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McCluskeys and U of U reach settlement agreement in death of student

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah’s Center for Violence Prevention will become the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention, as part of a settlement agreement with the parents of murdered student-athlete Lauren McCluskey announced Thursday. 

During a joint news conference held on Thursday, University of Utah President Ruth Watkins issued a formal statement acknowledging the U. failed Lauren. 

“The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation. As a result, we failed Lauren and her family. If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren,” she said.

The McCluskey settlement details

As part of the settlement, the University of Utah announced that through its risk management agency and its insurance provider, they will pay the McCluskeys $10.5 million by March 31, 2021. The U. will also make a charitable donation of $3 million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation. 

In another part of the settlement, the U. pledged to raise funds to construct an indoor athletic facility, including a track, named after Lauren by late 2030. Jill McCluskey says it will benefit the student-athletes at the U. and allow them to train during the winter months. Currently, they must travel 45 minutes to the Olympic Oval to train in the winter. If the U. is unable to raise the funds for the facility by June 30, 2031, it will make another $3 million donation to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation. 

Additionally, the U.’s Center for Violence Prevention will immediately become the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention. 

Reaction from her parents

“As part of the settlement, the University of Utah has pledged to build an indoor track facility… named after Lauren,” her mother, Dr. Jill McCluskey, said. “We are also honored that her name will be associated with the Center for Violence Prevention.”

Jill McCluskey said they applaud the many positive changes that the U. has made in the wake of Lauren’s death; she said that all the money from the settlement will go to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation.

“Our hope is that it will make the world better, and in specific, it will make the students across the country much safer,” Matthew McCluskey said.

The history of the case

Lauren McCluskey was murdered two years ago Thursday after reporting multiple times that her ex-boyfriend, a convicted sex offender named Melvin Shawn Rowland who had lied to her about his age and identity, was trying to extort her using intimate photos.

Earlier this year McCluskey’s parents filed a lawsuit against the school at the state level arguing that the University was criminally negligent and failed to provide Lauren with the same opportunities and protections they would have given a male student. 

The University of Utah faced criticism in its response to Lauren’s concerns, after police call logs and 911 recordings showed both she and her mother contacted campus police as early as 10 days before her murder. 

Accusations of misconduct

The school’s police department also faced harsh criticism after it was revealed that former officer Miguel Deras had shown intimate photos of Lauren to coworkers that she had provided as evidence she was being extorted by Rowland.

Last Thursday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced that his office would not pursue charges against Deras for showing those photos to his coworkers because of the way Utah’s revenge porn laws are written.