Lauren McCluskey, a 21 y.o. student athlete at the University of Utah, was murdered by a former boyfriend despite having complained to campus and Salt Lake City police over 20 times .
Lauren met her murderer, 37 y.o. Melvin Rowland, in a bar. The co-ed ended their brief, month-long relationship on learning Rowland was a convicted sex offender who had lied about his name and age.
Calls for Help
Over the next two weeks, Lauren reported to police that Rowland was sending her harassing messages and attempting to extort money. She did, in fact, send him $1000 in the futile hope of securing the return of embarrassing photos.
Lauren’s body was found in the backseat of a car on campus. She had been shot to death. Rowland killed himself following a police chase.
The University of Utah has settled with McCluskey’s parents for $10.5 million. A separate $3 million donation will be made to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, and funds raised for an indoor track to be named after Lauren.
The University has acknowledged fault. It has established a center for violence prevention on campus, and will be consolidating evening classes to improve campus safety.
How the University plans to improve police response when a similar situation arises in future is unclear.
A Cautionary Tale
This is, in some ways, a cautionary tale for our times.
We encourage our children to believe in sexual freedom. We send them off to college expecting that they will meet new people, have new experiences. But modern relationships can be difficult . And casual sexual encounters – particularly those with strangers – necessarily involve a high degree of risk.
How then do we identify the predators, the men and women bent on harming us or our children?
A phone app might perhaps tell us whether the attractive man sitting across from us has a criminal record. It could not possibly identify the countless sociopaths, sadists, and other sexual deviants yet to acquire such a record.
We are left to rely on law enforcement for help when a problem develops. Tragically, in this instance, that safety net failed. Help delayed was help denied.
 CNN, “University of Utah settles with family of murdered student Lauren McCluskey and renames its violence prevention center in her honor” by Mallika Kallingal and Jennifer Henderson, 10/23/20, https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/23/us/lauren-mccluskey-university-of-utah-settlement/index.html.
 Psychology Today, “The Paradox of Sexual Freedom”, 2/6/13, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hard-get/201302/the-paradox-sexual-freedom.
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17 responses to “Help Delayed = Help Denied”
Great post Anna,
It is a sad story indeed.
They claim incidents like this made it easier to obtain restraining orders.
I pray her parents will be a voice to other young woman.
We can only hope lessons will be learned, Mary.
Yes good point Anna.
Sometimes hard lessons bring change.
The girl did everything she could possibly do and those who are there to protect failed and she lost her life because of them. This post is a good reminder to everyone both young women and men can be at risk.
I agree, Nanette.
Sad story. Repeated daily in different forms across the world. I have no answers of course but you have to wonder whether human nature itself needs to be changed. Genetic re-wiring (with due efforts made to avoid the horrors of past efforts in this respect).
My heart aches for our young adults with so much freedom that is equaled in risk. I’m not sure that even hindsight of aged wisdom would help, with deceit so easily carried out today. We want law enforcement to never fail them. But they do, so we must find better ways, to forewarn – maybe to tell the tale to parents, or friends, not just the law.
An excellent point, Marilee.
As the father of three daughters I cannot begin to understand the heartbreak and suffering this girl’s parents are dealing with. Neither should anyone have to live their lives in fear of another as this young lady did.
Without knowing every detail of the events that led up to her death, I would question the notion that the authorities failed this young lady. Again, not being privy to all of the details, we do not know to what extent current laws restricted the police in their efforts to protect her.
The easy thing to do is to say the police should have done a better job of protecting her, but for all we know they did everything they could do, especially since this was a university police force. Does anyone really believe these would be the best trained and best equipped law enforcement officers?
What makes these incidents so tragic is that we teach our children from a young age that the police are there to protect them. Who knows how many millions of dollars are spent on 911 infrastructure, education, and the like in an effort to protect citizens from the predators that are out there.
Yet what we don’t teach them because we do not understand everything, is that many times the very people we entrust our lives and the lives of our loved ones to are actually incapable of doing just that due to the existing laws. In essence we are instilling in them a very false sense of security.
Sadly, it seems the best a parent can do is educate their children on the dangers that may confront them in a society where evil runs almost unchecked, and pray they make wise decisions. Of course, that is of little to no comfort to a parent grieving the loss of a murdered child.
Though campus police were not the only ones involved here, you make an excellent point, Ron. We do not know from a news article alone all the measures law enforcement may have taken. Sadly, there is no guarantee of absolute safety in this world.
This incident unfortunately narrates something that shouldn’t happen but happens quite often. The question is how do we protect vulnerable people from sexual predators, in this case a murderer. I was trained that the best defender comes from awareness. One must be aware at all times of one’s surroundings and that means being hyper alert to possible predators in our midst. The dating scene is a dangerous scene and young single women are now part of a high risk group. Although the police has to be more involved, the responsibility lies primarily with ourselves. A very important message is in this post you’ve given us, Anna. Thank you and all the best to you,
Wise advice, Francisco. I would add the recommendation that young people delay sexual intercourse until they have a better idea of the character of the individuals w/ whom they propose to begin an intimate relationship. Even that is not a guarantee of safety, of course.
And I agree with you Anna. And, no, unfortunately that is not a guarantee. The only guarantee is awareness and not to immediately trust strangers or bring them to your home. All the best,
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