SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The man who loaned the gun used to kill college athlete Lauren McCluskey looked downcast and said he “shakes” when he thinks about her death Wednesday as he was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
“It’s extremely sad … I cried when I found out about (Lauren’s death),” Nathan Daniel Vogel, 22, said during Wednesday’s hearing in Salt Lake City.
In June, Vogel pleaded guilty to lying in his purchase of the firearm used to kill McCluskey.
McCluskey, 21, was fatally shot near her dorm at the University of Utah on Oct. 22, 2018, after she broke up with her boyfriend of a month, Melvin Rowland, 37, because he lied about his background and status as a sex offender.
Rowland killed himself after gunning down McCluskey as she returned from a night class, authorities said.
Vogel said he and Rowland were acquaintances who worked as security guards at a nightclub together.
Vogel acknowledged he didn’t know Rowland was a convicted felon and knew him under a different name.
“If there’s any fault to Nate, it’s that he’s too trusting. He trusted the wrong person, and that’s why he’s here,” said Nick Estevam, a friend of Vogel’s.
Rowland had approached Vogel about borrowing his gun last year in exchange for $200. He wanted to teach McCluskey how to shoot, Vogel said.
Vogel said he needed the money. So he agreed.
“I had told (Rowland) about my problems and stuff like that, he offered me $200, so he manipulated me using the guilt trip to use my weapon,” Vogel said, according to a police report.
Vogel possessed a gun he purchased with Sarah Emily Lady, 24, from an arms dealer in Salt Lake City.
Lady lied and purchased the gun for Vogel, who was nervous about passing a mandatory background check, prosecutors said.
The pair had only known each other for 11 days, but she thought they were an “item,” said Carlos Esqueda, a federal prosecutor.
Lady’s case is still pending. She is in a program where she’ll be supervised for 18 months, and if successful, the case could be dropped.
Vogel left the gun in a room for Rowland at the Little America Hotel and texted him to pick it up. A maid found the gun and marijuana in the room. Hotel security called Vogel and lectured him about the incident, but did not notify police, prosecutors said.
Still, Vogel said Rowland “talked him into giving him the gun back” and offered him another $200, the police report states.
Court documents show Vogel loaned the firearm to Rowland in mid-October. Rowland shot McCluskey only days later, the night he was supposed to return the gun.
Vogel texted Rowland throughout the day to get his weapon back, but Rowland said he and McCluskey were stuck on a trip in Moab, according to police reports. Vogel continued to text Rowland days after to get the gun back, but he stopped responding.
Vogel’s voice cracked as he recalled the “extremely disturbing” incident during the hearing. He had met McCluskey a few times, and the two got along well.
Looking back, Rowland’s actions seemed premeditated, Vogel said.
Right after learning McCluskey was killed, he contacted university police and told them how Rowland got the gun from him.
Esqueda said they considered Vogel’s family support, mental health struggles and clean criminal record when deciding on his sentence.
The lawyers on the case also consulted the McCluskey family several times throughout the process, and they agreed to the sentence.
“He did not cause the death of Lauren McCluskey, nor was he aware of Melvin Rowland’s intention to murder her,” Esqueda said. “But had he not purchased the firearm the way he did, perhaps … Ms. McCluskey could still be alive.”
Serious concerns about campus safety at the University of Utah have followed in the wake of McCluskey’s death.
Her parents sued the institution in June, saying officials refused to take responsibility for missing chances to prevent her death despite multiple reports to police.
McCluskey’s friends and parents had repeatedly reported Rowland to campus police before her death, citing concern about abusive behavior and conversations about guns.
Dale Brophy, the university police chief, is retiring months after his department came under fierce criticism for its handling of the case.
An independent review commissioned by the university found multiple missed warning signs before she was found shot in a car. But President Ruth Watkins has insisted there’s no reason to believe Rowland could have been stopped.
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