Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead on December 12 at her apartment in Bridgeport, where she and Mathew LaFountain had spent the night partying
Connecticut Medical Examiner determined Lauren Smith-Fields died as a result of acute intoxication by fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol
The 23-year-old woman’s death in December was ruled accidental
Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid prescribed to treat severe pain, while promethazine and hydroxyzine are allergy medications
Family’s attorney pushed back against accidental death ruling, saying it ‘looks more like a manslaughter, if not a murder’
Bridgeport PD’s Narcotics and Vice Division, with assistance from DEA, on Tuesday launched a criminal investigation into Smith-Fields’ death
Mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, launched internal investigation into police department’s handling of the case and its interactions with family
Smith-Fields’ family accused local police of being racially insensitive and signaled their intention to sue prior to release of cause of death
Her Bumble date, Matthew LaFountain, 37, has not been charged with any crime in connection with her death
Smith-Fields was found dead on her blood-stained sheets by LaFountain, who is a Design Engineer with Times Microwave System
Her date LaFountain says while spending the night with her, he woke up around 6.30am and found Smith-Fields lying on her right side with blood coming out of her right nostril and not breathing
He then called 911
Police in Connecticut launched a criminal investigation Tuesday into the death of a 23-year-old college student who was killed by a lethal cocktail of drugs, including fentanyl, while on a Bumble date last month.
This latest development comes after the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Monday ruled Lauren Smith-Fields’s death an accident caused by acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive and potentially deadly synthetic opioid prescribed to treat severe pain, while promethazine and hydroxyzine are allergy medications.
The new probe will try to figure out how and where Smith-Fields procured the deadly drug.
Her Bumble date, 37-year-old Matthew LaFountain, a design engineer, has not been charged with any crime in connection with her death. He has maintained silence since being questioned by cops.
Lakeem Jetter, Smith-Fields’ brother, was the next-to-last person to have seen his sister alive on the night she died, when he arrived at her Bridgeport home to collect a basket of clothes from her.
LaFountain has claimed the brother was there to drop something off with Lauren.
After seeing Jetter, LaFountain told cops Smith-Fields went to the bathroom and stayed there for at least 10 minutes, which he thought was ‘odd.’
The dead woman’s family previously expressed anger at the police, accusing them of failing to properly investigate LaFountain, despite his being the last person to see Smith-Fields alive, and even allegedly shielding him from scrutiny because he was a ‘nice guy.’
Darnell Crosland, an attorney representing the Smith-Fields family, argued that detectives now should go to LaFountain’s home, and find out where the fentanyl and alcohol originated.
The Bridgeport Police Department announced on Tuesday that its Narcotics and Vice Division will conduct the investigation into the fentanyl-related death, with assistance from the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
‘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,’ Police Chief Rebeca Garcia said in a statement.
Crosland also challenged the medical examiner’s conclusion that Smith-Fields’ death was an accident.
‘I’ve never seen a medical examiner conclude a mixer of drugs as an accident without knowing who provided the drugs, or how it was ingested,’ he tweeted. ‘Lauren didn’t use drugs.
‘The M.E. findings doesn’t cure any of Bridgeport Police Department lack of process, in fact it makes it worse. As a result of a botched investigation this morning we are left with more questions than answers.’
Crosland further suggested that Smith-Fields’ death ‘looks more like a manslaughter, if not a murder.’
LaFountain told police he and Smith-Fields, whom he had known for just three days, spent her last night on December 11 drinking tequila, eating and watching a movie. The following morning, he found her dead on her bloodied sheets and alerted the authorities.
Prior to the release of Smith-Fields’ cause and manner of death, her family accused Bridgeport police of showing a lack of responsiveness and racial insensitivity in their handling of the investigation, and signaled their intention to file a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations.
On Monday, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim launched an internal investigation into the police department’s response to Smith-Fields’ death and the agency’s interactions with her family.
‘There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss,’ Ganim stated. ‘There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss,’ Ganim stated.
‘To that end, this matter has been referred to the Office of Internal Affairs to conduct a full and fair investigation.’
As of Tuesday, Smith-Fields’ family have not said whether they plan to carry on with the lawsuit in light of the medical examiner’s revelations.
The family have claimed the police took too long to notify them of Smith-Fields’ death, and then asked relatives to stop calling the department for updates.
Ganim announced he will be working with the Bridgeport police to update policies and practices concerning family death notifications.
