SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Fifteen phone calls. They contain the audio record of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey and her parents, pleading with police officials for help. It’s a chilling account, in retrospect, of a murder victim’s last days. Lauren was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Melvin Shawn Roland.
The university Thursday released the redacted audio records of all of the calls — fifteen of them — that came in to dispatch at the University of Utah Police Department (UUPD) between October 10, 2018 and October 22, the evening Lauren was killed. They include calls from Lauren’s mother, making the first call to alert authorities she was worried about her daughter. Lauren told her mother she had loaned her car to her ex-boyfriend, and she was supposed to meet him or his friends, to get it back.
The voices of Lauren McCluskey and her parents, trying to alert University of Utah police officials that she was being stalked, extorted, or may be in danger.
The first call, at 3:01 P.M. In the afternoon, on October 10 came from Lauren’s mother, Jill. She told the dispatcher her daughter was supposed to meet her ex-boyfriend to retrieve her car, and that she was worried. Jill gives the dispatcher her daughter’s phone number. Minutes later, at 3:04 P.M., we hear Lauren’s voice, for the first time.
October 10, 2018, 3:01 P.M. MST
Dispatcher: “Hi, is this Lauren?”
Dispatcher: “Hi, this is (redacted) at University Police. I got a call from your mom about, um, I guess a car drop-off that you were going to be doing, or someone dropping off your car, and she’s a little bit worried about it?”
Dispatcher: “I was wondering if could ask a few questions and then send someone with you, or have someone meet you there when you’re going to drop off the car.”
Lauren: “OK, well, I think the car will be dropped off.”
Dispatcher: “Your ex-boyfriend is dropping off the car?”
Lauren: (inaudible)”. . . a friend, yea.”
Lauren told the dispatcher her ex-boyfriend’s friends were dropping off the car. Police records reveal Rowland used a fake cell phone number to send text messages to Lauren, posing as his friends. The police dispatcher offered at least six times in the phone call to allow Lauren to come to the police station to retrieve her car, or to send an officer to escort Lauren to the location. Lauren declined.
Her calls indicate she became more concerned, over the next several days, as she called almost every day, to report that her ex-boyfriend was stalking her and, she believed, trying to extort money from her. She was also calling her parents. Twelve days after her first conversation with a police dispatcher, on the night of October 22, UUPD received a 911 call, transferred from Washington, where the McCluskey’s live. It was Matt McCluskey, Lauren’s father. Jill was on her cell phone, talking with Lauren, who was walking across the UofU campus when Jill said she heard Lauren shout and drop the phone. This would be the fifteenth and last call to university police.
October 22, 2018, 8:23 P.M.
Matt: “My daughter, Lauren McClusky, was talking to her mom, and then she started saying, ‘No! No! No! No!’ and it sounded like someone would’ve been grabbing her or something.” (sound of the dispatcher, typing.)
Dispatcher: “O.K., How long ago was this?”
Matt: “This was two, uh, two minutes ago.”
It was 45 seconds into the call, before the distraught father is able to tell police his daughter might be in trouble. For the next three minutes, the dispatcher asks questions. What was his daughter’s name? How did he spell it? What was her birthdate? Did she live on campus? What was her address?
Precious minutes passed. And then:
Dispatcher: “I have an officer right here that dealt with that. Let me talk with him for one second. I’ll be off with him. I’ll still be able to hear you. You won’t be able to hear me.”
The dispatcher put McCluskey on hold for 1:17. McClusky called out to him at least four times but wasn’t answered. Then, six minutes into the call, the dispatcher asked for Lauren’s location. It was approximately 8:30. Officers were dispatched. At 9:55, they found Lauren’s body in the back seat of a car, parked outside her apartment building.
The McCluskeys say a series of mistakes, oversights, and a general lack of urgency failed to protect their daughter from her killer. An independent investigation cited thirty recommendations for improvement of student security on campus. Police Chief Dale Brophy says his department is working on implementing all thirty of the recommendations. Brophy adds that it is the university’s “. . . number one priority.”