THE PARENTS of a slain college student murdered two years ago have received a $13.5 million settlement after a campus police officer shared explicit photos her murderer tried to blackmail her with.
Jill and Matt McCluskey, the parents of murdered University of Utah college student Lauren McCluskey, received the multi-million dollar settlement after a judge ruled in favor saying campus police ignored their daughter's requests for help.
Lauren McCluskey was "being sexually and physically abused, stalked, and threatened by her eventual killer," a complaint filed by Lauren's parents read. And instead of helping, campus police "dismissed and avoided her requests for help."
The Pullman, Washington state native was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend, Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, in October 2018.
Rowland is accused of shooting the university track star to death after he allegedly blackmailed her and threatened to share personal and sensitive photos of Lauren.
University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins and the McCluskeys announced their settlement Thursday, outlining the university's next steps in carrying out the settlement.
"We failed Lauren and her family. We honor Lauren and her legacy will be improved campus safety for all students," said Watkins while reading a prepared statement from the university.
The University of Utah's insurance company will pay $10.5 million directly to the McCluskeys no later than March 31, 2021. Additionally, the university will make a $3 million donation to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation, again no later than March 31, 2021.
In addition to the monetary settlement, the university has pledged to build an indoor track for the Track and Field team in honor of Lauren, who was celebrated as a quick track star at the university.
Likewise, the university's Center for Violence Prevention will be renamedthe McCluskey Center for Violence and Prevention.
The McCluskeys announced Thursday they would be donating their settlement funds to the Lauren McCluskey Foundation to help improve campus safety.
Prior to her death, Lauren and her friends told university officials and police about her boyfriend's abusive behavior, and their worry it could become something much more serious.
However, police and university officials ignored and dismissed Lauren's claims for help, the McCluskeys' complaint read.
Their complaint specifically references campus police officer Miguel Deras–assigned to Lauren's extortion case– who was accused of showing at least three of his male co-workers not involved in Lauren's case "highly sensitive, personal and private pictures for voyeuristic purposes."
Rowland used those photos to blackmail Lauren, who reportedly paid him $1,000 to keep the photos from going public. Lauren gave the photos to Deras to help in her case.
“Sometime after the briefing" in October 2018 "Officer Deras showed the images to a group of officers,” a report by the Utah Department of Public Safety released in August stated. An employee also recalled Deras commenting on the photos as he could "look at them whenever he wants."
The employee also recalled Deras making crude comments about the photos, while another employee recalled the officers Deras showed the photos to called him "lucky" for getting to work on case with a "cute girl."
"Lauren was denied the rights guaranteed to her under that clause to enjoy all civil rights and privileges equally and without regard to her sex," the McCluskeys' lawsuit states. "Despite that guarantee, Lauren did not enjoy equally her right to—among others—fair treatment by public officials and law enforcement, and to have her complaints taken seriously without being dismissed due to gender stereotype."
"Instead, Lauren’s complaints were treated dismissively because of the university’s practice and policy of ignoring and disbelieving women," ," the complaint continued. "Deliberate indifference to domestic violence that disproportionately affects women, its failure to competently investigate her complaints and those of others and its failure to protect her based on outdated, dangerous, and misogynistic attitudes toward women."
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The complaint also claims the University of Utah didn't adequately protect Lauren from Rowland, a felon on parole after serving a decade in prison for a sex crime, with court documents saying Rowland lied about his age and criminal history.
Lauren tried to end their relationship when she found out the truth, but that's when Rowland begann threatening her.
"[He] could have and should have been detained immediately based on his possession of a firearm, sexual abuse, stalking, extortion, and impersonating an officer," read a statement released by McCluskey's legal team.
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