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Parents of Univ. of Utah student killed says her death was preventable

The McClukeys said their daughter’s safety was not considered even after she made numerous statements that she was scared.

The parents of a University of Utah student who was shot and killed by a man she briefly dated are responding to the university’s independent review report.

The report said 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey's death could not have been prevented. Her parents, Jill and Matthew McCluskey, disputed that claim.   

The independent investigation found that Lauren McCluskey’s friends had reported the suspect’s controlling behavior and interest in getting her a gun nearly a month before the shooting, but the warning never made it to police.  

According to the Associated Press, the investigation released Wednesday shows that university detectives looked into a subsequent harassment report from McCluskey but did not discover he was a sex offender who had been released from prison months before.

University President Ruth Watkins said the university is “acting on every single recommendation” in the report by school and state officials following McCluskey's death. But she maintained that nothing in the review indicated McCluskey’s death could have been prevented.

“Instead, the report offers weaknesses, identifies issues and provides us with a road map for strengthening security on our campus,” she said.

The probe also shows campus police are overtaxed and need more training in handling domestic violence cases.

Jill and Matthew McCluskey tweeted their response to the investigation Friday morning. They said in a statement, “We respectfully disagree with the conclusion that Lauren’s murder could not have been prevented. There were numerous opportunities to protest her during the almost two weeks between the time when our daughter began expressing repeated, elevating and persistent concerns about her situation and the time of her murder.”

The McCluskeys said the failures include lack of follow through, reporting and lack urgency by the University of Utah Police Department, Housing and Residential Education and possibly University Counseling.

“This situation cries out for accountability beyond updating policies and training and addressing UUPD understaffing by hiring five new department personnel,” they wrote.

They also said their daughter’s safety was not considered even after she made numerous statements that she was scared.

“She was provided no support or protection. Rowland was free to roam the campus and had easy access to Lauren’s housing area,” he parents wrote.   

McCluskey, a track athlete who graduated from Pullman High School, was fatally shot by 37-year-old Melvin Rowland on Oct. 22, after she dumped him because he had been lying about his identity, criminal history and age. Rowland killed himself as police closed in.

More than a week before her death, McCluskey had reported to police that her ex-boyfriend was harassing her and demanding money in exchange for not posting compromising photos of her online. Police investigated, but they never checked him against state records where they could have discovered he was a parolee.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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