A University of Utah track and field athlete was killed in an on-campus shooting outside of a dormitory late Monday night and authorities say the man suspected of the shooting has died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Lauren McCluskey, a senior from Pullman, Wash. who majored in communications, was found in a car shortly before 10 p.m. local time. University Police say they received a call concerning a report of a possible abduction in a parking lot near a dorm and later found McCluskey near a Medical Plaza tower.
“Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our own,” Mark Harlan, Utah's athletics director said in a statement, “Senior track standout Lauren McCluskey was tragically killed in a senseless act. This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core. We have university counselors and psychologists on standby to support Lauren’s teammates, coaches and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all of those dear to her.”
The suspect, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, had previous convictions for attempted forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor over the internet in 2004 and was released from the Utah State Prison in 2013.
He was found dead inside of a downtown Salt Lake City church, after authorities conducted a search of the area.
Police say that McCluskey and Rowland had "a previous relationship," but would not elaborate. Jill McCluskey, Lauren's mother, later tweeted a statement with further details.
"It is with deepest sadness that we let you know that our daughter Lauren McCluskey, age 21, was the University of Utah student who was killed last night," she said. "Lauren previously dated her killer for abut one month. He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history. Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killed on October 9, 2018. He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accomany her on October 10, 2018 to get the car back. She blocked his and his friends' phone numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed."
"Last night a little before 9 pm, she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone," Jill continued. "Suddenly, I heard her yell, 'No, no, no!' I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was teh last I heard from her. My husband called 911. I kept the line open and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren's things were on the ground.
"Lauren was a senior student athlete on the University of Utah track team. She was an outstanding student majoring in Communication and was excited to graduate in May 2019. She was a 2015 honors graduate of Pullman High School where she was Washington state champion in the high jump and the school record holder in the 100 meter hurdles. She attended Capital Church in Salt Lake City. She loved to sing and had strength and determination. She was dearly loved adn will be greatly missed."
Utah President Ruth V. Watkins announced that classes would be canceled today to "allow our campus community to grieve the senseless loss of this bright, young woman. We have made our counseling and support services available to students, staff and faculty."
The university and the athletics department are planning a vigil for McCluskey to be held on Wednesday,
McCluskey competed in the high jump and pentathlon, among other events in her time at Utah and during the 2018 outdoor track set a season-high high jump mark.