Authorities have released multiple recordings of University of Utah athlete Lauren McCluskey’s 911 calls in which she asks for help in the days before she’s fatally shot by her ex-boyfriend.
Lauren McClusky, 21, was murdered in a car by ex-boyfriend and registered sex offender Melvin Rowland, 37, on October 22, just weeks after she reported his behavior to the University and it failed to act.
Rowland fatally shot McCluskey, of Pullman, Washington, as she was walking home from night class and fled, turning the gun on himself just a few hours later, after being cornered by police in a church, on the morning of October 23.
Lauren McCluskey, 21, was blackmailed by ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland just days before he murdered her. Authorities have released her 911 calls reporting that he was extorting her
The 911 recordings, portions of which were redacted, were released by the Salt Lake City Police Department on Friday and obtained by the Salt Lake City Tribune.
In the first call, recorded on October 13, McCluskey can be heard saying, ‘Hi, I’ve been blackmailed, um, for money.’ She then goes on to explain that she had filed a report with the University of Utah’s campus police, but was still waiting for an update.
She said that she was calling SLC PD because she ‘was just concerned because I wasn’t sure how long they were going to take to file an arrest.’
McCluskey started dating Rowland on September 2, after meeting him at a bar, where he worked as a bouncer.
Melvin Rowland, 37, was a registered sex offender who served nine years in prison. McCluskey broke up with him after learning the truth about his past, two weeks before he killed her
Rowland approached McCluskey and forced her into a car, where he fatally shot her on October 22. After being cornered by police, Rowland killed himself the next day
McCluskey called Salt Lake City’s 911 line because she was receiving harassing messages and being extorted and was concerned that campus police was taking too long to make an arrest
Both times that McCluskey spoke with a 911 dispatcher, the dispatcher sent her back to campus police because she lived on university property
She was apparently unaware of the generous age gap between them, as well as the fact that he was a sex offender, who had served nine years in prison after being convicted of attempted forcible sexual abuse and enticing a minor in 2004.
But, when alerted to Rowland’s deception by friends, McClusky broke up with him on October 9. Two days later, she reported to campus police that she was receiving suspicious and harassing emails from people claiming to be Rowland’s friends.
McClusky also told campus police that she was receiving messages demanding money in exchange for not posting ‘compromising photos’ of her and Rowland on the internet. She said she sent $1,000 to keep the photos private, and then called police.
She made the calls to campus police on October 12 and 13.
During the 911 call with Salt Lake City PD, McCluskey was told to call campus police because she lived at the university, at which point McCluskey notes, ‘I’ve called them already’ and that she ‘just wanted to call you, as well.’ The college student was then eventually transferred to a University of Utah dispatcher.
A University of Utah detective was then officially assigned to screen for sexual extortion charges and, on October 19, a formal investigation into McCluskey’s claim began.
That same day, McCluskey called 911 again, telling the Salt Lake City police dispatcher that she had made a report the previous week ‘and I haven’t gotten an update.’
McCluskey was talking to her mother on the phone when Rowland abducted her. The University of Utah paid tribute to her during a football game on November 10
McCluskey’s parents, Matt and Jill McCluskey, dispute the university’s recent findings that anything could have prevented McCluskey’s death
During that call, McCluskey says that she’s concerned that campus police has been tipping off Rowland about its investigation.
Once again, the 911 dispatcher tells McCluskey that she needs to talk to the campus police detective on her case, adding that if she sees Rowland off campus property, then she should call SLC police.
Salt Lake City police also released a 911 call that McCluskey’s father, Matt McCluskey, made on the day she died, in which he tells the dispatcher that Rowland had abducted his daughter.
At 8.20pm on October 22, Rowland spotted McCluskey as she was returning to her dorm from a night class and speaking on the phone with her mother. He confronted her and quickly dragged her into the parking lot, causing her to drop her phone and belongings, before forcing her into the backseat of a car, where he shot her multiple times.
McCluskey’s mother, Jill McCluskey, heard her daughter yell ‘No, no, no!’ before the phone went silent.
Her father called campus police and then made the 911 call, which came in three minutes after McCluskey dropped the phone.
‘My daughter is Lauren McCluskey and she went missing tonight,’ Matt McCluskey can be heard telling the 911 dispatcher, Fox 13 reported. ‘She was abducted while we were talking to her on the telephone. So we heard her being assaulted and we called the University of Utah campus police.’
‘I just want to make sure that you guys know about that,’ he also said.
On December 19, the University of Utah released their findings from an independent review of campus police, which found the department of public safety to be ‘understaffed’ and having ‘gaps in training.’
Despite saying that the school will implement the recommendations from the review, University of Utah’s President Ruth Watkins the report ‘does not offer us reason to believe this tragedy could have been prevented’.
McCluskey’s parents disagreed with the review’s findings.
‘There were numerous opportunities to protect her during the almost two weeks between the time when our daughter began expressing repeated, elevating, and persistent concerns about her situation and the time of her murder,’ they wrote in a letter Thursday, obtained by the Salt Lake City Tribune.
In response to the university’s statement that no one would face discipline over what happened, the McCluskeys wrote: ‘This situation cries out for accountability beyond updating policies and training and addressing [campus police department] understaffing by hiring five new department personnel.’
Following Friday’s release of the 911 tapes, Jill McCluskey said in a statement, ‘The recordings speak for themselves.’