Police to open criminal probe into Lauren Smith-Fields’ death

Bridgeport Police finally launching criminal investigation into last month's death of Smith-Fields after family calls out "accidental" ruling.

The Bridgeport Police Department is finally opening a criminal investigation into the death of 23-year-old influencer Lauren Smith-Fields.

The probe comes as as result of Monday’s announcement by Connecticut’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner that Smith-Fields died on Dec. 12 from “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol.” Dr. Christopher Borck ruled her death an accident a day after her family and dozens of Smith-Fields supporters held a “Justice for Lauren” rally on what would have been her 24th birthday.

According to officials, Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, died on Dec. 12 from “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol.” A criminal investigation into her death has been launched. (Photo: Screenshot/Instagram)

According to a local NBC News report, the Bridgeport Police Department will get the assistance of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The case will now be transferred to the Bridgeport Narcotics and Vice Division.

Police Chief Rebeca Garcia said Tuesday, “The Bridgeport Police Department continues to treat the untimely death of Lauren Smith-Fields as an active investigation as we are now refocusing our attention and efforts to the factors that lead to her untimely death.  We have engaged several partners to assist with this portion of the investigation.  Once again, we offer our sincerest condolences to the friends and family of Lauren Smith-Fields and ask that anyone with information to please contact 203 576-TIPS.”

However, after Monday’s cause-of-death revelation, Smith-Fields’ loved ones said the findings left them with even more questions.

They’re not quite convinced of the officials’ assertions. As of press time, the family had not released a statement regarding the launch of the criminal probe. But, earlier on Tuesday, their attorney expressed the family’s concern with the medical examiner’s findings.

“Now to find out that all of these substances are in their daughter’s body that basically took her life, they’re so angry right now,” Darnell Crosland, the family’s lawyer, told News 8. “This looks further like a manslaughter. It looks more like a murder, and if the police don’t start acting fast, we’re going to have a real big problem on our hands.”

The family claims that detectives with the Bridgeport Police Department did not collect key evidence from the woman’s apartment, including a pill used as a sedative, a condom and “a round bloodstain in the middle of [Smith-Fields’] bed.” Now, they are demanding to consult bloodstain pattern analysis services.

Further, they allege that investigators did not properly interview the man who last saw Smith-Fields alive, since identified by The Daily Mail as 37-year-old design engineer Matthew LaFountain, an older man the Norwalk Community College student had met three days earlier on the dating app Bumble, and with whom she’d spent the evening of Dec. 12 drinking.

“Find out whether he has a drug connection to someone,” Crosland told News 8.

Smith-Fields’ father, Everett Smith, has described the investigation into his daughter’s death as negligent, saying, “All we keep getting is doors closed in our faces and empty promises.” As previously reported, the family plans to sue the city of Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Police Department for violating both Smith-Fields’ civil rights and theirs as well.

The family has advocated for legislation requiring timely notifications of deaths after discovering that Smith-Fields had died when they went to her home days later and found a number to call on a note from her landlord, despite the fact that Bridgeport Police had all of her identifying documents.

Following Monday’s declaration of her cause of death, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim released a statement, writing, “First, I would like to restate the city’s condolences to the family and friends of Lauren Smith-Fields, and to the many caring individuals who have reached out seeking answers for Lauren.  I recognize that the family and the community is experiencing a lot of pain because of the loss of a young woman in addition to unanswered questions and concerns about the way the matter has been handled.”  

Ganim noted that “sensitivity and care is of utmost importance when working with the family of a victim.  There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss.  To that end, this matter has been referred to the Office of Internal Affairs to conduct a full and fair investigation.”

“Second, I share concerns echoed by many about the amount of time and manner a family is informed of a loss.  Death notifications should be done in a manner that illustrates dignity for the deceased and respect and compassion for the family.  Therefore, I will work with the Chief of Police to make appropriate changes here in Bridgeport now our department’s policies and practices regarding notifying family members of a death.  I support and add my voice to the family, community and elected officials who are calling for state legislation on this issue.”

Connecticut State Senator Dennis Bradley, who represents Smith-Fields’ district, has reportedly submitted a bill that will “require by statute that every police department within 24 hours either communicate or make a clear and present attempt to communicate with family members.”

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