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Lawyers respond to allegations of former U. officer sharing explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey

Jill McCluskey, the mother of murdered student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, spoke to reporters after learning an officer involved in her case improperly shared intimate images of her. Photo: KSL NewsRadio via Facebook

MURRAY, Utah –Dueling stories are coming out about how a former University of Utah officer shared explicit pictures of slain student Lauren McCluskey.  Her parents and their attorneys held a press conference accusing the officer of showing the sexual pictures to colleagues while bragging about having them.  However, the University says their findings don’t back those claims.

The University of Utah “has offended” Lauren McCluskey, a student-athlete who was murdered in October 2018, by re-victimizing her in the midst of her own sextortion and stalking investigation, an attorney for her parents said during the conference. 

The lawyers believe the University of Utah has known about the alleged incident since last year but have chosen not to hold those involved accountable. They say “two, perhaps three people are witnesses to the incident,” and no disciplinary action has been taken. 

Lauren McCluskey: victimized twice

McCluskey was killed on campus after repeated calls to the University of Utah police with concerns about her safety. She learned her recent ex-boyfriend had misrepresented his identity to her, failing to disclose his real name or the fact that he was a sex offender. He died by suicide during a short manhunt after McCluskey’s murder. 

The family’s lawyer says the U’s lack of transparency throughout the case has caused the McCluskey’s to constantly re-visit what happened to their daughter. 

Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, said she and her husband “hope something is done,” accusing the officer in the report of exploiting and re-victimizing Lauren. 

Whether or not the officer in question had the explicit images, or if he showed them to a colleague, is not being debated.  Officials with the University of Utah acknowledge he had the pictures because they were sent through text by McCluskey herself in her complaint about her eventual killer, Melvin Rowland.  The debate is over why the officer did that.

Her parents believe the investigator kept the pictures for personal satisfaction, and bragged to others about having them.  McCluskey’s mother, Jill, says the school wasn’t serious about Lauren’s complaint about an ex-boyfriend extorting and stalking her.

“The person who was supposed to be providing police services to Lauren, instead, was exploiting her.  I wish he had used his time to arrest Lauren’s killer rather than ogling at her image,” says Jill McCluskey.

Her father, Matt, says it took a lot of courage for his daughter to share the evidence with the police, trusting they would take the appropriate action.  Now, he says he wonders how much misconduct is still happening within the campus police department.

“The officer’s behavior was not isolated.  It stemmed from a culture that did not take women seriously,” he says.

The university’s response

University of Utah Spokesman Chris Nelson says the school conducted it’s own internal investigation, and didn’t find what the McCluskey’s are claiming.  He admits the officer had the images because they were sent straight to his phone.  However, he only showed them to colleagues as he was asking how to process those photos into evidence.  The school says it was a legitimate processing question.

However, Nelson adds,“If there are other officers out there that have contradictory information, we would love to hear from them.  But, again, we can only act on the information we got from our own investigation.”

As for any claims the officer bragged about them, “We don’t have any evidence to back that claim up,” Nelson says.

The officer in question now works for the Logan Police Department.  They issued their own statement, saying…

Openness and full disclosure

McCluskey’s lawyers argued the University of Utah has an obligation to “be fully open and to fully disclose dysfunction when those arise,” especially because the university accepts public funding. 

At a news conference Monday, attorney Jim McConkie pointed out that Lauren McCluskey was still alive and still the victim of an active stalking and sextortion case when the officer allegedly showed her images to other people. 

McConkie stated the officer in question shared the photos “without Lauren’s consent,” and therefore, “the officer could have committed a crime.”

McConkie said every time an accusation like this one comes out that the school knew about but did not disclose, it wounds Lauren’s parents all over again. 

The family filed a federal lawsuit over the death of Lauren McCluskey last year and according to their lawyer, the U. has yet to respond. Their lawyers said they will go to mediation with the University of Utah Tuesday seeking full disclosure of what campus officials know about Lauren’s death. 

If the mediation is unsuccessful, they said they would file a second lawsuit.