The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Further Developments

Posted on | May 23, 2020 | No Comments

 

The October 2018 murder of Univerity of Utah student Lauren McCluskey is a topic I’ve blogged about before (“An Apparently Consensual Relationship”), but I hadn’t followed further developments in the case. The man who murdered McCluskey, convicted sex offender Melvin Rowland, shot himself to death a few hours after the murder, and you might think there could be no further developments. However, officials and reporters kept probing the chain of failures that led to McCluskey’s murder, and it is a very long list indeed:

Sept. 2, 2018: Lauren McCluskey met Melvin Shawn Rowland at London Belle, a Salt Lake City bar where he was working as a bouncer, and began a relationship with him. He gave her a false name and age, and didn’t disclose that he was a convicted sex offender on parole. He visited her often at her residence hall and quickly built friendships with other students in the building. Later that month, she went pistol shooting with Rowland and his friends; as a felon, Rowland was not allowed to possess a gun. . . .

Oct. 9: McCluskey learned Rowland’s real identity — including that he had lied about his age, 37, and not disclosed that he was a registered sex offender — in the first days of October, and briefly went home to Pullman, Wash. On Oct. 9, she invited Rowland to her dorm room, confronted him with the information, and broke off their relationship. He admitted his sex-offender status, but denied the age difference. McCluskey allowed him to spend the night in her room and borrow her car the next day to run errands. She began receiving text messages, purportedly from Rowland’s friends; some urged her to kill herself. . . .

Oct. 13: At 9:22 a.m., McCluskey again contacted university police, reporting she had received more messages she believed were from Rowland or his friends. The messages demanded money in exchange for not posting compromising photos of McCluskey and Rowland online. McCluskey said she sent $1,000 to an account as demanded, in hope of keeping the photos private. She spoke to an officer by phone, then in person, then by texts, and eventually called the Salt Lake City police department, which referred her back to campus. Chief Dale Brophy said police took the report, pulled Rowland’s criminal history — but did not learn he was on parole — and assigned a detective to follow up later on possible charges of sexual extortion. . . . “There was never an attempt by any of the officers involved to check [Rowland’s] ‘offender status.’ Further, there were no policies or procedures that required such checks.” . . .

It goes on from there, including the fact that the company that employed Rowland as a security guard had hired him under a false name (“Shawn Fields”) and had not run a background check. There were so many things wrong here, to say nothing of McCluskey’s poor judgment. She was 21, and probably a lot of 21-year-olds think of themselves as savvy enough to handle themselves in any situation, but like most college kids, she was not “street smart.” Rowland had obvious sociopathic traits (“He was really good at trying to say what he thought I wanted to hear,” said one woman who had briefly dated him a few months before McCluskey’s death), but McCluskey didn’t recognize those traits as danger signs.

The police handling of the case was a disaster from start to finish. Any woman who relies on police to protect her in this kind of situation is putting her life at risk. And the reason Lauren McCluskey’s case popped up in the headlines this past week had to do with the campus cops:

Lauren McCluskey explained to the officer at the University of Utah that she was being extorted over explicit photos she had taken of herself. Someone — she wasn’t certain who at that moment — had accessed her files and was threatening to release them if she didn’t hand over $1,000.
Scared by the demand, she paid the money and then sent copies of the messages and the pictures to the campus police department as evidence.
When Miguel Deras, one of the officers assigned to her case, received them, he saved the photos on his personal phone. And days before McCluskey was killed by the man who was blackmailing her, Deras showed off at least one of the images to a male co-worker and bragged about getting to look at them whenever he wanted, according to two fellow officers.

Disgusting. The whole thing is disgusting.


 

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