SALT LAKE CITY — The man who illegally purchased the gun that killed University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey will not serve any more time behind bars, a U.S. District Court judge determined Wednesday.
Nathan Daniel Vogel, 22, was sentenced to three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. He will receive credit for the time he has already served, Judge Tena Campbell said.
Standing before the court Wednesday, Vogel said he was “terribly sorry” for what he had done.
“It was a terrible loss of life,” Vogel said, adding that he accepted responsibility for his actions.
In pleading guilty in June, Vogel admitted to illegally buying a handgun at a Salt Lake City store on Sept. 8, 2018. Because Vogel was afraid he wouldn’t be able to buy the gun that same day due to his military background, he gave 24-year-old Sarah Emily Lady money to make the purchase for him, and she filled out a form claiming she was the one buying the gun, according to the plea agreement. Once they were outside the store, Lady handed the gun over to Vogel.
Vogel would go on to lend the .40-caliber Beretta handgun to his co-worker Melvin Rowland, who used it to shoot McCluskey in a parking lot outside her dorm just over a month after the purchase.
“Mr. Vogel never should have done this,” prosecutor Carlos Esqueda said outside the courtroom after the sentencing. “If he hadn’t, if he hadn’t given the gun to Mr. Rowland, Ms. McCluskey would likely be alive today.”
According to police reports from the University of Utah, Vogel told investigators that he believed Rowland “manipulated” him in order to borrow the gun after Vogel was fired from his job.
“I had told (Rowland) about my problems and stuff like that he offered me $200, so he manipulated me using the guilt trip to use my weapon,” Vogel said, according to a report. He loaned Rowland the gun on Oct. 17.
Vogel said he got a call from hotel security at Little America Hotel shortly after; security told him the gun had been found there, along with marijuana. After Vogel went to the hotel to claim the gun, Rowland “talked him into giving him the gun back” and paid him an additional $200, according to the report.
Rowland was meant to return the gun to Vogel after he supposedly took McCluskey target shooting, but he told Vogel that he and McCluskey were stuck in Moab, investigators wrote. In the days that followed, continued texts from Vogel to Rowland asking for the gun back went unanswered, the report said.
Vogel’s plea deal was agreed upon by the McCluskey family, who were consulted throughout the process, according to Esqueda. The McCluskeys declined to comment on Vogel’s case when reached by the Deseret News.
“I don’t think he had an intent to have Ms. McCluskey murdered,” Esqueda said. “But this goes to show that when you obtain a gun illegally, they always, always end up in the wrong hands and tragic events happen.”
Esqueda asked Campbell to impose an additional community service requirement for Vogel, but Campbell did not grant the request, saying Vogel’s treatment and employment were her priorities.
“This is what it is, which is tragic,” Campbell said. “But I think Mr. Vogel will always have this imprinted.”
Lady, who purchased the gun for Vogel, was also charged in March with making a false statement during the acquisition of a firearm and conspiracy. Her case will be diverted for eighteen months, after which it may be dismissed if she complies with the diversion terms and does not commit another crime during that time, according to Esqueda.