Woman describes prior harassment by man accused of killing Utah student
After University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey was shot and killed by a man who later turned the gun on himself, another woman has spoken out about her troubling past experience with the suspect.
The victim, who did not wish to be named, told KSTU that she met 37-year-old Melvin Rowland in May when he was working as a bouncer at a bar called Maxwell's in Salt Lake City. The two exchanged phone numbers and met up later that night after Rowland's shift ended.
The woman said that Rowland, a registered sex offender who had recently been released from prison, lied about his identity, claiming that his name was Sean and that he was a 28-year-old software engineering student at the University of Utah.
"He had his story down and knew exactly what to say about his life," she told KSTU.
The woman said that Rowland quickly tried to get physical, which caused her to end the date.
"He definitely tried to have sex the first time we hung out and I explained, I'm not that type of person," she said.
The next day, the woman said she received several text messages from Rowland, many of which used racy language. She said she immediately decided to cut all ties with him, which she said caused him to become aggressive and obsessive.
The text message harassment became so severe that the woman said she had to file a police report, add security to her social media accounts and speak with a victim's advocate for support.
Though she managed to avoid Rowland for months, the woman said her heart dropped when she saw his mugshot on the news this week.
Rowland had allegedly shot Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old track and field star at the University of Utah, near campus housing while she was returning to her university apartment from a night class. The victim was on the phone with her mother at the time of her death.
Rowland was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a church in Salt Lake City early on Tuesday morning after a brief police pursuit.
Lauren had dated Rowland for about a month, according to her family, but ended the relationship on Oct. 9 as soon as she discovered he had lied to her about his identity, using a fake name to conceal his criminal past — a storyline that horrified Rowland's previous victim.
"My heart just broke for Lauren and her family, because I could have been in that same situation," she tearfully told KSTU. "I very much could have been her."