Parents of murdered student Lauren McCluskey sue U. for $56 million

Jun 27, 2019, 10:58 AM | Updated: 5:46 pm
mccluskey settlement Lauren McCluskey photos...
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2018, file photo, a photograph of University of Utah student and track athlete Lauren McCluskey, who was fatally shot on campus, is projected on the video board before the start of an NCAA college football game between Oregon and Utah in Salt Lake City. The parents of Lauren McCluskey say their formerly shy daughter was brimming with confidence and excited to graduate before she was fatally shot on campus. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The parents of a murdered University of Utah student, Lauren McCluskey, are suing the school for $56 million, arguing the U. failed to protect their daughter.

Jim McConkie, the Salt Lake City attorney representing Jill and Matt McCluskey, said the suit accuses the university of violating Lauren’s Title IX rights by ignoring her reports of stalking, sextortion and intimidation.

In addition to guaranteeing female athletes have the same opportunities afforded their male counterparts, Title IX also addresses sexual harassment at institutions that receive federal education funds.

At an emotional news conference on Thursday, Jill McCluskey said she had repeatedly asked University of Utah President Ruth Watkins to re-evaluate the school’s response to her daughter’s murder, to no avail. Eventually, she said, she realized the only way to improve campus safety was to file suit.

“A responsible university responds with urgency to ONE phone call,” Matt McCluskey added.

lauren mccluskey lawsuit

Matt McCluskey and Jill McCluskey hold hands during a press conference about a lawsuit they are filing against the University of Utah, alleging the University failed to protect their daughter Lauren McCluskey, who was murdered, at the Siegfried and Jensen Law Office in Murray on Thursday, June 27, 2019. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“The University of Utah is on the wrong side of history in how they handled Lauren’s case and how they responded to her death,” Jill McCluskey said.

Jill McCluskey said it’s imperative that institutions believe women who express concern about their safety and take steps to address their concerns.

“Lauren was a beautiful woman in all respects,” her father, Matt McCluskey, said. “I do not want to be in this world without Lauren. But being stuck here, I have no choice but to try to make this world better.”

Lauren McCluskey, 21, was murdered Oct. 22, 2018, after she broke up with her boyfriend of about a month when she learned he lied about his age and identity.

Lauren discovered her ex-boyfriend was a convicted sex offender and reported that information to the university, her parents said. But the U. failed to recognize the warning signs of dating violence and did not take steps to either end the harassment or block Melvin Shawn Rowland from campus, they claimed.

“They tried to minimize her and have her go away,” Jill McCluskey said. “They were not caring. They were not helpful.”

“We had hoped to have an adult conversation with the University of Utah administration to build a safer future for all their students. Regrettably, the university has chose a path of defensiveness, denial and no accountability… We cannot stand by while students are imperiled,” Matt McCluskey said.

In a statement, University of Utah President Ruth Watkins wrote:

We will respond to the McCluskey family’s lawsuit through the appropriate channels, but I want to express again our deep sorrow for the loss of Lauren McCluskey. Our hearts go out to her family and friends.

While there are differences in how we would characterize some of the events leading to Lauren’s tragic murder, let me say again that we share the McCluskey family’s commitment to improving campus safety. We continue to address the recommendations identified by the independent review of the university’s safety policies, procedures and resources, and we are making ongoing improvements designed to protect our students and our entire campus community.

The independent review referenced by Watkins found a series of potentially missed warning signs in the weeks leading up to McCluskey’s murder. However, Watkins has said there’s no reason to believe the crime could have been prevented. Rowland took his own life as police closed in during an hours-long manhunt after McCluskey’s death. While the university has promised to act on the findings in the report, no one has been disciplined for their role in the case.

The McCluskeys say any proceeds from their lawsuit will be put toward the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, a charity that supports campus safety, amateur athletes and animal welfare.

Today’s Top Stories


Anderson was arrested the morning of Sept. 24, 2022, by West Valley Police on felony child sexual a...
Waverly Golden

First grade teacher in Magna arrested on felony child sexual abuse charges

Elk Run Elementary first grade teacher Dale Anderson was arrested this morning on felony child sexual abuse charges.
2 days ago
The Nephi City Police said in a Facebook post that a man was luring children to his vehicle yesterd...
Waverly Golden

Be on lookout for suspicious vehicle in Nephi

The Nephi City Police said in a Facebook post that a man was luring children to his vehicle yesterday afternoon.
2 days ago
Curt Gresseth

Former U.S. Attorney for Utah talks about what FBI can take off your cellphone

A legal expert joined Dave and Dujanovic to discuss how the FBI can obtain evidence of a crime from a cellphone.
3 days ago
cameras daybell...
Simone Seikaly

Judge grants “no cameras/photos in courtroom” request by Daybell lawyers

In the order prohibiting cameras, Judge Boyce agreed that the case had received significant and worldwide media attention.
3 days ago
(Getty Images)...
Mark Jones

Vernal student detained by police after allegedly bringing gun to school

A student in Vernal is in custody after police say he allegedly brought a weapon to Vernal Middle School on Thursday. Police say the suspect had a plan and a target.
4 days ago
centerville arson fire...
Curt Gresseth

What’s behind random acts of violence in Utah?

What's behind a recent spate of random violence in Uta?. A sleeping couple at home in West Valley City is stabbed by an intruder. A stranger enters a home with three elderly people in Centerville and burns it down. Greg Skordas, KSL legal analyst breaks down what he thinks is motivating young people to commit random acts of violence.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Parents of murdered student Lauren McCluskey sue U. for $56 million