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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Family ‘incredibly disappointed’ no charges filed against officer who shared explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey before her murder

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 15, 2020

Jill McCluskey is pictured in her daughter Lauren’s bedroom in Pullman with a photograph of the girl at age 3.  (DAN PELLE)
Jill McCluskey is pictured in her daughter Lauren’s bedroom in Pullman with a photograph of the girl at age 3. (DAN PELLE)

A police officer will not face criminal charges for showing explicit photos of student-athlete and Pullman High School graduate Lauren McCluskey during an investigation of the man who killed her days later.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Thursday that his office has declined to prosecute Miguel Deras, former University of Utah police officer, according to a Salt Lake Tribune report Thursday. Gill called the bragging “definitely reckless,” but said there is “no real statute we could use for this case.”

In October 2018, McCluskey explained to then-University of Utah police officer Deras that she was being extorted over explicit photos of herself, the Salt Lake Tribune reported in May. She didn’t know who was blackmailing her at the time, but they were threatening to release the photos if she didn’t pay them $1,000.

Deras saved those images, which McCluskey gave the department as evidence, on his personal phone, the Tribune reported. Then he showed at least one photo to a male co-worker and bragged he could look at them whenever he wanted, according to two fellow officers.

Days later, the man who’d been blackmailing Lauren McCluskey, Melvin Shawn Rowland, 37, shot her to death in a campus parking lot. He took his own life shortly after.

In an email to The Spokesman-Review, her parents, Jill and Matt McCluskey, both faculty at Washington State University, said they were “incredibly disappointed” in Gill for “not pursuing justice,”

“Gill is letting women down,” they wrote, “by not prosecuting a police officer who betrayed the trust of a young woman who reported to that officer multiple times that a man was committing crimes against her.”

Gill’s decision could make women hesitate to report extortion and harassment for fear that the private information they provide will be “compromised, or even leered at” by police, the parents wrote.

Gill told the Tribune his office considered charging Deras under Utah’s “revenge porn law,” but the statute requires proof that the photographed person was harmed. Because Lauren McCluskey died, Gill said that be impossible to prove.

“We’re incensed like everyone else by the behavior,” Gill said. “It was inappropriate. But if there’s not a statute, there’s nothing we can do.”

The University of Utah told the Tribune it didn’t know about the showing of McCluskey’s photos until after Deras left the department in September 2019. The Salt Lake Tribune’s records request first brought the issue to the department’s attention, according to a university police spokesperson.

Gill did not respond to a request for comment.

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