SALT LAKE CITY — The man suspected of shooting and killing University of Utah college athlete Lauren McCluskey previously dated the 21-year-old, according to police and a statement released Tuesday by the McCluskey family.
Police said officers found the suspect, identified as 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, dead early Tuesday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at a Salt Lake City church.
University officials identified the student who was killed as Lauren McCluskey of Pullman, Washington.
Here are the latest updates:
Update 9:10 a.m. EDT Oct. 27: University of Utah police Chief Dale Brophy revealed Thursday that McCluskey told authorities that she believed she was being blackmailed, KSTU reported. She told police she suspected Rowland and his friends might be behind the extortion attempt, which demanded money or compromising photos of herself and Rowland would be posted on the internet. She transferred $1,000 to an account in hopes of keeping the photos private, KSTU reported.
Update 7:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 23: University of Utah police Chief Dale Brophy confirmed earlier Tuesday that Lauren McCluskey had filed a police report against her alleged killer, Melvin Rowland, just over a week before her death.
However, police did not contact Rowland after the complaint was filed because Brophy said police did not have a correct address for him, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
"He was a walk-away from Fortitude, which is a halfway house here," Brophy said, according to the Tribune.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kaitlin Felsted later disputed Brophy’s statements.
Felsted said Rowland did not walk away from a halfway house , that, instead he was living as a parolee at the address in Salt Lake City that is listed on the sex offender registry, the newspaper reported.
Flested also said university police never bothered to tell parole officials about McCluskey’s complaint that Rowland was harassing her.
Update 4:25 p.m. EDT Oct.23: The University of Utah Athletics Department has issued a statement on the murder of student athlete Lauren McCluskey.
"Everyone associated with our program is devastated by the loss of Lauren," head coach Kyle Kepler said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“There are no words to express the emotions and grief we are experiencing right now,” Kepler said.
“Lauren was a wonderful person, an excellent student and a dedicated member of our track and field team,” he said.
“She showed a relentless drive to improve every day over the last three and a half years and was also kind and supportive of her teammates. Those are just some of the reasons why her loss has hit us so hard.”
Update 12:10 p.m. EDT Oct. 23: University of Utah police Chief Dale Brophy confirmed at a news conference Tuesday that McCluskey filed a police report against Rowland just over a week before her death.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Brophy declined to detail the report, which was made on Oct. 12, with some follow-up from police on Oct. 13.
"All we know at this point (is) they had a prior relationship and it ended," Brophy said.
McCluskey's mother, Jill McCluskey, said in a statement to news stations that her daughter dated Rowland for about a month after he lied to the college student about his age and criminal history. Officials said Rowland was a registered sex offender. Jill McCluskey said her daughter's relationship with Rowland ended on Oct. 9.
Brophy said police got a call around 8:30 p.m. Monday from Jill McCluskey, who worried something might be wrong with her daughter after she abruptly cut off their conversation. Officers were immediately dispatched and investigators found Lauren McCluskey dead in her car.
Authorities later learned that the shooter, identified as Rowland, had gotten a ride off campus. Brophy said Tuesday that officers had spoken with the person who gave Rowland a ride, although it was not immediately clear whether the person knew of the shooting before picking up the 37-year-old. Brophy said the person was not in custody Tuesday.
Rowland was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound early Tuesday morning after a brief chase by officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Authorities continue to investigate.
"Suddenly, I heard her yell, 'No, no, no!'" said her mother, identified by KSL as Jill McCluskey. "I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her. … In a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren's things were on the ground."
Family members said McCluskey had previously complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed by Rowland.
They described her as a star athlete and an outstanding student set to graduate in May 2019.
Update 7:44 a.m. EDT Oct. 23: Mark Harlan, athletics director for the University of Utah, issued the following statement Tuesday morning about McCluskey, a member of the school's track and field team:
"Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our own," the statement began. "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."
Update 7:20 a.m. EDT Oct. 23: The University of Utah has identified the student who was shot and killed on campus Monday night.
Lauren McCluskey of Pullman, Washington, was a senior communication major and member of the school's track and field team, university President Ruth V. Watkins said in a statement Tuesday morning.
A vigil will be held in her honor at 5 p.m. MDT Wednesday, the statement said.
Watkins also included the following details about the shooting:
"The police investigation is still underway, but here is a brief overview of what happened last night. Around 8:20 p.m., university police received a report of a possible abduction in a parking lot outside a residence hall. Police responded and as they searched the area, they discovered Lauren deceased in a parked car near the south tower of the Medical Plaza, a residential hall on campus.
"Police issued a secure-in-place order for campus as they searched for a suspect. That order remained in effect until just before midnight, after police determined the suspect had left the area. He was later found deceased at an off-campus location."
Authorities said Rowland "forced entry to the Trinity AME Church on 600 S after a foot pursuit, then shot himself," KUTV's Bronagh Tumulty tweeted early Tuesday.
Update 4:09 a.m. EDT Oct. 23: Police have located Melvin Rowland, the suspect in the shooting death of a University of Utah student, the school tweeted early Tuesday.
Officials did not release any further details, but area news outlets reported a large police presence outside Trinity AME Church in Salt Lake City.
Previous report: A homicide suspect is at large after a University of Utah student was shot and killed on campus, police said Monday night.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, university police received several reports of an argument followed by gunfire around 9 p.m. MDT. Once at the scene, authorities found a woman dead in a car.
Police identified the suspect as Melvin Rowland, 37, a 250-pound, 6-foot-3 black male wearing a white hoodie, black pants, white shoes and a gray beanie. Officials said Rowland, a convicted sex offender, fled the scene on foot.
© 2020 Cox Media Group