Pullman community reeling after track star's murder

(STORY IMAGE:KHQ.COM)

PULLMAN, Wash. -A University of Utah track star and Pullman native, Lauren McCluskey was murdered overnight Monday. The young woman with the world in front of her was ripped from it in a matter of moments. 

McCluskey was just 21 years old and now communities in two different states are in mourning. It's been a heartbreaking time in both Salt Lake City and Pullman, Washington, where Lauren grew up. 

Police say she was murdered by a man who later killed himself. They say she dated Melvin Rowland for about a month before learning he had lied about his name, his age, and his criminal history.

School leaders are left to guide friends and teammates through grief they are having trouble explaining themselves. 

"Talk about a dream. Try to make it real." For Lauren McCluskey, this was so much more than a quote in her senior yearbook, it was a way of life.

McCluskey was as fierce a competitor as she was beautiful. The 2015 Pullman High School grad set the bar high and always rose to the occasion. She was a state champion in the high jump and a school record-holder in the 100-meter hurdles. Her accomplishments on the field, and in the classroom, are too many to count.

Her hard work paid off.

After offers from multiple universities, McCluskey's choice was big news in the small town. She would attend the University of Utah, where she once again excelled as a student and an athlete. 

News of her death shook the university at its core and the ripple effect has been felt in her hometown.

With emotions too high and the tragic incident too fresh, family isn't speaking. But her mother did release a statement:

'It is with deepest sadness that we let you know that our daughter Lauren McCluskey, age 21, was the University of Utah student who was killed last night. Lauren previously dated her killer for about one month. He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history. Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October, 9, 2018. He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accompany her on October 10, 2018 to get her car back. She blocked hi and his friends' phone numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed. Last night a little before 9 pm, she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone. Suddenly, I heard her yell, 'No, no, no!' I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her. My husband called 911. I kept the line open and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren's things were on the ground.

Lauren was a senior student-athlete on the University of Utah track team. She was an outstanding studentwith a 3.75 GPA majoring in Communication and was excited to graduate in May 2019. She was a 2015 honors graduate of Pullman High School where she was Washington State champion in the high jump and the school record holder in the 100 meter hurdles. She attended Capital Church in Salt Lake City. She loved to sing and had strength and determination. She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed." 

 What's followed has been messages of support for the family. The comments have flooded their Facebook page from people who knew McCluskey, and many who didn't. 

A vigil is planned at the track and field at Pullman High School on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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