The sex offender who murdered a University of Utah athlete tried to blackmail her with their intimate photos and went on a date with another woman after killing her.
These are just some of the new horrific details that University of Utah police revealed on Thursday, shedding more light on the tragic death of Lauren McCluskey.
The 21-year-old had broken up with Melvin Rowland, 37, just weeks before he murdered her in the backseat of a car in her dorm’s parking lot.
Now police have revealed that right after shooting Lauren to death on October 22, Rowland went on a date with a woman he had met on a dating website just days earlier.
University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy revealed a detailed timeline of events on the days of harassment that led up to Lauren’s death.
Lauren McCluskey, 21, was blackmailed by ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland just days before he murdered her. Rowland, under a fake email address, threatened to post intimate photos of her
Authorities have since revealed that Rowland (pictured), a convicted sex offender, went on a date just minutes after killing Lauren in the backseat of a car on October 22
The star athlete had met Rowland at a bar on September 2, where he worked as a bouncer.
Brophy said they ‘immediately’ started dating, but their relationship came to an end when Lauren found out he was lying about his name, age, and criminal history.
Lauren invited Rowland to her dorm room on October 9 and confronted him with the information about him she had learned while on vacation.
‘He admitted to the sex offender status, but denied the age difference,’ Brophy said.
‘He was a manipulator. If his lips were moving, he was lying. I don’t think he told the truth to anyone.’
Lauren told Rowland that she was breaking up with him but allowed him to stay the night. The next day, she allowed him to borrow her car to run errands.
‘He was very good at getting people to trust him,’ Brophy said. ‘His skill and ability to do this and to con people has been evidenced in the past.’
The star track and field athlete had broken up with Rowland, 37, just weeks before he murdered her in the parking lot of her dormitory in the backseat of a car
Lauren (pictured with her father) ended things with Rowland on October 9 when she found out he had been lying about his name, age, and criminal history
Rowland murdered Lauren at her dorm, the South Tower Medical Plaza Student Housing, before going on a date with a woman and visiting the State Captitol. Hours later, he killed himself at Trinity AME Church
That same day, Lauren’s mother contacted campus police. She was aware that Lauren had found out incriminating details about her boyfriend and wanted a campus escort to help retrieve her car.
A dispatcher called Lauren, who denied assistance and said Rowland was going to drop off her car at her apartment later that day.
Lauren then called campus police that night at 5pm and asked for a security escort to take her to her car at the stadium parking lot, where Rowland had dropped it off instead.
Just two days later Lauren contacted campus police again, saying she had received suspicious emails from unknown addresses claiming to be Rowland’s friends.
The emails said that Rowland was dead and that it was her fault – even though she could see him posting on social media.
‘She said she didn’t feel threatened, but felt his friends were trying to lure her somewhere,’ Brophy said.
On October 13 Lauren contacted campus police again, revealing she received texts and email addresses she believed belonged to either Rowland or his friends.
They had begun dating on September 2, when she met Rowland at a bar where he was working as a bouncer
In the days before he murdered her, Rowland began harassing Lauren with texts and emails from fake accounts and numbers. Pictured is the parking lot where Lauren was murdered
She told police that the messages were demanding money in exchange for not posting ‘compromising photos’ of her and Rowland on the internet.
Lauren sent $1,000 to keep the photos private, and then called police.
A University of Utah detective was assigned to screen for sexual extortion charges and on October 19 a formal investigation began.
‘We now realize it was more than likely Rowland used his manipulative tactics to make it seem like his friends were involved,’ Brophy said.
‘He had multiple cell phones, texting apps, and emails to cover his identity. We believe Rowland was behind all of this and using it as another tactic of manipulation to confuse Lauren.’
During the next few days, from October 19 to October 22, Rowland was captured on security cameras at ‘various locations on campus’.
‘He was looking for Lauren, without her knowledge,’ Brophy said.
Lauren told police that the messages were demanding money in exchange for not posting ‘compromising photos’ of her and Rowland on the internet
Students at the University of Utah look in the direction of the parking lot where Lauren’s body was found shot dead in a car on Monday evening
On October 22 Lauren emailed the police department, saying she received a message from an unknown number claiming to be a detective and asking that she come to the police station.
‘She knew it was fake and didn’t respond,’ Brophy said. ‘University police now believed Rowland sent that text to get her out of her dorm room. He was outside of her dorm, waiting for her to leave.’
From the hours of 3pm to 6pm that day, Rowland spent the afternoon waiting for Lauren with some of her friends in her dorm building.
‘He had spent 30 days in a relationship with Lauren and became friends with many of her friends,’ Brophy explained. ‘They allowed him into the dorm at any time.’
At 8.20pm Rowland spotted Lauren as she was returning to her dorm from a night class and speaking on the phone with her mother.
After murdering her, Rowland went on a date with a woman. He later ran into Trinity AME Church (pictured) after police spotted him and killed himself inside
He confronted her and quickly dragged her into the parking lot, causing her to drop her phone and belongings.
Rowland then forced Lauren into the backseat of a car, where he shot her multiple times.
Lauren’s mother heard her yell ‘No, no, no!’ before the phone went silent.
