McCluskeys to sue University of Utah

Mother says lawsuit is last resort to get change, accountability



Matthew and Jill McCluskey stand side-by-side during a press conference Jun 27, where they announced they have filed a $56 million lawsuit against the University of Utah in the wake their daughter Lauren’s murder.

GABRIEL BRAVO, Evergreen reporter

WSU professors Matthew and Jill McCluskey filed a $56 million lawsuit against the University of Utah claiming the university could have prevented the murder of their daughter, Lauren McCluskey, who was shot and killed on Oct. 28, 2018.

“We taught Lauren that if someone is a law-abiding citizen it’s the police department’s job to protect and serve when she asks for help,” said Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, in a press conference June 27. “I [was] shocked that the campus police and campus housing response to Lauren’s cries for help were incompetent, unaware, skeptical of her, complacent and uncaring.”

Lauren McCluskey briefly dated her assailant Melvin Rowland. 

She broke up with Rowland over a month later after learning he was a registered sex offender.

After McCluskey broke up with him, Rowland harassed and attempted to extort her more than a week before her murder, threatening to post compromising photos online.

Her body was found in the back of a car, according to a statement written by Ruth Watkins, president of the University of Utah. Rowland was tracked down the next day by police to a church, where he committed suicide.

Jill McCluskey said Lauren’s friends alerted campus housing on September 30 about Lauren McCluskey’s ex-boyfriend possibly bringing a gun to campus. She said the same gun was used to kill Lauren McCluskey.

An email was sent to Watkins requesting the university to admit fault, hold individuals accountable, and to partner with the McCluskey family to fix safety issues and address concerns at the university, she said. A response has yet to be made.

In that same email, Jill McCluskey told Watkins that campus police seemed undertrained, unaware and hampered by inappropriate policies and procedures.

“I asked [Watkins] who is responsible for leading these units and for ensuring staff are properly trained, aware, responsive and are providing safety,” she said. “Those individuals failed Lauren with fatal consequences, and they need to be held accountable.”

The university must act with urgency and shouldn’t hesitate when their female students ask for help, she said. Suing was the “last resort” to create positive change, she said.

If the McCluskey’s win the lawsuit all proceeds will go to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, Jill McCluskey said. Matthew McCluskey said they both want a safer environment for any college student.

“Jill and I are committed to improve campus safety,” Matthew McCluskey said. “We want the University of Utah and all academic institutions to be places of learning where students worry about midterms, not survival.”