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Cop saved explicit photos of murdered Utah student, 21, and bragged it days before she was killed

A Utah police officer saved explicit photos of a terrified college student who was being blackmailed by her ex-boyfriend to his personal phone and bragged it to a colleague just days before she was murdered, a new report has revealed.

University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, 21, confided in campus cops in October 2018 that she was being extorted by her sex-offender ex, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, who said he had access to some of her personal images and was threatening to release them if she didn’t pay him $1,000.

Terrified by the demand, McCluskey paid Rowland the money, and then sent copies of his threatening messages and the pictures in question to police as evidence.

Officer Miguel Deras then saved the compromising photos of the young track star onto his phone, before showing them to at least one male colleague and bragging about being able to ogle at them any time he wanted, the Lake Tribune reported.

Just nine days after filing the report, McCluskey was shot dead by Rowland on campus, who then turned the gun on himself. The promising athlete had ended the relationship a month earlier after discovering Rowland was a registered sex offender who had lied about his name, age and criminal history.

‘The people who were supposed to be helping and protecting Lauren were actually exploiting her,’ Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, told the Tribune. ‘I wish that Deras had used his time to arrest the man who was committing crimes against Lauren.’

University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, 21, confided in campus cops in October 2018 that she was being extorted by her sex-offender former boyfriend, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, who said he had access to her personal files and was threatening to release them if she didn’t pay $1,000

Lauren McClusky

Terrified by the demand, McCluskey paid Rowland the money, and then sent copies of the messages and pictures in question to police as evidence.

Terrified by the demand, McCluskey paid Melvin Rowland (right) the money, and then sent copies of the messages and pictures in question to police as evidence.

Along with her husband Matt, the McCluskey family filed a $56 million lawsuit over the police handling of the case, after an independent review found Deras did very little to investigate McCluskey’s complaints.

On the morning of October 22, McCluskey called Deras to report that Rowland was trying to lure her out of her dorm. Deras never passed that information along to anyone else in the department and hours later she was shot dead.

‘This latest revelation makes me wonder when we’ll hit bottom,’ Matt McCluskey, told the Tribune.

One of Deras’ colleagues confirmed to campus police that he had been shown the images by Deras, with another officer confirming he had heard the conversation taking place.

The first officer told investigators in September 2019 that he had been sitting next to Deras during a briefing in between shifts, when Deras leaned over towards him and started scrolling through the images on his phone.

Deras, who now works for Logan Police 85 miles away, declined several requests to comment, the paper said. The campus police say the officer who was shown the images has not been disciplined because he didn’t ask Deras to see them.

While the university confirmed that Deras had in fact saved and shared the images, the revelation only came to light when the Tribune started asking to access records, officials said.

‘He was long gone before we had any inkling that that incident with the photo being shown had occurred,’ Lt. Jason Hinojosa told the paper. ‘We did identify one person who could confirm. He came forward after the investigation [had] begun.’

In their lawsuit filed last October, the McClusky family (left to right: Dad, Matt; Mom, Jill) accused the school of failing to protect their daughter or for taking responsibility for her death. They're seeking $56 million in damages but say the money would go to a trust designed to improve campus safety

In their lawsuit filed last October, the McClusky family (left to right: Dad, Matt; Mom, Jill) accused the school of failing to protect their daughter or for taking responsibility for her death. They’re seeking $56 million in damages but say the money would go to a trust designed to improve campus safety

The university claims to have no physical evidence of Dera’s misconduct. In July 2019, investigators attempted to download data from Deras’ cellphone, but anything yielded was either corrupted or from after the McCluskey case. This was partly because Deras got a new cellphone after McCluskey’s death and didn’t transfer all of his files to the new device.

The university claims to have no physical evidence of Dera’s misconduct. In July 2019, investigators attempted to download data from Deras’ cellphone, but anything yielded was either corrupted or from after the McCluskey case. This was partly because Deras got a new cellphone after McCluskey’s death and didn’t transfer all of his files to the new device.

Sharing or displaying a compromising photo of someone without the person’s consent could be prosecuted under Utah’s revenge porn laws. The first offense can result in a misdemeanor charge. Because the statute requires proof that a victim was harmed, McCluskey’s death could complicate a prosecution.

Also complicating matters, for their part the university claims to have no physical evidence of Dera’s misconduct.

In July 2019, investigators attempted to download data from Deras’ cellphone, but anything yielded was either corrupted or from after the McCluskey case. This was partly because Deras got a new cellphone after McCluskey’s death and didn’t transfer all of his files to the new device.

Major Scott Stephenson, who oversees all police training in the state under the Utah Department of Public Safety, said the discovery could be grounds for action against Deras’ police certification.

‘It’s very alarming to me,’ Stephenson told the Tribune, suggesting it might be a ‘policy violation’ for the incident having not been reported earlier.

In their lawsuit filed last October, the McClusky family accused the school of failing to protect their daughter and for failing taking responsibility for her death. They’re seeking $56 million in damages but say the money would go to a trust designed to improve campus safety.

‘This latest revelation makes me wonder when we’ll hit bottom,’ Matt McCluskey (pictured above with Lauren), told the Tribune

‘This latest revelation makes me wonder when we’ll hit bottom,’ Matt McCluskey (pictured above with Lauren), told the Tribune

On the morning of October 22, McCluskey called Deras to report that Rowland was trying to lure her out of her dorm. Deras never passed that information along to anyone else in the department and hours later she was shot dead.

Rowland

On the morning of October 22, McCluskey called Deras to report that Rowland was trying to lure her out of her dorm. Deras never passed that information along to anyone else in the department and hours later she was shot dead.

McClusky was said to have madbee as many as 20 police reports about Rowland before her death. Her friends also reported concerns to dormitory officials, the lawsuit said, but they were ignored

McClusky was said to have madbee as many as 20 police reports about Rowland before her death. Her friends also reported concerns to dormitory officials, the lawsuit said, but they were ignored

The lawsuit alleges that officials missing the warning signs of dating violence and made no effort to stop Rowland’s harassment or ban him from being on campus. 

McClusky was said to have made as many as 20 police reports about Rowland before her death. Her friends also reported concerns to dormitory officials, the lawsuit said, but they were ignored.

An independent review was commissioned by the university and found that the school indeed missed warning signs of abuse before McCluskey was found shot in a car after returning from a night class.

However, university president Ruth Watkins says there’s no reason to believe Rowland could’ve been stopped.

In response the lawsuit, University of Utah has pledged to run more frequent checks to identify ex-convicts and investigate on-campus complaints more thoroughly.

They’ve also hired more officers, increased training, and streamled communications between housing officials and police.

McCluskey received a track scholarship following a standout high school career in Pullman, Washington. She finished second in the state for the 100 hurdles and fifth in the high jump in her senior year. She specialized in jumping events in college and ranks 10th all-time at Utah in the pentathlon.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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