A senior at the University of Utah, a track star and a dedicated student on the cusp of a coaching career, Lauren McCluskey was murdered on campus in October2018. She was walking home from an evening class, talking to her mom on the phone when an enraged ex-boyfriend grabbed her, dragged her to a nearby parking lot, shot her multiple times and left her in a parked car.
What stands out about the story of Lauren McCluskey’s murder is that in the days leading up to her murder, Dateline learned she repeatedly told the university police force that she was being harassed, stalked and extorted by her ex. A man who, as it turned out, was a registered sex offender. The campus cops knew that before Lauren died.And had they done a little research, they would have learned something else --that the ex-boyfriend was out on parole. But the campus police did not do that. Other university officials also dropped the ball. And Lauren McCluskey died. At Dateline NBC, we wanted to report this story to shine a light on the shortcomings of the campus law enforcement at this university and maybe others. We wanted to let parents and students know that doing the right thing --and trusting the authorities to do the right thing -- sometimes isn’t enough. And that college officials everywhere needed to search their souls and ask themselves, “Are we doing enough?”
Dateline Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz asked that very question of a university official. He probed, asking why no one on the campus force seemed to recognize the signs of relationship violence. Why the force didn’t do a better job of protecting Lauren. Why the campus police chief still had his job. And why the campus cops didn’t learn the ex was out on parole until after Lauren was dead. The answers were sincere, deeply felt -- and in the end inadequate. But the fact that a university official was being held accountable, very publicly, for a death that could have been prevented was significant. We hoped it would lead to change on campuses around the country.