Jonathan Cartu Report: Family of murdered student, 21, sue University of Utah for - Jonathan Cartu Charity Foundation
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Jonathan Cartu Report: Family of murdered student, 21, sue University of Utah for

Lauren McCluskey

Jonathan Cartu Report: Family of murdered student, 21, sue University of Utah for

The parents of murdered University of Utah track star Lauren McCluskey have filed a second lawsuit, accusing school officials of discriminating against her based on her gender by ignoring her pleas for protection from her abusive and manipulative ex-boyfriend.

McCluskey was 21 years old when she was shot dead outside her dorm in October 2018 by Melvin Rowland, a 37-year-old registered sex offender on parole who she briefly dated. The gunman died by suicide hours after the killing.

The new family lawsuit alleges that university officials ignored Lauren’s repeated requests for help and reports of abuse and harassment, including Rowland’s threats to release explicit photos of the female student after she broke up with him on October 9. 

It also alleges that a campus cop kept the private images on his personal phone. 

Matthew and Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s parents, had first sued the university in federal court in June 2019, alleging that officials could have done more to protect their daughter after claiming she contacted campus police multiple times in the weeks leading up to her death saying her ex-boyfriend was harassing her.

Melvin Rowland

The  parents of Lauren McCluskey, 21 (left), who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland (right), have filed a new lawsuit accusing University of Utah officials of ignoring the student’s repeated pleas for protection 

The civil lawsuit alleges the university violated state Constitution and denied Lauren equal protection under the law because she was a woman

The civil lawsuit alleges the university violated state Constitution and denied Lauren equal protection under the law because she was a woman

Jill and Matthew McCluskey (pictured in June 2019) last year filed a federal lawsuit against the university

Jill and Matthew McCluskey (pictured in June 2019) last year filed a federal lawsuit against the university 

On Monday, the family filed a separate lawsuit against University of Utah, University Department of Housing and Residential Education, and University Department of Public Safety, claiming that the school violated the state Constitution and denied Lauren equal protection under the law because she was a woman, reported Salt Lake Tribune.

‘If the University had taken Lauren more seriously, her murder could have been avoided,’ the lawsuit argues. 

According to the court filing shared by KUTV, Lauren’s concerns for her own safety, as well as her friends’ pleas, were ‘treated dismissively because of the University’s practice and policy of ignoring and disbelieving women, deliberate indifference to domestic violence that disproportionately affects women, its failure to competently investigate her complaints and those of others and its failure to protect her based on outdated, dangerous, and misogynistic attitudes toward women.’

The new complaint alleges that Lauren, a track star, repeatedly raised concerns about her ex-boyfriend

Rowland was a registered sex offender

The new complaint alleges that Lauren, a track star (left), repeatedly raised concerns about her ex-boyfriend, who was a registered sex offender, but nothing was done 

The 58-page lawsuit filed in 3rd District Court further argues that the university was negligent because it failed to respond in a timely fashion to Lauren’s requests for help and did not look into Rowland’s parole status, or banned him from campus.

The lawsuit lays out in detail Lauren and her friends’ repeated interactions with campus officials and university police leading up to October 22, 2018, when she was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend and shot seven times.

According to the lawsuit, some of Lauren’s closest friends sounded the alarm about her boyfriend in late September 2018, saying that he was possessive, controlling, manipulative and prone to jealous rages and stalking behavior, and raising concerns that the senior was in ‘an unhealthy and potentially harmful relationship.’

A friend told a gradate assistant on campus that since she began dating Rowland, who presented himself as a 28-year-old community college student named Shawn, Lauren seemed depressed and exhausted, was not eating well or taking care of herself, and that she had unexplained marks and bruises on her body suggesting physical abuse.

Students from the University of Utah look in the direction of a parking lot where on October 22, 2018, McCluskey was shot seven times and killed

Students from the University of Utah look in the direction of a parking lot where on October 22, 2018, McCluskey was shot seven times and killed 

Although the graduate assistant forwarded the report to her supervisors, the lawsuit claims that no action was taken because officials decided that it would be best to ‘respect Lauren’s privacy’ and wait until she personally sought help. 

‘This proposed course of action was clearly unreasonable in the light of the known circumstances as it in no way addressed the dating violence, domestic violence, sexual harassment, stalking and other abuses by Melvin Rowland, who was a non-student continuing to freely access campus to commit these crimes and abuse against Lauren without any efforts by the University to stop him,’ according to the complaint. 

Lauren ended her relationship with Rowland after discovering his true identify and learning about his criminal conviction.

The lawsuit contends that when Lauren went to the campus police, she told officer Miguel Deras that Rowland had threatened to release compromising photos of herself, unless she paid him $1,000.

According to the complaint, Deras kept the private images on his personal phone and later bragged about them to his friends.

A lawyer for Deras, who now serves as a police officer in Logan, Utah, previously dismissed the allegations against him, which first came to light last month, as ‘absolutely untrue.’ 

‘No evidence. No physical evidence. Not a single picture was downloaded to his personal cell phone,’ Jensen told KSL TV. ‘I want the public to step back and read the article and realize there are flaws in the article.’ 

The family’s civil suit contends that despite the fact that Lauren made as many as 20 police reports about her ex-boyfriend, her concerns were never taken seriously and no action was taken to investigate Rowland, until it was too late.   

The plaintiffs in the state lawsuit are seeking $56million in damages, which they say will go to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to improving campus safety. 

University of Utah previously asked a judge to throw up the McClusky family’s federal lawsuit, arguing that the school was not liable for Lauren’s death because her attacker was not affiliated with campus.

The McCluseky family are seeking $56million in damages, which will go to a non-profit bearing their murdered daughter's name

The McCluseky family are seeking $56million in damages, which will go to a non-profit bearing their murdered daughter’s name 

Last month, the family’s attorney announced that University of Utah did not reach a settlement with Lauren’s parents after two days of mediation, which involved ‘frank but unsuccessful’ talks between the two sides.   

An independent review was commissioned by the university and found that the school indeed missed warning signs of abuse before McCluskey was found shot in a car after returning from a night class.

However, university president Ruth Watkins said there’s no reason to believe Rowland could’ve been stopped.

In response last year’s federal lawsuit, UofU has pledged to run more frequent checks to identify ex-convicts and investigate on-campus complaints more thoroughly.

They’ve also hired more officers, increased training, and streamlined communications between housing officials and police. 

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