.

Lauren says she has been harassed by Rowland in the past. In this phone call, it is shown that Lauren did not know his real name. She gives an alias to campus dispatch, naming her ex-boyfriend as Shawn Rowland.

After this phone call, an officer placed a call to Lauren McCluskey. The University of Utah did not release the contents of this call because calls with police officers are not recorded.

On the afternoon of the same day, October 13, Lauren called 911. Salt Lake City Police dispatch answered and then transferred the call to the University of Utah campus police. She asks when her ex-boyfriend will be arrested.

Authorities tells her they can put her in contact with a campus police officer.

“No! No! No! No! No!”

On October 22, 2018, the father of Lauren McCluskey, Matt McCluskey, calls 911 in the state of Washington. The phone call is transferred to the campus police at the University of Utah.

Matt McCluskey tells the campus dispatch that Lauren had been talking with her mother on the phone when Lauren said, “No! No! No! No! No!” and then there was no more response, though the phone connection was still active.

To Matt, it sounded like someone might have grabbed Lauren. While he spoke with dispatch, a voice came on Lauren’s phone. An unidentified woman picked up Lauren’s phone and spoke into it, saying she had found a backpack.

Matt asks the woman to stay there. The woman was near Lauren’s apartment building. Lauren’s father believed she had been mugged.

The woman says Matt should call the police. Matt says he is already on the phone with the police. Dispatch tells Matt to call them back if he hears anything more.

Police say Lauren McCluskey was killed by Melvin S. Rowland on October 22, 2018. He took his own life during a manhunt.

Jill McCluskey shared her thoughts on the calls being released Thursday.

“They are painful to hear,” Jill said. “Hopefully they will have a positive impact on safety for women on college campuses going forward.”



Campus officials say they agree the calls are painful to hear.  The school could face backlash after people hear them, but, they believe the school would face bigger backlash if they weren’t released.

“It’s hard to listen to some of these, but, we want to make sure we’re making changes to make this campus is the safest we can make it,” says University Spokesperson Chris Nelson.

Releasing the recording is one way Nelson says they’re trying to show how they’ve been improving campus safety.

He adds, “The university is committed to learning from this event.  It was a tragedy.  We’ve investigated it thoroughly.  We’ve had outside investigators look at it and they’ve provided recommendations, 30 recommendations, in fact.”

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The University of Utah releases phone calls from the McCluskey murder