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Lauren McCluskey's Parents Have Agreed To A $13.5 Million Settlement Two Years After She Was Killed On Campus

The 21-year-old student was murdered by an ex-boyfriend on campus in 2018 after the university's employees "failed to fully understand and respond appropriately" to her situation.

Posted on October 22, 2020, at 8:24 p.m. ET

Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah

Lauren McCluskey

The University of Utah agreed to pay more than $10 million to the family of Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old student whose sexually explicit photos were shared by a campus police officer days before she murdered by a convicted sex offender in 2018.

The university acknowledged that McCluskey's murder was a "brutal, senseless, and preventable tragedy" as part of the settlement announced on Thursday, the second anniversary of her death.

The state of Utah will pay the McCluskeys $10.5 million and the university will donate $3 million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation by March next year, according to the settlement.

"The settlement is important for many reasons." her mother, Jill McCluskey, said in a press conference. "It addresses how Lauren died, but it also honors how she lived."

McCluskey's parents publicly committed to giving their portion of the settlement to the foundation, which was established for the causes of campus safety, animal welfare, and amateur athletics.

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Jill McCluskey

In a statement, the university said it "acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees failed to fully understand and respond appropriately to Lauren’s situation."

The statement added, "As a result, we failed Lauren and her family."

Lauren, a star member of the university’s track-and-field team, was fatally shot in a campus parking lot by her ex-boyfriend, Melvin Rowland, who authorities said had lied to her about his identity and that he was a registered sex offender.

Her death prompted a review of how the university mishandled the case and led to a $65 million lawsuit filed by her parents, accusing the university of "deliberate indifference and failure to intervene and prevent the tragic and untimely death of Lauren McCluskey."

Her parents alleged that the university failed to respond to their daughter's multiple reports about Rowland's dangerous behavior and her concerns about stalking, intimidation, and domestic violence.

Days before McCluskey was murdered, Miguel Deras, a police officer with the University of Utah, showed off her explicit photos to at least three of his colleagues, telling them that he could "look at them whenever he wanted." This took place after McCluskey reported to campus police that she was being extorted over the pictures, according to a report released in August.

One officer who saw the photos said "she's cute" while another told Deras, "lucky you got that case."

The university police launched a monthslong investigation into the incident after the Salt Lake Tribune reported that an officer involved in McCluskey's case had inappropriately shared her nude photos with his coworkers.

Rowland, a 37-year-old convicted sex offender on parole, fatally shot McCluskey on Oct. 22, 2018, as she was walking back to her residence hall.

After dating for a short time, McCluskey had broken up with Rowland when she found out that he had lied to her about his name, age, and criminal history.

Rowland then began stalking, threatening, and extorting her. McCluskey reported the threats and extortion attempts to university police several times before she was killed. Hours after he murdered her, Rowland died by suicide while police were searching for him.

The review into actions by campus police determined that there were several missteps and shortcomings in how the university handled her case.

"If these employees had more complete training and protocols to guide their responses, the university believes they would have been better equipped to protect Lauren," the university said in its statement Thursday.

As part of the settlement, the university also pledged to raise funds to build an indoor track facility named in honor of McCluskey and agreed to rename its Center for Violence Prevention as the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention.

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