A new report describes an ugly moment in the extortion case brought by student Lauren McCluskey. Miguel Deras possessed explicit pictures of the victim (which was evidence), bragged about looking at them whenever he wanted, and showing off at least one image to a male colleague, according to police in a Salt Lake Tribune article published Sunday. This encounter purportedly happened days before McCluskey was killed by ex-boyfriend Melvin Rowland, the man who’d been blackmailing her.
The outlet said they discussed this with the officer who saw the pictures, and a cop who overheard Deras talking to the first one. But neither witness reported the encounter when it happened.
Days before Lauren McCluskey was killed, the officer assigned to her case showed off the explicit photos of her — evidence in her extortion case — to a male co-worker and bragged about getting to look at them whenever he wanted.https://t.co/w5nlJzzjm9 pic.twitter.com/3vvAgBT87K
— Courtney Tanner (@CourtneyLTanner) May 17, 2020
Deras never got in trouble with the University of Utah, and the school said they lacked physical proof this happened: a download of his phone for data mostly returned corrupted data in July 2019, school spokesman Chris Nelson said. This was attributed to the officer getting a new phone, and some files not being transferred.
Investigators determined that Deras, as a detective, mishandled exortion case reported by McCluskey. For example, he didn’t convey her report that Rowland was trying to lure her out of her dorm room. This was hours before the murder.
Deras has since left the university and is now working for the Logan Citty Police Department in Utah.
“He was long gone before we had any inkling that that incident with the photo being shown had occurred,” University police Lt. Jason Hinojosa said.
The outlet said that Deras didn’t respond to requests for comment.
McCluskey, 21, briefly dated Rowland, a 37-year-old man who lied about his age, hid the fact that he was out on parole as a sex offender, and gave her a false name. She dumped him. Authorities said he lashed out, including blackmailing her over pictures. Officials said he ended up killing her on October 22, 2018, and then he died in an apparent suicide.
“Disgusting and tragic,” Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said in response to the new story. “It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the department could have handled this case worse. And the idea that this type behavior isn’t actionable is not only wrong but dangerous.”
McCluskey’s parents have an ongoing lawsuit against the University.
Updated – May 18, 2020, 6:14 p.m.: The Logan City Police Department responded to a Law&Crime request for comment. In a statement, Chief Gary Jensen said they were “blindsided” by what was reported in the Tribune article, and weren’t asked about it before it was publicized. From the statement:
Although the allegations are difficult to read, and very serious in nature, please remember they are allegations. We are taking the allegations seriously and are investigating the claims, while ensuring due process is also being served. Please be patient while we consult with the University of Utah Police Department, who has reportedly already done an in-depth internal investigation, on this very claim, including interviews of co-workers, employees and a forensic download of this officer’s phone. Reportedly, throughout their investigation, there was no evidence to substantiate any part of the claim. We intend to reach out to the Tribune to seek opportunity to speak to their un-named source for further clarification and information. Lauren’s murder was a devastating crime for the McCluskey family and our community. Our hearts and minds are with the McCluskey family through another round of difficult media. As such, we are taking this new information and allegations very seriously and are already working on our own investigation. I have received several emotional phone calls and emails. These are terrible allegations that may anger, sadden and even sicken many, but I ask for your patience as we work hard to seek facts to substantiate or refute claims by the Tribune. If there is evidence substantiating the allegations, we will take appropriate action.
[Image via University of Utah]
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