NBC’s ‘Dateline: Lauren’s Promise’ examines the October 2018 murder of Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old University of Utah senior and star track athlete who had her whole life ahead of her. In the weeks before her slaying, she had been getting text messages that can only be described as harassing and threatening, extorting money from her in exchange for not posting compromising photos of her on the internet. Lauren had filed a complaint regarding this matter with the University of Utah Campus Police. But before they took any action, it was already too late. Thus, Lauren’s parents, believing that their daughter’s death was preventable, filed a lawsuit against them.
Lauren McCluskey’s Parents Sue University of Utah
Lauren’s parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, filed a $56 million lawsuit against the University of Utah, claiming that their daughter would still be alive if the campus police had taken the reports she had filed against her killer, her ex-boyfriend, Melvin Rowland, seriously. As per court records, Jill and Matt wanted an apology, but they never got one. Then, when they asked the school to fire the officers involved in Lauren’s case, that didn’t happen either. Furthermore, when they approached the University of Utah’s President, Ruth V. Watkins, to “remedy the situation,” she never responded to them.
The federal lawsuit named Officer Miguel Deras, Detective Dallof, the University, and the state of Utah, to be responsible for Lauren’s killing. It also named then-Campus Police Chief Dale Brophy and other officials in the housing department. According to a report, Officer Miguel Deras had shared explicit photos tied to Lauren’s extortion case with other deputies before she died. Thus, in light of the latter, he was fired by the Logan City Police Department. Additionally, the lawsuit referred to Lauren’s death as “tragic, avoidable, and untimely,” accusing the University to be liable as it refused to respond.
Then, in the summer of 2020, Lauren’s parents filed an additional lawsuit against the University of Utah and the State of Utah. This complaint stated that the university had violated the state’s constitution by not paying any heed to Lauren’s predicament. After all, their daughter was “being sexually and physically abused, stalked, and threatened by her eventual killer. Lauren and her friends told University officials and police about the abusive behavior and their fears that it could escalate into greater violence. Instead of intervening and protecting…[the] police ignored, dismissed, and avoided her requests for help.” It further stated that the University failed to protect Lauren from Melvin Rowland, a felon on parole, who should have been detained immediately.
Two years after Lauren’s brutal murder, her parents announced that they reached a $13.5 million settlement with the University. $10.5 million were awarded to Jill and Matt McCluskey, and the school donated another $3 million to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, which works towards establishing campus safety, animal welfare, and amateur athletics. In the press conference that followed, University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said, “The University 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.”
Read More: How Did Melvin Rowland Die?