SALT LAKE CITY — Mediation talks between Lauren McCluskey’s parents and the University of Utah have ended without an agreement, attorneys for Matt and Jill McCluskey announced Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, this week’s mediation with the University of Utah was not successful. We appreciate the opportunity to have had free and frank discussions with the university,” attorneys Jim McConkie and Brad Parker said in a prepared statement.
Likewise, the university released a statement Wednesday evening saying officials had hoped for an agreement that honored McCluskey’s memory while benefiting the school’s students.
“We worked very hard to find common ground and, although we were unable to achieve a resolution, we found the discussions helpful. We appreciate the willingness of the McCluskeys and their attorneys to engage in these efforts. We are hopeful our discussions will continue with the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable outcome.”
Jill and Matt McCluskey filed a federal lawsuit against the university claiming that the death of their 21-year-old daughter was preventable and the university failed in its duty to protect her.
McCluskey was shot and killed Oct. 22, 2018, on campus near her dorm by Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, a man who stalked and attempted to blackmail her in the weeks leading up to the fatal confrontation.
From Oct. 10 until her death on Oct. 22, McCluskey, a student-athlete at the school, called the U. police department more than 20 times reporting her concerns about Rowland. Her parents claim officers never took their daughter’s concerns seriously. Rowland died of a self-inflicted gunshot hours after killing McCluskey.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, McCluskey’s parents, their attorneys, and representatives from the University of Utah met via video conferencing, along with a retired Denver judge who presided over the talks, in an attempt to reach an out-of-court settlement on their lawsuit. The two sides met for a total of 14 1⁄2 hours.
While McConkie declined to talk about the content of the talks or whether the two sides were ever close to reaching an agreement, “We thought we had frank discussions and the McCluskeys are always open to settle at the table,” he said Wednesday. “We’ll see where it goes from here.”
With mediation ending without a resolution, McConkie said the McCluskeys will now go forward with their second lawsuit.
This week, allegations were raised that a former university officer to whom Lauren McCluskey sent compromising pictures to prove she was being blackmailed kept those pictures on his personal phone and bragged to other officers about having them.
Attorneys representing officer Miguel Deras have strongly denied the allegations, noting that their client was already cleared of the allegations in two prior investigations.
But on Monday, the University of Utah’s new police chief, Rodney Chatman, announced that he was ordering another independent investigation be conducted because he has concerns with the thoroughness of the last report completed in February. The Utah Department of Public Safety has agreed to conduct that investigation. In addition, Chatman placed two people in his department who conducted the last investigation on administrative leave pending the results of the new report.
The McCluskeys had previously announced their intentions to file a second lawsuit, but agreed to hold off until the mediation talks were completed.
McConkie said on Wednesday that he will now move forward and prepare the lawsuit for filing and add the latest information surrounding the Deras allegations. He expects the lawsuit will be filed sometime next week.
“The McCluskeys’ sole desire is to improve safety and prevent a similar tragedy at the University of Utah and other campuses throughout the United States. Every dollar from a potential settlement would go directly to achieving that goal through the Lauren McCluskey Foundation. While Jill and Matt McCluskey continue to be disappointed in the University of Utah, they are always willing to discuss and work through differences in the future,” he said.