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Woman describes prior harassment from man accused of killing University of Utah student on campus

Posted at 11:17 PM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-24 14:38:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah woman says she had a troubling past experience with the man who police say shot and killed University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey before he turned the gun on himself.

Melvin Rowland died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound inside the Trinity A.M.E. church after an intense manhunt on the University of Utah campus and across Salt Lake City.

A woman who asked to not be identified says she met Rowland when he was working as a bouncer at a bar called Maxwell’s in Salt Lake City.

“My friend mentioned he was looking at me and seemed interested and I went over there and talked to him,” the woman said.

The two exchanged phone numbers and met later that night after Rowland’s shift.

“I asked him questions about himself, they seemed like honest answers," she said. "They didn’t seem like something he would fabricate."

But she would soon realize everything he told her, was a lie.

She says Rowland told her he was a 28-year-old software engineering student at the University of Utah. In fact, he was 37 years old and had just been released from prison.

“He had his story down and knew exactly what to say about his life,” she said.

The woman claims after talking for a little bit, Rowland tried to get physical.

“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 woman ended the date, but the next day she received several text messages from Rowland. Some used inappropriate language. One said he wanted to see her to grab one of her body parts and kiss her. She immediately decided to cut all ties with the man.

“That’s when a switch flipped and he got more aggressive and said, ‘what do you mean you’re not going to see me again,’” she said.

From that point she describes his behavior as obsessive. The text messages kept coming and the harassment became so severe she went to police with her concerns and talked to a victim’s advocate.

“Since May I have been looking behind my back this whole time,” she said.

She managed to avoid Rowland for months, taking precautions to add security to her social media accounts. Then came Monday night, when she was watching the news.

“I saw the mugshot and my heart just dropped," she said. "It’s still a shock. His face, I can’t forget it."

Seeing his image and learning what he did to McCluskey brought on so many emotions.

“My heart just broke for Lauren and her family, because I could have been in that same situation,” she said while fighting back tears.

She is thankful she ended the relationship before the harassment became more intense. She hopes her story serves as an example for others to take precautions to protect themselves from predators like Melvin Rowland.

“If I had not done that research," she said. "I very much could have been her."