The Lauren McCluskey Case: Betrayed & Exploited
[Salt Lake City, Utah]
Lauren McCluskey (21) was attending University of Utah in 2018 when she met a guy by the name of Melvin Shawn Rowland at a local bar. He was a bouncer and was really charming so Lauren began inviting him over to her residence on her campus.
The two began talking in September of 2018, but by October 2018, Lauren found out a bombshell about Melvin. Not only did he lie about his age and was much older (37 years old), he was also a registered sex offender who served 10 years in prison. Lauren confronted Melvin and he admitted to being a sex offender, but was adamant about his age being what he told her.
After they stopped talking, Lauren received odd texts from Melvin’s friends saying that Melvin was dead and it was Lauren’s fault. However, it was determined that the news wasn’t true and they were sent simply to mess with Lauren’s head. A few days later, Lauren received more text messages, this time from Melvin, demanding money or compromising pictures of Lauren, and/or Lauren and him would be publicized. Melvin texted that he wanted 1,000 dollars. In fear, Lauren paid the demanded amount, but also took her situation to campus police in hopes that they would help her. She printed out the texts and actual images she believed were going to be spread to give the officers evidence for her case.
Sexual extortion charges against Melvin were being pursued by the campus police, but not effectively. As the days passed, Melvin was caught on campus surveillance scanning different areas because police did not crack down on security measures.
On October 22nd, 2018, Lauren received a text message that impersonated the deputy chief of the campus police. The text asked her to come to the police station. She called the police officer with whom she had been working three times, until he finally called her back. The officer told Lauren that the text was fake and not to answer the text. However, the officer failed to document or report to anyone this crime of impersonating a police officer, and also did not report the alarming intent to lure her out of her dorm.
Just hours later on the same day, Melvin waited around for Lauren to walk into her campus parking lot after her evening class. She was on the phone with her mother as Melvin attacked her. Her mother said that the last thing she heard was the phone drop and Lauren yell “No No No!” Melvin dragged her into the backseat of a car he drove to the campus. He shot Lauren McCluskey multiple times in the backseat on the car, leaving her in the campus parking lot as he called a girl that he met on a dating website to come pick him up.
The next day, police located Melvin and began a car pursuit that led to a church. He ran inside, barricaded the doors, and shot himself in the head to avoid being charged and convicted. Police said that they didn’t want to pursue a restraining order because they did not believe there was a threat for physical harm.
But the story doesn’t end there.
One of the officers assigned to her case, Miguel Deras, had access to the explicit pictures of Lauren she provided to officers.
Deras secretly saved those pictures to his personal cell phone and started to show his friends, and one co-worker. According to one of the friends, Deras was bragging that he could look at the pictures of Lauren whenever he wanted to. Officers chimed in saying Deras was “lucky” to get to work on the case and that McCluskey was a “cute girl.” Then, months later, Deras made the same mistakes again on another woman’s case. Deras has since quit the department on Sept. 16, 2019, and now works with the Logan City Police Department.
“I wish he had used his time to arrest Lauren’s killer rather than ogling at her image,” Jill McCluskey said.
In 2019, Lauren’s parents sued the University of Utah for 56 million dollars in a civil rights case. They claimed that the campus could have prevented harm being done to Lauren. Not only were they trying to brush off Lauren’s harassment, they also betrayed her trust in them as police officers and protectors. Matt McCluskey, her father, said it took courage for McCluskey to report the extortion, and her trust was betrayed.
As of 2020, the courts are looking to dismiss the lawsuit.
Jill McCluskey, McCluskey’s mom, added: “If our daughter’s death could not have been prevented after she reached out to campus police so many times, we have to ask, is anyone’s daughter safe? She did everything she could to obtain help from an organization that claims to have an overriding objective of protecting the safety of students. This organization fatally failed her.”