McCluskey Family Files $56 Million Suit Against University Of Utah

Jun 27, 2019, 5:00 PM | Updated: 9:12 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The parents of slain student-athlete Lauren McCluskey are suing the University of Utah, charging that the school took no responsibility for their daughter’s death.

They hope the lawsuit will make the campus safer for future students. Jill and Matt McCluskey are filing a $56 million civil rights case against the university, and said any money awarded will be used for campus safety and development of athletics programs.

“Lauren was a beautiful woman in all respects,” said her father Matt McCluskey.

A press conference announcing the civil rights case was held at their attorney’s office in Murray Thursday.

“Jill and I are committed to improve campus safety,” said Matt McCluskey.

Lauren McCluskey’s parents call the track star’s murder preventable, and say the university police treated her skeptically as she called for help more than 20 times over 12 days leading up to her murder.

“They were not caring. They were not curious. They were not helpful,” said Jill McCluskey.

“At a responsible university, when students are harassed, they are not told that there is nothing we can do, they are told, how can we help you?” said Matt McCluskey.

Their daughter, Lauren, was shot seven times and killed on campus last October by a man she had dated, Melvin Shawn Rowland. He was a 37-year-old convicted sex offender who was on the Utah Sex Offender Registry.

When McCluskey discovered he had lied about his name, age, and background, she ended the relationship.

She contacted University Police multiple times and reported Rowland’s attempts to blackmail her with intimate pictures, and other concerns about her safety.

“The university never took the complaints seriously enough to even talk to her ex-boyfriend, or any of her ex-boyfriend’s associates,” said James McConkie, attorney for the McCluskeys.

The parents claim the university failed to investigate Rowland adequately. Despite trying to get the university to take action, they said, Rowland hunted Lauren down as she was returning from class and killed her.

They said the university has never accepted any responsibility for the murder, or taken any disciplinary action against people involved. The lawyer contends that healing and reconciliation are impossible until the university takes responsibility for what happened.

“In Utah, when someone does something that is wrong, we expect them to do everything they can to make it right,” said McConkie. “But, we also expect them to take responsibility.”

After her murder, an independent review found numerous mistakes were made by the university and by campus police, but concluded it was impossible to say whether McCluskey’s death could have been prevented.

“The university has taken no responsibility for Lauren’s preventable death. No one has been disciplined or held accountable in the campus police, or housing,” said Jill McCluskey. “The university must pay a large amount so that they realize it is in their interest to believe women and act with urgency when their female students ask for help.”

University President Ruth Watkins responded in a statement that the university will respond to the lawsuit when it is appropriate. She again expressed sorrow for the death of Lauren McCluskey, and said they, “share the family’s commitment to improving campus safety.”

She stated, “We continue to address the recommendations identified by the independent review… and we are making ongoing improvements designed to protect our students.”

The McCluskeys say they will not profit from the suit. Any money rewarded will go the Lauren McCluskey Foundation which promotes campus safety for women.

“Our only profit will be the somber satisfaction of saving lives,” said her father.

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McCluskey Family Files $56 Million Suit Against University Of Utah