Utah admits error in Lauren McCluskey’s death, settles for $13.5 million

On Thursday, the University of Utah announced $13.5 million for the family of the murdered athlete Lauren McCluskey and said for the first time that her death was preventable.

McCluskey, a 21-year-old Hitler from Utah, was killed on 22 October 2018 by a man she had just met, Melvin Sean Rowland, who had been shot dead. Rowland committed suicide later that night when he was cornered by the police.

At a press conference held on Thursday at the school grounds in Salt Lake City, University President Ruth Watkins read a statement in which he regretted that McCluskey, her mother and friends had repeatedly asked for help before she was killed.


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According to Mr Watkins, the University acknowledges and deeply regrets that Lauren did not deal with the case as it should have done and that its staff did not understand Lauren’s situation at the time or reacted adequately to it. As a result, we abandoned Lauren and her family.

McCluskey’s parents, Jill and Matt, filed a federal Title IX complaint in January 2019 after Watkins publicly stated after a school investigation that nothing could prevent Lauren’s death. At the time, Jill McCluskey said the statement made me nauseous.

Jill McCluskey stopped tears in her speech to reporters Thursday and said the school had made progress on campus safety issues over the past two years.

We acknowledge and applaud the many positive changes that have taken place at the University of Utah since her death and hope they will continue, she said. This agreement is important for many reasons: He tells how Lauren died, but he also pays tribute to the way she lived.

The school’s recognition of its failure with Lauren is crucial, Jill McCluskey told ESPN.

That was an important part of the deal. I think accountability is very important and that it allows them to move forward, to do things better and to make real changes, she said.

When McCluskey – who grew up in Pullman, Washington, where his parents are professors – met Rowland in the late summer of 2018, he said he was a 28-year-old community student named Sean Fields.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Jill McCluskey, Lauren McCluskey’s mother, speaks to reporters while her husband Matt and Utah president Ruth Watkins watch. The university and the McCluskeys have agreed to pay $13.5 million in connection with the murder of a former street athlete in 2018. Nicole Norén

But at the beginning of October she discovered his true identity and that he was in fact a 37-year-old sex offender on parole. She ended a relationship right away. Over the next two weeks, Rowland texted her that she was posing as her boyfriend, claimed he had died in an accident, chased her into a dormitory, extorted $1,000 from her, threatened to give a compromising photo of her, entered her dormitory with a gun he showed to other students and sent a message to McCluskey that he was a cop, which she saw as an attempt to lure him into public.

Two weeks before McCluskey’s death, she and her mother had called campus police more than a dozen times for help. An investigation at the university in December 2018 showed that the police did not supervise Roeland’s probation. If the police had known, Rowland would have been found violating his parole and sent back to prison.

In addition, two of McCluskey’s friends told the assistant in his dorm that they thought Rowland might pose a threat to McCluskey’s safety, and the assistant conveyed these concerns to her superiors. The resident assistant and McCluskey stated that no follow-up action had been taken.

In a statement read Thursday at Watkins, the school said the university believed it would be better equipped to protect Lauren if it had better training and protocols to guide the response.

The statement makes no mention of police officers and campus housers, but the complaint does mention officers from both departments.

Jill McCluskey told ESPN in January 2019 that Watkins’ earlier testimony that Lauren’s murder could not have been prevented forced her to prosecute her and her husband.

McCluskeys said the purpose of the process was to trigger a chain reaction to improve campus safety across the country and that the scheme could force insurance companies to implement safety reforms. They said all the money on campus would go to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, which contributes to campus safety, amateur sport and animal welfare.

In addition to the financial provisions, the agreement provides for the establishment of an indoor sports centre in the name of Lauren by the school and the establishment of the McCluskey Violence Prevention Centre.

When asked what would have been different on Thursday if the school had admitted the mistake in the first place, Matt McCluskey replied: would have saved a lot of money.

The family also sought access to records of Lauren’s visit to the campus by a psychiatric consultant who claimed that Jill McCluskey, as her daughter’s personal legal representative, had the right to visit her. The State Archives Committee ordered the school to provide documents in June, but the school appealed against this decision to the court. Jill McCluskey said that wasn’t part of the official agreement, but she was told she could look at the documents and take pictures, but not at the university.

The producer of the ESPN survey, Nicole Norén, contributed to this report.

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