PULLMAN, Wash. — The murder of Lauren McCluskey left a dark cloud over her parents, and those that knew her.
On October 22nd, McCluskey was killed by her ex-boyfriend, Melvin Shawn Rowland, a 37-year-old convicted sex offender.
Her death left her parents heartbroken.
"She was just an amazing young woman and a very hard worker," Jill McCluskey, Lauren's mother said. "A very gifted athlete. She had a track and field scholarship at the University of Utah."
Her mother spoke about Lauren's passion for animals, including an unparalleled love for cats.
"Lauren always loved cats," McCluskey reflected. "She volunteered at the Whitman County Humane Society starting when she was fairly young."
The cat wing of the Humane Society had a limited space of 330 square feet. It made for uncomfortable conditions for the animals.
"We would stack kennels in the bathroom because we didn't have enough space in the actual cat area," Becky Bitters, the secretary for the humane society admitted.
In 2018, the animal shelter was in talks of expanding.
"The Humane Society was thinking, 'we absolutely have to have more space for the cats,'" Bitters said.
It was around that time that Lauren's life was taken. Friends and family of Lauren donated to the Humane Society in her memory, at the suggestion of the McCluskey's.
It was a special place for Lauren, whose parents thought of no better way to pay tribute to their daughter.
The Humane Society quickly learned of her story, and Lauren's compassion for animals. Shortly after, talks were underway on how to dedicate their expansion in Lauren's name.
"Jill and Matt, her husband, and the university; we all touched base about how to dedicate the wing to Lauren," Bitters said.
"They offered to name the wing after Lauren," Jill said. "It's just meant a lot to us."
Donations flooded in. Two anonymous donors generously pledged $20,000.
On October 5th, 2019, nearly a year after her death, Lauren was immortalized in the place she loved the most.
The Humane Society named their expansion, 'The Lauren McCluskey Cat Wing;' a 400 square foot expansion that provided some much needed space for Lauren's favorite animal.
It's an expansion that Jill says, she knows Lauren would be proud of.
"I was just thinking it's amazing and wonderful, that some good can come out of the tragedy."
In 2020, the Humane Society saved a record number of animals because of the expansion, saving 816, topping their previous record by 260.