SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 21, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The University of Utah and the parents of murdered U student Lauren McCluskey have agreed on a $13.5 million settlement to effectively end two civil rights lawsuits against the school.
Of that, $10.5 million will come from the University’s insurance company and $3 million will come directly from the U. Lauren’s parents, Jill and Matthew McCluskey, said all the money will be donated to charitable causes and funds established in Lauren’s honor, or selected because of her interests in life, including animal welfare and amateur athletics.
The U also has agreed to build an athletic facility to include an indoor track named in Lauren McCluskey’s honor.
“The University of Utah acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren’s case as it should have and that, at the time, its employees did not understand and act appropriately to Lauren’s situation,” said University Pres. Ruth Watkins, reading a formal statement. “As a result, we failed Lauren and her family.”
The settlement announcement was made on the second anniversary of Lauren’s murder, at age 21, by Melvin S. Rowland, a 37-year-old man she had briefly dated. She broke off the relationship after discovering he had lied about multiple things, including his age and status as a convicted sex offender.
According to facts established after her death, Lauren believed Rowland was stalking her and blackmailing her with an intimate photo taken during their physical relationship. She took her concerns and a copy of the blackmail photo to University police, who did not act on them before her murder by Rowland. Hours after Lauren’s shooting death, Rowland was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a church in downtown Salt Lake City.
An investigation found that a U of U officer assigned to the case, Miguel Deras, showed Lauren’s intimate photo to officers not involved in the blackmail case. Deras was subsequently dismissed from the U of U Police Department, then from the Logan Police Department once his actions were revealed.
Jill McCluskey said all settlement will be donated to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation and to selected charities reflecting her interests during life, which included animal welfare and amateur athletics. Campus safety will also be a focus of donations.
Jill McCluskey also said the U has agreed to build an athletic facility to include an indoor track, which will be named in Lauren’s honor. She also noted a scholarship fund established in Lauren’s honor.
Jill McCluskey also said she hoped the insurance company having to pay out. $10.5 million will cause insurance companies everywhere to encourage universities to make student safety a priority.
Jill McCluskey spoke with Gephardt Daily last week over her frustration over Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s decision not to charge Deras. See that interview below.
Afterward, Gill also spoke with Gephardt Daily, sharing the reasons for his decisions. See that video below.