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University of Utah Student's Killer Extorted Her With Compromising Pics, Cops Say

Lauren McCluskey reported the exortion attempt by Melvin Rowland to University of Utah Police, but it took them six days to start investigating. She was dead days later. 

By Eric Shorey

A University of Utah student was being extorted by her ex-boyfriend before he killed her, police say.

Lauren McCluskey, 21, had reported an extortion attempt to university police on Oct. 13, nine days before she was killed. McCluskey told the officers that she had wired $1,000 to an account earlier in the month to prevent "compromising pictures" of her and her ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland from being released to the public, according to Fox News.

But it took six days for university police to begin investigating the extortion attempt - a fact officials blamed on workload issues, according to CBS News. Also, while they were aware of the 37-year-old Rowland's status as a sex offender, they didn't know he was on parole at the time.

"It was assigned out to a detective. The detective had been in contact with Ms. McCluskey, and they were working to build a case against our suspect at that time," University Police Chief Dale Brophy said Tuesday, according to CNN.

Police say that McCluskey ended her relationship with Rowland after discovering he had lied about his criminal past as a sex offender, as well as his age. In the wake of the breakup, McCluskey received several emails from various accounts (all of which are believed to have belonged to Rowland) attempting to lure her to various locations, police say.

Brophy painted a picture of Rowland as a manipulator.

"If his lips were moving, he was lying," Brophy said of Rowland. "I don't think he told the truth to anybody based on our investigation. ... He was very, very good at getting people to trust him. Lauren was no different."

On Monday, the day McCluskey was killed, Rowland could be seen on the campus security footage socializing around the building where McCluskey lived. He is believed to have confronted McCluskey in the parking lot, dragged her into his car, and shot her to death, police said.

After the killing, police say Rowland met up with another woman on campus, with whom he toured the area and went to dinner before showering at her place, according to CBS News. The woman is not believed to have been an accomplice of Rowland's.

A few hours later, police found him dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound in a Salt Lake City church.

University of Utah president Ruth Watkins has since stated that outside investigations will be conducted into the incident and reevaluations of campus security protocol may be made.

Rowland had been on parole since April. He pleaded guilty to trying to lure an underage girl online and attempted sex abuse charges in 2004. He faced additional accusations from another woman after he had been charged.

He had been sent back to prison following parole violations on at least two occasions.

A campus vigil for McCluskey had been held on Wednesday, according to CNN.

[Photos: Facebook, Salt Lake City County]

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