Lauren McCluskey

College track star found murdered was on phone with mom when sex offender she dated, who lied about his name & age, killed her: Police

New details emerged in the case of a University of Utah college student found shot to death on Monday night by a man she briefly dated before she knew of his troubled past.

CNN reports that Jill McCluskey, mother of 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey, contacted University police after she became concerned for her daughter’s well-being on Monday, following the student’s concerns over a man she dated, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland. Lauren apparently told her mother that she broke up with Rowland after learning he spent nearly nine years in prison on convictions of attempted forcible sexual abuse and enticing a minor.

According to Jill McCluskey’s Twitter post, Lauren dated Rowland for around a month, then broke things off in October after Rowland not only concealed his criminal history, but also lied about his name and age.

How do you protect your children from predators? Join Nancy Grace and a team of world class experts for the online course ‘Justice Nation: Crime Stops Here’.

“He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history,” Jill McCluskey wrote. “She blocked his and his friends’ phone numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed.”

Jill was on the phone with her daughter on Monday evening when she heard her scream out. Lauren was on her way home from a night class when Rowland may have approached her in her car. A few minutes later, a female student picked up Lauren’s cellphone and informed Jill that all of her daughter’s belongings, including her cellphone, had been thrown on the ground.

“Suddenly, I heard her yell, ‘No, no, no!’ I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her,” Jill wrote.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Lauren, of Pullman, Washington, was found deceased inside her car at around 9 p.m. on Monday, near the Medical Towers dorm on campus. According to University of Utah Police Lt. Brian Wahlin, Rowland fatally shot the student.

Rowland landed on police radar after Jill contacted police and told them about her daughter’s history with the suspect and informed them Lauren had previously filed a police report when the suspect refused to leave her alone.

Authorities attempted to locate Rowland for hours, then at around 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning, he was spotted close to 600 South 200 East in Salt Lake City. Officers chased Rowland on foot into a nearby church. The suspect broke into the church and while inside, apparently shot and killed himself, according to police.

On Tuesday night, University of Utah police Chief Dale Brophy confirmed that Lauren had indeed filed a police report against Rowland on October 13. Authorities didn’t contact Rowland, however, because he was no longer living at a halfway house in the area. Brophy stated that Rowland had “walked away” from the Fortitude halfway house and the didn’t know where to find him.

Yet, The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Kaitlin Felsted, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Corrections, stated no one informed parole agents that someone had made a complaint against Rowland. Felsted also said that Rowland was living at an address he had listed on the sex offender registry. Not only had an agent performed an inspection in August, but had also been in contact with Rowland after that, according to Felsted.

Lauren McCluskey was a senior at the school, majoring in communications. She was also a standout on the track team. University of Utah classes have been canceled for Tuesday morning to allow time for mourning. Counseling services will remain open.

“As a campus community, we share grief over this tragic loss of life,” president of the school, Ruth K. Watkins stated. “Our deepest sympathy is extended to Lauren’s family and friends.”

Authorities are expected to hold a press conference this week with updated details.

The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

Join Nancy Grace for her new video series new online video series designed to help you protect what you love most – your children.

[Feature Photo: Lauren McCluskey/University of Utah]