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A Utah cop kept explicit photos of a terrified college track star who was being sextorted by her ex — and showed them off to a colleague just days before the young athlete was murdered, according to his force and a damning report Sunday.
University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, 21, went to campus cops in October 2018 because she was so scared of her blackmailer — twisted ex Melvin Rowland, 37, a registered sex offender — she had already paid an initial $1,000 demand, the Salt Lake Tribune said.
Officer Miguel Deras then saved the explicit images onto his personal phone, showing at least one male colleague — and bragging about being able to ogle them at any time, according to the Tribune’s investigation.
Just nine days after she reported the case, McCluskey was shot dead by Rowland — who then killed himself the same day.
“The people who were supposed to be helping and protecting Lauren were actually exploiting her,” the murdered student’s outraged mother, Jill McCluskey, told the paper.
“I wish that Deras had used his time to arrest the man who was committing crimes against Lauren.”
McCluskey’s parents had last year already filed a $56 million lawsuit over the police handling of the case. An independent review found Deras did little to investigate the case even when the victims reported attempts to lure her out of her dorm, the paper said.
“This latest revelation makes me wonder when we’ll hit bottom,” her father, Matt McCluskey, told the Tribune.
One of Deras’ colleagues confirmed to campus police that Deras had shown him an image, the force admitted to the Tribune, which said it also spoke to another officer who had overheard the initial conversations.
Deras — who later resigned and now works for Logan police, 85 miles away — did not respond to several requests for comment, the paper said.
While confirming the claim, university police insisted it was not reported at the time — and only came to light when the Tribune started making requests for records.
“He was long gone before we had any inkling that that incident with the photo being shown had occurred,” Lt. Jason Hinojosa told the paper.
The officer who saw the image was not disciplined because he had not asked to see it, Hinojosa said. Data later downloaded from Deras’ phone was either corrupted or from after the McCluskey investigation, the paper said.
Maj. Scott Stephenson, who oversees all police training in the state under the Utah Department of Public Safety, said it could be grounds for action against Deras’ police certification.