Student's Chilling Final Phone Call Before Murder
The young woman was talking to her family on the phone as she returned from class.
University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey was shot and killed on campus by a former boyfriend, who was found dead hours later inside a church on Tuesday, according to authorities.
McCluskey, a 21-year-old senior from Pullman, Washington, was shot outside a dormitory just before 10 p.m.
Police followed the shooter, identified as 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, into an off-campus church after he was spotted at about 1 am, University of Utah Police Lt. Brian Wahlin said. Wahlin said Rowland's body was found inside the church. Police didn't provide circumstances of his death.
McCluskey's family said in a statement she was returning to her apartment from a class Monday night "and talking to me on the phone."
"Suddenly, I heard her yell, 'No, no, no! I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her," the family statement said.
"My husband called 911. I kept the line open and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren's things were on the ground."
The statement said Lauren dated her alleged killer for about a month.
"He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history," the family statement said. "Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018."
The family said she blocked his phone number as well as the number of his friends and told University of Utah police that she was being harassed.
McCluskey was a track and field athlete and majored in communication.
University President Ruth Watkins said the university cancelled classes Tuesday and scheduled a vigil for McCluskey.
"As a campus community, we share grief over this tragic loss of life," she said in a statement.
Athletics Director Mark Harlan said university counselors and psychologists were available to support McCluskey's teammates, coaches and friends.
"This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core," he said.
McCuskey's body was found in a car near the university's medical towers, Wahlin said.
"It was really scary to look out the window and see. I saw 15 to 20 police officers right where we're standing right now," Tyler Olsen, a student who lives in family housing near the shooting scene, told the Deseret News. "I mean, you're in your home, but nowhere feels safe in that moment."
Last month, an ex-convict pleaded guilty to killing a University of Utah student from China using a gun stolen after another slaying. Austin Boutain, 24, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He and his wife were charged with hatching a carjacking plot that led to the October 2017 death of Chenwei Guo, whose parents live in Beijing and were devastated over the death of their only son at age 23.