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Governor calls for corrections investigation following killing of Utah student

FILE - Police gather near the South Medical Tower on the University of Utah campus during a search for a man they say shot and killed a University of Utah student outside of a dormitory on campus, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in S
FILE - Police gather near the South Medical Tower on the University of Utah campus during a search for a man they say shot and killed a University of Utah student outside of a dormitory on campus, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Salt Lake City. The female student's body was found in a car near the medical towers, University of Utah Police Lt. Brian Wahlin said. The man they are searching for and the student had "a previous relationship," Wahlin said.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert called Thursday for an investigation of how Utah corrections and parole officers handled the case of the man who killed Lauren McCluskey.

The Utah Department of Commerce also ordered the security company that hired Melvin Rowland — a convicted felon and registered sex offender — to stop doing business, finding that it did not have a license to operate in Utah.

Rowland was on parole for a forcible sexual abuse conviction when he shot McCluskey, 21, to death Monday in a University of Utah parking lot near her dorm. He later turned the gun on himself.

Records show Rowland, 37, had been in and out of prison multiple times and was on the state's Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry.

Herbert said he has asked Utah Commissioner of Public Safety Jess Anderson to work with both the Utah Department of Corrections and the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole to conduct a probe.

"We are going to ask for a review and investigation and find out what went right or what went wrong," he said. "I think there are mistakes that at least appear to have been made."

Corrections spokeswoman Kaitlin Felsted said the agency welcomes the investigation. The harassment McCluskey reported to police on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 amounted to a violation of the terms of his parole, she said, but the agency didn't know about it and did not request a warrant for Rowland's arrest. A parole agent last had contact with Rowland on Oct. 16, she confirmed.

Conditions of Rowland's parole barred him from possessing a gun, committing a new crime and obtaining material depicting sexual acts or nudity, among other requirements, documents show.

The governor said he wonders why there was no apparent follow-up if there were reports of harassment or domestic violence against Rowland. The governor said he expects a full report within two or three weeks.

"This is not a pointing fingers thing. This is gathering the data and see what the data tell us," Herbert said. "It's a sad occasion when you have a loss of life in such a brutal way."

The governor said state officials will be taking a hard look at Utah's laws, especially when it comes to domestic violence. If changes are needed, he said, Utah lawmakers will likely pass them during the 2019 legislative session, which convenes in January.

Rowland was initially incarcerated from 2004 to 2012, according to the Utah State Prison, and then sent back and released two more times for parole violations.

In January, Rowland went before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole for the first time in two years stating that he had completed sex offender treatment and he was then released in April.

Herbert, speaking during his monthly KUED media news conference, said there are several questions about the case that demand answers.

"I think we are all heartbroken at the events that happened," he said.

McCluskey was a student athlete at the U. who dated Rowland for about a month. She broke it off with him after she found out he lied about his age, his name and his criminal past, her family said.

Rowland met McCluskey while he was working security at a downtown Salt Lake bar that had contracted with Black Diamond Security to provide security services.

Utah's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing issued an order Thursday to the company to cease and desist, writing that it does not have a license to operate as a security company in Utah. The division also fined the company $1,000, according to a copy of the order provided by the Utah Department of Commerce. Utah lawrequires those applying for a license as a security officer, whether armed or not, to have no felonies on their record, in addition to some lesser crimes.

In a statement on its website, Black Diamond Security Group said the company's "brief relationship with Shawn Fields (which is how we knew him), ended over a month ago. The matter is currently under review." No Black Diamond employee is permitted to carry weapons while working and the company does not supply them, the company added.

"Mr. Fields was never known by BDSG to carry a firearm/weapon," it said.

"Everyone at Black Diamond Security Group is saddened to hear about the loss of Lauren and our hearts go out to the McCluskey family at this difficult time," the company wrote. "While we did not know Lauren personally, from what we have learned, she was an intelligent, driven and hardworking young woman."

The company said it would investigate the matter, but did not comment on the licensing division's order.

In order to be sensitive to McCluskey's death, a dance company has removed two segments of its "Thriller" show — Sugarplums Finale and the River of Blood — for its performances at the U.'s Kingsbury Hall.

"We realize that what was once funny has lost its creative and comedic luster as societal and current events have changed the audience’s overall perception and appreciation," said Odyssey Dance Theatre's founder and artistic director Derryl Yeager.