University of Utah track athlete Lauren McCluskey abducted, murdered on campus

The police put the University of Utah campus on lockdown as they searched for the man suspected of abducting and murdering student-athlete Lauren McCluskey. (AP)
The police put the University of Utah campus on lockdown as they searched for the man suspected of abducting and murdering student-athlete Lauren McCluskey. (AP)

Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old track athlete and University of Utah student, was abducted from outside her Salt Lake City dorm on Monday night, and was found dead a short time later in a parked car on campus.

According to the New York Daily News, McCluskey, a senior communications student, was having an argument outside of her residence hall with 37-year-old suspect Melvin Rowland when she was abducted. Rowland is a registered sex offender, and he and McCluskey may have known each other before their interaction on Monday.

Several students heard gunshots, and the campus was put on lockdown with students instructed to shelter-in-place. McCluskey’s body was found in a parked car near the school’s Medical Towers around 9 p.m., and police pursued Rowland on foot into a church. When the police found him, he was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. USA Today reported that the gun Rowland used to kill himself was the same gun used to kill McCluskey. The lockdown was lifted at 11:40 p.m. because the suspect was no longer a threat.

McCluskey’s family released a statement via Buzzfeed News, which gave more details about Lauren’s relationship to her suspected killer, and what may have led to her death.

According to her family, McCluskey dated Rowland for a month, and ended the relationship several weeks ago when she discovered he had lied to her about his age, his name, and his criminal history. She’d blocked all communication from him and his friends, and had the university police accompany her to retrieve her car, which she’d let him borrow. She’d recently complained to campus police that Rowland had been harassing her. McCluskey was apparently on the phone with her mother when she was abducted, and dropped her phone and the rest of her possessions on the ground.

In a statement, University of Utah president Ruth V. Watkins identified McCluskey as “a highly regarded member of the university’s track and field team and an outstanding scholar.”

The university has canceled all classes for Oct. 23. The campus counseling center is available for students, and counselors have also been made available for employees. According to Watkins’ statement, there will be an on-campus vigil for McCluskey held on Wednesday.

Continuous Tributes

Utah’s football team will honor McCluskey on Saturday against UCLA with decals for the former track athlete.

The team will add the decal to the back of their helmets and a sticker version will also be handed out during the women’s volleyball game against Washington State and the women’s soccer game against UCLA.

UCLA will also hold a moment of silence for McCluskey before Saturday’s football game at the Rose Bowl according to TMZ.

The Pac-12 schools aren’t the only ones honoring McCluskey.

BYU, Utah’s in-state rival, had a tribute for the track athlete on Wednesday morning. Their cross country team wore red shirts during a morning workout, a moment captured by their assistant athletic director.

Other colleges such as Weber State, Utah state and Dixie State also wore red in honor of McCluskey.

Donovan Mitchell, who currently plays basketball for the Utah Jazz, similarly followed suit, wearing red shoes with her name on them.

After the game, Mitchell went on air with ESPN, saying that he was incredibly saddened by her story and thought about the women in his life.

“I have a little sister, my mom raised me and women have to be protected more,” Mitchell said. “For a man to do that, that’s terrible.”

Her teammates on the cross country team will wear black in her honor with a heart logo patch during the cross country championships on Friday at Stanford.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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