University of Utah Track Athlete Abducted, Murdered on Campus

Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old track athlete and University of Utah student, was abducted from outside her Salt Lake City dorm on Monday night. (University of Utah photo)

Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old track athlete and University of Utah student, was abducted from outside her Salt Lake City dorm on Monday night, and was found dead a short time later in a parked car on campus.

According to the New York Daily News, McCluskey, a senior communications student, was having an argument outside of her residence hall with 37-year-old suspect Melvin Rowland when she was abducted. Rowland is a registered sex offender, and he and McCluskey may have known each other before their interaction on Monday.

Several students heard gunshots, and the campus was put on lockdown with students instructed to shelter-in-place. McCluskey’s body was found in a parked car near the school’s Medical Towers around 9 p.m., and police pursued Rowland on foot into a church. When the police found him, he was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. USA Today reported that the gun Rowland used to kill himself was the same gun used to kill McCluskey. The lockdown was lifted at 11:40 p.m. because the suspect was no longer a threat.

McCluskey’s family released a statement via Buzzfeed News, which gave more details about Lauren’s relationship to her suspected killer, and what may have led to her death.

According to her family, McCluskey dated Rowland for a month, and ended the relationship several weeks ago when she discovered he had lied to her about his age, his name, and his criminal history. She’d blocked all communication from him and his friends, and had the university police accompany her to retrieve her car, which she’d let him borrow. She’d recently complained to campus police that Rowland had been harassing her. McCluskey was apparently on the phone with her mother when she was abducted, and dropped her phone and the rest of her possessions on the ground.

In a statement, University of Utah president Ruth V. Watkins identified McCluskey as “a highly regarded member of the university’s track and field team and an outstanding scholar.”

The university has canceled all classes for Oct. 23. The campus counseling center is available for students, and counselors have also been made available for employees. According to Watkins’ statement, there will be an on-campus vigil for McCluskey held on Wednesday.

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