Lauren McCluskey drifts into my mind from time to time.
I didn’t know her, I didn’t go to school with her or have any connection to her family, but her death still knocks on the windows of my brain.
She was killed months before her graduation from the University of Utah by her ex-boyfriend.
I can’t decide which phrase is more haunting, months before graduation or by her ex-boyfriend.
It’s been a year since she was murdered. As Gillian Friedman of Deseret News reported, “Oct. 22, 2018, Lauren McCluskey was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend after he abducted her in the parking lot outside of her dorm on the University of Utah campus.”
Her mother, Jill, was on the phone with her in the moments before her murderer came. The last thing Jill heard on the line was Lauren screaming.
That’s usually the part that comes back to my mind. The horror of hearing your child scream and having no other option than to fear the worst.
The violence in news broadcast headlines on a near-daily basis has desensitized all of us. It’s sickening, but it’s true. We hear about mass shootings and assault regularly enough that the stream of violence sweeps away cases like Lauren’s.
Sometimes I feel that it’s easy for me to shrug off these stories because, horrendous as they are, they feel so far away.
I got too caught up in mindless pursuits that I didn’t take the time to internalize the tragedies of Sandy Hook and Parkland. But Lauren’s story was different.
She was born forty days before I was in February of 1997. She was studying communication, just like I am. Lauren was attending a school located in the same county I’d lived in for my entire life.
Now she’s dead, and the worst part it is, there was so much that could have been done to prevent it.
Lauren ended her relationship with her killer just over a month after meeting him. Campus police had been in contact with Lauren two weeks before the murder. Officers were dispatched to investigate the killer for extorting Lauren, but couldn’t track him down. He was seen on campus security footage in the days leading up to the attack.
The killer was waiting at Lauren’s Residence Hall with her friends hours before he killed her. Lauren stepped out of her dorm to call her mother. The killer grabbed her, forced her into the backseat of his car and shot her multiple times.
Jill McCluskey and her husband, Matt, called campus police in worry. The police arrived at Lauren’s dorm 10 minutes after Jill heard her screaming on the phone. They found her body in the back of the car just over an hour later.
They were 10 minutes too late. They were an hour too late. They were eons too late.
Lauren McCluskey was gone, and her killer was out to dinner with some gal he met on a dating website.
So, instead of brushing this under the rug with thoughts and prayers, what could possibly have been done to save Lauren’s life.
It’s a question that the McCluskeys, the campus police department and U of U’s Athletic Department have ruminated over ever since.
I tend to agree with Friedman’s analysis in his piece for Deseret News:
“Lauren’s murder was not an isolated incident but part of a larger, systemic problem affecting women across the country: an epidemic of campus dating violence.”
Campus dating violence. That means everywhere. Even in Cedar City.
“Nearly half of dating college women report experiencing violence and abusive dating behaviors. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.”
The amount of evil that has to exist to make those statistics happen is shocking. For every abused there is an abuser, and for every victim a perpetrator. There are so many perpetrators.
That’s where I think there is potential for change. The police failed to protect Lauren McCluskey, but they shouldn’t have had to protect her in the first place.
There is no justification for lying about your identity, your criminal background or your age under nearly any circumstances, so why would you do it to get with a girl? What were you expecting would happen when she figured out the truth? How were you going to explain why you lied? Were you planning on killing her when she found out? Why didn’t your friends intervene? What could drive you to kill a person you loved?
And how could you stomach your food at dinner, knowing the horrendous thing you had just done?
That’s what Melvin Rowland did. After he killed Lauren, he got dinner with a woman he met on a dating app.
That’s the part that visits my mind from time to time. Lauren saw it coming. She knew she was unsafe. That evil man killed her anyway.
We, as human beings, need to be better because Lauren deserved better. Especially us men. We have to be better and we can never let something like this happen again. This is a challenge to every male out there: do your best to listen and believe women more.
Make sure that you create safe environments for women to speak their mind and listen. No matter how right you think you are, listen to what they have to say and put it into practice.
Be willing to correct unflattering behavior and see the value of other humans. Violence will never be the answer, and anger only breeds fear. I just want men to shed their pride and be willing to get help.
No one should ever have to feel so distraught and misunderstood that they’d rather take the life of another human being than keep living their own. If you need help: get it. And if you see a way you can help: just do it.
Sometimes the step up seems like a mountain, but is just a curb. We just individually need to lift our feet and we’ll realise it’s easier than we thought.
As the Sports Editor for the University Journal, I spend a lot of my time going through SUU Athletics’ roster archives. Sometimes I’ll stumble across an interesting stat or someone I knew from high school who played at SUU.
I can’t imagine how terrible it would feel to look back at the archives and see the name of an athlete murdered by her ex-boyfriend because nobody believed her.
It all starts with you, so believe in women. Just don’t move on without Lauren McCluskey.
This article has been updated to correct the name of Lauren’s killer.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photos Courtesy of: Salt Lake Tribune