Report on McCluskey Murder Finds Two Computer Notification Systems Failed

Dec 19, 2018, 9:04 PM | Updated: 9:05 pm
University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey and her killer, Melvin Rowland...
University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey and her killer, Melvin Rowland

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Two computer notification systems failed that should have flagged Melvin Rowland before he killed Lauren McCluskey on the campus of the University of Utah two months ago.

That’s according to an investigative report on the murder released Wednesday by the Utah Department of Public Safety.

Why didn’t the University of Utah Police Department know Melvin Rowland had a record and was on parole when they started investigating? And, why didn’t Rowland’s parole officer know he was being investigated? The report and the public safety commissioner addressed those key questions that arose right after the murder.

According to the report, Rowland was on probation for a third time in Utah, released from prison only six months prior, when University police started to look at his involvement with Lauren McCluskey. But, he was not flagged as a parolee with a criminal record. Furthermore, that investigative check should have triggered a notification to his parole officer.

According to the report, both systems failed because of technical and human error.

“He was considered a moderate risk by the Department of Corrections,” Jess Anderson said at a press conference.

And, when he met with his parole officer after his release from prison in April.

“He always had and said the right things,” said Anderson.

But, when police started to investigate his involvement with Lauren McCluskey, they should have discovered he was on parole. The Department of Corrections tracks offenders with a system known as O-Track, which stores information on criminals like Rowland.

When campus police started to investigate Rowland’s involvement with McCluskey, a dispatcher at the University accessed Rowland’s O-Track record. But, according to the report, the dispatcher was a trainee who did not notice the parole status.

In addition, Rowland was identified in O-Track by a state ID number, not the driver license number university police had when they started looking at Rowland.

“Therefore, the officers were never alerted that he was on probation or parole,” said Anderson. “Even if they did know, in working that investigation, it’s hard to speculate what the outcome would have been.”

“It’s not something you would expect,” said Greg Skordas, a criminal lawyer and legal analyst.

He said the system usually works without problems.

In addition, Rowland’s parole officer never saw an alert that Rowland was being investigated, because, according to the report, the system is flooded with too many notifications. From April through October, 177,382 alerts were sent to Utah Adult Probation and Parole notifying parole officers that parolees had come in contact with police, one way or another. The commissioner said it averages out to 25,000 alerts a month for a staff of 100 parole officers.

“To which our agents are expected to go in and be able to track down and verify if any of their parolees are on that list of alerts,” said Anderson.

“I think that there was a breakdown, and we all agree that that shouldn’t have happened,” said Skordas.

He believes Greg Skordas believes the state should be able to coordinate those systems and work out problems pretty quickly.

“If there’s anything that needs to be changed or redesigned it’s to red flag important issues, and not necessarily every time that an individual is stopped by the police for a traffic ticket, or something like that,” he said.

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Report on McCluskey Murder Finds Two Computer Notification Systems Failed