Utah Campus 'Shaken ... to Its Core' After Standout Athlete Is Shot Dead


The University of Utah is reeling after the tragic death of a student-athlete who was shot on campus Monday night.

University police received a call concerning a report of a possible abduction in a parking lot near a dorm at about 8:20 p.m., the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Gun shots were also reported.

When officers arrived, they found 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey, a senior who was on the school’s track team, dead in a car.

The suspect, Melvin Rowland, fled the scene. He broke into the back door of the Trinity AME Church and shot himself in the pastor’s study, the Tribune reported. He was found dead by police at about 1:30 a.m.

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Rowland, 37, had had a relationship with McCluskey, McCluskey’s family said in a statement.

“It is with deepest sadness that we let you know that our daughter Lauren McCluskey, age 21, was the University of Utah student who was killed last night. Lauren previously dated her killer for about one month. He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history. Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018,” her family said in a statement.

After the breakup, she had been harassed by Rowland, according to the family’s statement. He had borrowed her car and she had to call the police to get it back. She also blocked his phone calls.

“Last night a little before 9 pm, she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone. 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. My husband called 911. I kept the line open and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren’s things were on the ground,” the family said in a statement.

McCluskey was an outstanding student and athlete. She had a 3.75 GPA majoring in communications and was a standout performer on the track team.

In high school in Pullman, Washington, she was the state champion in the high jump and the school record holder in the 100-meter hurdles.

“She loved to sing and had strength and determination. She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed,” the family said.

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All classes were canceled on Tuesday as the campus mourned the tragic loss.

“Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our ownm” Athletic Director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “Senior track standout Lauren McCluskey was tragically killed in a senseless act. This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core. We have university counselors and psychologists on standby to support Lauren’s teammates, coaches and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all of those dear to her.”

Rowland had been convicted of attempted forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor over the internet in 2004, reported the Tribune.  He was released from prison in 2013.

Our prayers go out for McCluskey’s family and friends, and the university community.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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