Two years after the murder of a young Washington state woman at the University of Utah, her family has reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the university. The settlement was announced Thursday by the parents of University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins and Lauren McCluskey, the The university’s track and field star, from Pullman, Wash.
McCluskey’s ex-boyfriend, Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, is accused of shooting her in October 2018 after he allegedly blackmailed her and threatened to release sensitive, highly personal photos of her.
According to the complaint filed by McCluskey’s family, Lauren was “sexually and physically abused, stalked and threatened by the ultimate killer” and campus police “dismissed and recused her request for assistance.”
“We have failed Lauren and her family. We salute Lauren and her legacy will improve campus safety for all students,” Watkins said in a prepared statement from the university.
In this Aug. 30, 2017 photo provided by the University of Utah, member of the University of Utah cross country and track teams, Lauren McCluskey runs in Salt Lake City. On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, University of Utah student McCluskey was shot dead on campus by former friend Melvin Rowland, who was found dead in a church, authorities said. (Steve C. Wilson/University of Utah, AP)
All funds from the settlement will support the Lauren McCluskey Foundation to improve campus safety, Jill McCluskey announced Thursday.
Lauren McCluskey and her friends spoke to university officials and police about the abuse and their fear that it would escalate into more serious violence. The family’s complaint alleges that instead of stepping in and protecting Lauren from the killer, university officials and police officers ignored, refused and avoided her pleas for help.
This undated photo provided by the Utah Department of Justice shows Melvin Rowland. Rowland is suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend, University of Utah student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, who was found dead in an off-campus church in the early hours of Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, authorities said. (Utah Department of Corrections via Associated Press)
The lawsuit also involves former University of Utah campus police officer Miguel de Las, who was assigned to Lauren’s racketeering case. He is accused of showing “highly sensitive, personal and private images for voyeuristic purposes” to at least one other officer not involved in the case, according to a previous press release from McCluskey’s legal team. The pictures were used by Lauren’s ex-boyfriend and later murderer, Melvin Rowland, to blackmail her. Lauren Rowland reportedly paid $1,000 to keep the photos from being made public.
According to a report released in August by the Utah Department of Public Safety, Draas showed the photos to at least three male co-workers in a non-work setting. “Sometime after the October 2018 briefing,” “Officer Dellas showed the photographs to a group of officers,” the report said.
A staff member recalled that Draas commented on the photos, saying he could look at them “at any time.” The clerk also admitted she had made rude comments about McCluskey’s photo of Dras in the case. Another said other officers were involved, saying Draas was “very happy” with the case and that McCluskey was a “lovely girl.”