Two face federal charges in connection with handgun used in Lauren McCluskey murder

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Two people face federal charges related to the purchase of a handgun that was eventually used to kill University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey.

In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors allege Sarah Emily Lady and Nathan Daniel Vogel “knowingly made false and fictitious statements” to be able to purchase the firearm that was later loaned to McCluskey’s killer.

In October 2018, McCluskey was shot and killed on the University of Utah’s campus by Melvin Rowland, whom she briefly dated. 

The indictment alleges that between August 30 and September 8, 2018, Lady and Vogel conspired with each other to illegally purchase the gun.

“While we cannot change what happened that October night in Salt Lake City, we can say that without the conduct alleged in this indictment, this handgun would not have been used to take Lauren’s life,” said U.S. Attorney John Huber. 

PURCHASING A FIREARM
Dealers are required to obtain information about the identity of individuals seeking to purchase a firearm. Each person is required to fill out an ATF Form 4473, Firearm Transaction Record. The form asks for a name, address, and other identifying information. 

One of the questions on the form states, “Are you the actual buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form?” The form then warns if the individual completing the form is not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm to that individual.

Once this information is collected, the dealer submits it to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). That agency informs the dealer whether the purchaser is permitted to receive the firearm.

ALLEGED CONSPIRACY 
Investigators said Lady “falsely claimed to be the true purchaser of the firearm” when Vogel was the intended actual buyer. 

Lady allegedly made statements on the ATF form 4473 in order to circumvent Vogel’s background check and waiting period. Document state Vogel was generally discharged from the Army and he feared his name would be “flagged for further examination resulting in a delay” of getting the firearm.

The indictment said Lady and Vogel discussed their plans through cell phone calls and text messages.

ALLEGED ILLEGAL PURCHASE
Documents state Lady and Vogel were seen entering a Salt Lake City firearms shop on September 8. Prosecutors said Lady filled out the ATF Form 4473 with her information, the dealer conducted a background check that took about 10 minutes and she was allowed to purchase the firearm. Immediately after the purchase, Lady handed the gun to Vogel and investigators said it remained in his possession until October 17, 2018, when he loaned the gun to Rowland. 

In the days following McCluskey’s death, University of Utah police said Rowland borrowed the gun from Vogel under false pretenses. Vogel told police Rowland said he wanted to teach his girlfriend how to shot. 

A MOTHER SPEAKS OUT
McCluskey’s mother previously called for charges for the person who loaned Rowland the gun saying “it is a great responsibility to own a gun.” After charges were announced Wednesday, Jill McCluskey released the following statement: 

“We applaud the U.S. Attorneys for pursuing charges against the individuals who lied and conspired to buy the gun that was used to kill our daughter.  Still, we note that the University of Utah housing staff were informed that our daughter’s killer said he planned to bring the gun to campus, and they did nothing. We hope for additional accountability of the individuals who did not protect Lauren.”

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