‘I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her,’ her mother Jill said in a statement on Tuesday.
‘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.’
Three minutes after Rowland confronted Lauren, an emergency dispatcher received the phone call from her father, who said he believed she was in trouble.
While the dispatcher was collecting information, a detective on Lauren’s extortion case heard her name mentioned and immediately arrived at the scene to help.
But Rowland was already gone.
According to his jail records, Rowland was convicted on July 19, 2004 of attempted forcible sexual abuse and enticing a minor. He served nine years in prison
Just 18 minutes after he murdered Lauren, Rowland was picked up by a woman in the same parking lot.
Rowland had called the woman – who he met on a dating website – and said he just finished a workout at the university campus and asked for a ride.
They went to dinner at a local restaurant, visited the Utah State Capitol, and then returned to her home – where Rowland took a shower. The woman later dropped him off at a coffee shop downtown.
Meanwhile, the University of Utah was on lockdown.
Campus police had immediately gone to Lauren’s room and searched the entire dorm building, asking anyone if they had seen or heard anything.
One witness said they thought they had heard gunshots but that it ‘didn’t sound like a normal gun’ and was ‘really quiet’.
At 9.55pm investigators located Lauren’s body in the car. One minute later, they sent a ‘secure in place’ – also known as lockdown – alert to the entire campus.
Brophy said campus police sent updates every 30 minutes, providing a description of the suspect at 10.09pm.
At 11.40pm the alert was lifted after security footage showed Rowland had gotten inside the woman’s car and left campus hours ago.
Rowland was able to borrow the gun he used to kill Lauren (pictured with her mother Jill, center) after telling an acquaintance his girlfriend wanted to learn how to use a gun
The acquaintance contacted police after hearing about Lauren’s horrific death and seeing Rowland’s picture
Campus police located Rowland by 12.46am, engaging him in a foot pursuit and following him into the Trinity AME Church.
Rowland broke in through the back door of the church as officers followed him inside.
They then heard a commotion on the second floor, followed by what sounded like a gunshot. He had taken his own life.
Following Lauren’s horrific murder, questions have swirled over how Rowland – a convicted sex offender – was able to get a gun.
Brophy said he borrowed the gun from an acquaintance, telling them that he wanted to ‘teach his girlfriend how to shoot’ and that she ‘had a real interest in learning how to use a gun’.
The acquaintance contacted police after hearing about Lauren’s death and seeing Rowland’s picture in the news.
Lauren, of Washington, was an accomplished student athlete and a star on the University of Utah’s track and field team. She is pictured here signing her letter of intent in 2014
University of Utah President Ruth Watkins presented Lauren’s family with her bachelor’s degree in communications – which she would have earned in 2019
‘This was another person Rowland had duped into thinking he was a great guy and could do no wrong,’ Brophy said.
There are currently no charges pending against the acquaintance or the woman who picked Rowland up after the murder and they are both fully cooperating with the investigation, Brophy added.
The police chief said that when Lauren first opened up the investigation, he was not aware that Rowland was on probation.
And, under the circumstances of an extortion case, the department would not have reached out to Utah Adult Probation & Parole until they wanted to make contact with Rowland, Brophy explained.
‘We were still in the preliminary,’ he said. ‘We didn’t want to lose any evidence before identifying any of our suspects.’
Lauren’s parents Matt and Jill hug some of their daughter’s track and field teammates after a vigil held for their daughter at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City
Lauren’s parents look on as a vigil is held for their daughter Wednesday evening at the university campus
‘We did not believe there was enough evidence at the time to contact other law enforcement offices,’ he said.
Brophy said that campus police did not help Lauren get a restraining order because they thought Rowland was only threatening her ‘financially’.
‘There was no indication from Lauren to us that he was threatening physical harm,’ he added.
University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said there will be two independent reviews into campus safety and the campus police department following Lauren’s death.
The latter will focus specifically on the actions the police department took in response to her original complaint about Rowland.
Watkins noted that what is under review is the department’s protocol and ‘not the actions of the individual officers’.
‘We’re committed to doing everything we can to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again on our campus,’ she said. ‘We will leave no stone unturned.’
Patricia Kyzyl (left) comforts Regina Snider, who was a friend and former high school teammate of Lauren, after a vigil Wednesday night in Pullman, Washington
Attendees listen to a speaker at a vigil for Lauren at her former high school in Pullman
Watkins presented Lauren’s family with her bachelor’s degree in communications – which she would have earned in 2019, to ‘express how important she was to the campus community’.
‘There is no degree that can adequately acknowledge the contributions Lauren made to the campus,’ Watkins said, calling her the ‘very model of a student-athlete’.
‘We are determined as a university to learn from this tragedy,’ she added.
Lauren, of Pullman, Washington, was an accomplished student athlete and a star on the University of Utah’s track and field team.
Rowland was a resident of Salt Lake City and in 2004 was convicted of attempted forcible sex abuse and enticing a minor over the internet, according to court records. He was released from Utah State Prison in 2013 after nine years behind bars.
Lauren’s death was announced to students on social media and the school’s website on Monday night. All Tuesday classes were canceled.