Mother of Slain Utah College Student Was on Phone With Daughter When She Was Attacked: I Heard Her Yell, 'No, No, No!'

Utah college student Lauren McCluskey was allegedly shot to death by ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland, police said.
Melvin Rowland is suspected of shooting to death student Lauren McCluskey, authorities said. Salt Lake County/University of Utah

The mother of a University of Utah student believed to have been shot to death by her ex-boyfriend was on the phone with her daughter when she was attacked. 

"Suddenly, I heard her yell, 'No, no, no!'" said Jill McCluskey, describing her last conversation with her daughter Lauren. "I thought she might have been in a car accident. ... 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," the mother said in statement released Tuesday.

Lauren, a 21-year-old senior who was a star on the college's track and field team, was shot and killed Monday night near the campus dorms, prompting a lockdown while police searched for a gunman.

The manhunt ended at about 2 a.m. Tuesday when police discovered the body of 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot, inside the Trinity AME Church.

Jill McClusky's statement said her daughter had dated Rowland for about a month, but broke it off when she learned he lied to her about his name, age and criminal history. He also was a registered sex offender, according to a local report. 

"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 [to] 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," the mother said, according to the Deseret News.

Lauren had called her mom Monday between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. as the young woman returned to her apartment after attending a night class.

Then Lauren began screaming. Witnesses reported hearing several gunshots, police said. 

The student's body was found in the back seat of a car, and her cellphone and other belongings were found in another area of the parking lot, authorities said.

They did not provide details about who owned the car, or what Rowland may have said to his alleged victim.

Lauren's parents are professors at Washington State University. Both said their daughter had complained of being harassed. Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown told a Tuesday press conference his department was "working to build a case" at the time of Lauren's death, though he did not give specifics about the investigation.

According to court records, Rowland was a registered sex offender following convictions for enticing a minor over the internet and attempted forcible sexual abuse, the paper reported. 

Lauren was a communications major and would have graduated in May 2019.

"She loved to sing and had strength and determination. She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed," her mother said.

A campus vigil is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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