The parents of Lauren McCluskey filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Utah and several administrators on Thursday over the school’s alleged failure to take their daughter’s calls for help seriously before she was murdered, as well as their subsequent investigation of McCluskey’s death that resulted in nobody from the school being disciplined. McCluskey, a track and field athlete at the university, was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend last October, three weeks after she began warning campus safety officials and the Salt Lake City PD that she might be in danger.
The lawsuit comes months after the school ruled that McCluskey’s death could not have been prevented, despite the numerous warnings. In an email to ESPN, Lauren’s mother Jill McCluskey said:
“No one has been disciplined or held accountable in the campus police or housing. The same culture prevails in the campus police. There is no significant change. Initially we were not planning to file a lawsuit, but President (Ruth) Watkins refused to take any responsibility or hold anyone accountable for the failures that resulted in Lauren’s murder.”
Jill said the suit was a “last resort to affect positive change” after the investigatory process ended without any serious responsibility being taken by University officials for her daughter’s death. Utah did release 30 recommendations to make their campus safer for students, though they did not uncover “any reason to believe this tragedy could have been prevented.”
Before she was killed on Oct. 22, McCluskey reached out to campus housing officials, campus police, and city police about Melvin Rowland, who she had recently stopped dating after discovering that he was a 37-year-old registered sex offender on parole, not a 28-year-old community college student as he had told her. McCluskey was on the phone with her mother when Rowland kidnapped her on campus the day she was killed.
The suit seeks $56 million in damages, and Jill McCluskey told ESPN a settlement could help compel insurance companies to force schools to take the safety of female students more seriously. Any damages recovered will go to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, which supports charity work focused on campus safety, amateur athletics, and animal welfare.