Mother of University of Utah homicide victim Lauren McCluskey identifies slain daughter

Lauren McCluskey was a cross-country and track-and-field star at the University of Utah. (University of Utah/Steve C. Wilson)

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - The University of Utah student shot and killed Monday night has been identified as Lauren McCluskey, school president Ruth Watkins wrote in a statement published early Tuesday. Her mother also sent out a tweet identifying her daughter.

Jill McCluskey also wrote about the phone call with her daughter, presumably as she faced the man believed to have killed her and spoke about their prior relationship.

"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 wrote.

Her University of Utah track and field coach Kyle Kepler said everyone associated with the program is devastated. His full statement is at the end of this story.

McCluskey was an accomplished athlete on the track-and-field team at the institution.

Mark Harlan, the Utah director of athletics, released a statement about her death on Twitter.

McCluskey is originally from Pullman, Washington. She was a senior studying communication.

The president of the University of Utah, Ruth V. Watkins, also took to Twitter to release a statement about the horrific event.

McCluskey's family has been notified of the tragedy and is "heartbroken" at the news, Watkins' statement said.

Several members of our university administration spoke with Lauren’s family last night and I have also reached out to them. Her family is understandably in shock at this news about their daughter. They are heartbroken. We have and continue to offer our full support to them at this terrible time.

McCluskey's parents released a statement to 2News concerning the death of their daughter.

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. Laurent previously dated her killer for about 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 killer on Oct. 9, 2018. He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accompany her on Oct. 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 p.m., she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone. Suddenly, I heard her yell, "No, no, no!" I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the 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 with a 3.7 GPA 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 and will be greatly missed.

The Associated Students of the University of Utah and the Athletics Department are planning a vigil for McCluskey on Wednesday.

Morning and evening classes for Tuesday have been canceled. However, the campus will be open and support services have been set up for students, faculty and staff.

McCluskey's suspected killer was identified as Melvin Rowland, who was found dead in a church in Salt Lake City around 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The victim's family revealed in their statement to 2News that the Rowland and the victim had a previous relationship. The pair dated for one month. But, after McCluskey found out Rowland was lying to her about his age, name and criminal history, she ended the relationship.

Track coach Kepler released a statement McCluskey's death.

Everyone associated with our program is devastated by the loss of Lauren. There are no words to express the emotions and grief we are experiencing right now. Lauren was a wonderful person, an excellent student and a dedicated member of our track and field team. She showed a relentless drive to improve every day over the last three and a half years and was always kind and supportive of her teammates. Those are just some of the reasons why her loss has hit us so hard.

Editor's note: The following statement was issued from the Department of Corrections:

"In a statement made this morning by the University of Utah Police Department, it was noted that Melvin Rowland was housed at the Fortitude Community Correctional Center. However, we'd like to issue a correction that while Rowland was on parole, he had been directly released back into the community and was not a resident at any community correctional center."

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