University Of Utah Settles Lauren McCluskey Case, Acknowledges It Mishandled Her ‘Preventable’ Death
Two years to the day after the death of University of Utah student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, university officials announced a settlement with the track star’s parents, Jill and Matt, who had filed a $56 million civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the university for its failure to protect her. A second suit was also filed in state court alleging wrongful death and negligence.
McCluskey had made more than 20 calls for help to university police after a 37-year-old man she briefly dated began stalking and threatening her, before ultimately shooting her multiple times in front of her campus dorm.
An independent investigation shortly after her death found the university badly mishandled the case, noting officers hadn’t realized the killer was a regisered sex offender and on parole. Later investigations also revealed one of the officers involved had shared explicit photos of McCluskey to colleagues. The officer was fired but was not charged with misconduct.
McCluskey’s parents will receive $10.5 million dollars from the university’s insurance, plus an additional $3 million donation, both of which they said will go to the charitable foundation created in their daughter’s name, the Lauren McCluskey Foundation. Its mission is to improve campus safety, amateur athletics and animal welfare, celebrating Lauren’s life and her love for animals, Matt McCluskey said.
As part of the settlement, the university also acknowledged its mishandling of the case, as well as admitted for the first time her death was preventable, which it had previously denied.
“On behalf of the entire University of Utah community and myself personally, I want to express how sincerely sorry we are for the McCluskey's profound loss of their daughter, Lauren,” President Ruth Watkins said at a press conference Thursday. “The university acknowledges and deeply regrets that it did not handle Lauren's case as it should have. As a result, we failed Lauren and her family.”
The university also pledged to build an indoor track in Lauren’s honor and name its newly-created violence prevention center after her.
“We have hope for the future,” Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mother, said. “And we hope not only that the University of Utah is a safer place, but that campuses will be safer nationwide because of what we are doing with the foundation.”
She also applauded the many changes the university has made since her daughter’s death, including hiring a chief safety officer and creating new campus safety policies.
University officials said they have since implemented all 30 recommendations from the independent review of its handling of Lauren’s case, as well as others made by a Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety.
“We are engaged in making meaningful and lasting changes in our approach to campus safety,” Watkins said. “We believe these changes will build a culture of safety that prioritizes needs of crime victims and provides them with the full response and support they need, while recognizing this is an ongoing process that takes time, resources and our complete commitment.”