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Lauren McCluskey
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Two charged with firearm violations in McCluskey murder

Lauren McCluskey told the University of Utah police that she was being harassed by Rowland before she was shot and killed. (Photo courtesy of Jill McCluskey)

SALT LAKE CITY — Two people are facing federal firearm charges in connection with the murder of a University of Utah track star, Lauren McCluskey.

The indictment, filed in federal court in Salt Lake City names Sarah Lady, 24, of Mapleton, Utah, and Nathan Vogel, 21, of Millcreek, Utah.

U.S. Attorney for Utah, John Huber, said the indictment does not mean Lady and Vogel are considered responsible for McCluskey’s shooting death in October.  “But I can say this,” said Huber, “Without this type of conduct that was alleged in the indictment, this particular handgun would not have been used to take Lauren’s life.”

The pair are accused of knowingly making “false and fictitious statements intended to deceive a firearms dealer” while purchasing a Beretta PX4 Storm .40-caliber handgun on Sept. 8, 2018.

The indictment alleges Lady answered “yes” on a form indicating the purchase of the gun was for herself, when she knew Vogel was the actual purchaser.

This type of a transaction, known as a straw purchase, is one of the most common ways criminals obtain weapons, according to the National Rifle Association.

According to court documents, prosecutors say Vogel asked Lady to purchase the weapon for him because he wanted it right away, and was concerned he would be subject to a background check and waiting period.  The indictment claims after purchasing the gun, Lady immediately gave the gun to Vogel, who kept the weapon until Oct. 17, 2018, when he loaned it to an acquaintance, identified in the court documents as M.S.R.

Five days later, police say Melvin Rowland used that gun to shoot and kill Lauren McCluskey.

“While we cannot change what happened that October night in Salt Lake City, we can say that without the conduct alleged in this indictment, this particular handgun would not have been used to take Lauren’s life,” Huber said. “Straw purchases are prohibited under federal law for a reason.”

Rowland was the subject of an hours-long manhunt before taking his own life inside a Salt Lake City church.

McCluskey’s mother, Jill McCluskey, gave a statement and praised the attorneys for pursuing charges.

“We applaud the U.S. Attorneys for pursuing charges against the individuals who lied and conspired to buy the gun that was used to kill our daughter.  Still we note that the University of Utah housing staff were informed that our daughter’s killer said he planned to bring the gun to campus, and they did nothing. We hope for additional accountability of the individuals who did not protect Lauren.” -Jill McCluskey