‘Death notifications should be done in a manner that illustrates dignity for the deceased and respect and compassion for the family,’ he said. ‘I support and add my voice to the family, community, and elected officials who are calling for state legislation on this issue.’
Smith-Fields was found dead on December 12 at her apartment in Bridgeport, where she and LaFountain had spent the night partying.
LaFountain works as a design engineer at Connecticut-based Times Microwave Systems – a company which manufactures cables for the military, aerospace and telecommunications companies. He has not been named by police as a suspect in relation to Smith-Fields’ death.
Smith-Fields, a student at Norwalk Community College, and LaFountain were hanging out and drinking the night before she died, according to a the police report. LaFountain claims that at one point during the evening, Smith-Fields became ill and threw up in her bathroom before the two continued drinking tequila mixed drinks.
Her brother, Lakeem Jetter, told Rolling Stone that a large blood stain was found on her bed and he claimed that several other pieces of key evidence, including a used condom, lubricant and an unidentified pill, were ignored by cops.
‘The first night we saw cups there, flipped plates and the lube. The cops didn’t take any of the cups to test the liquor,’ Jetter said. ‘There was a big stain of blood in the middle of her bed, with streaks going to the right side.’
Smith-Fields’ family have signaled their intention to sue Bridgeport Police after becoming frustrated with how they are handling the case, attorney Darnell Crosland, alleges that the detective in charge of her case told them to stop contacting him.
Crosland also said that the detective was uninterested in pursuing Smith-Field’s date as a suspect.
In a statement issued last month by Bridgeport police, acting Chief, Rebecca Garcia said the department ‘takes these concerns very seriously’. Police are still investigating her death and the case is still active.
‘They’re waiting for the autopsy before questioning anyone,’ Crosland said prior to the medical examiner’s announcement on Monday.
‘But there are parts of the investigation that can be done without the autopsy. They can obtain the messages from Bumble. But that’s not being done.’
The police report states that Smith-Fields asked LaFountain for $40 to get her nails done and then to meet her at her residence where the pair reportedly took ‘shots of tequila’.
LaFountain claims Smith-Fields became ill and threw up in her bathroom before the two continued drinking tequila mixed drinks. They reportedly played games, ate food and began watching a movie when Smith-Fields allegedly received a text, went outside to get something from her brother, whom LaFountain did not see, and then, upon her return, went into her bathroom for 10 to 15 minutes.
Her date told police ‘he thought it was odd, but didn’t feel it was his place to say anything as he didn’t know her that well,’ the incident report reportedly reads.
Lakeem Jetter, Smith-Fields’ brother, told Rolling Stone in an interview earlier this month that he went by his sister’s apartment to pick up a basket of his clothes from her. He made no mention of dropping anything off.
I didn’t know that anybody was in there,’ Jetter told the magazine. ‘She came out and she was out there for like 10-15 minutes and she walked back into the house. She looked normal. She didn’t look sick, she didn’t look tired, she didn’t look drunk.’
Afterwards, Smith-Fields and LaFountain continued to watch the movie and finished the bottle of tequila before she fell asleep on the couch. LaFountain allegedly carried her to her bedroom and the two went to bed.
He claims he woke up around 3am to use the bathroom and found Smith-Fields snoring. Then, around 6:30am he reportedly found her lying on her right side with blood coming out of her right nostril and not breathing. He then called 911.
Once police arrived on scene, Smith-Fields’ landlord was contacted. The landlord did not have family contact information so it wasn’t until days later when Shantell Fields visited the unit that she learned her daughter had died.
‘When I asked the officer about the guy, he said he was a very nice guy and they weren’t looking into him anymore. It was almost like he was sticking up for him and it seemed weird to hear that from a detective,’ Jetter told NBC Connecticut.
‘He told me directly on the phone to stop calling him and hung up in my face, it was just like total disrespect, like that’s what you tell a family that’s going through grief and trying to find answers?’
Jetter also alleges that police were not thorough in their initial crime scene investigation, noting that while officers confiscated her phone, passport and $1,345 in cash, they neglected to collect other pieces of potential evidence.
He told Rolling Stone they found a used condom in the trash, lubricant, bloody sheets on her bed and an unidentified pill in the unit.
‘The first night we saw cups there, flipped plates and the lube. The cops didn’t take any of the cups to test the liquor,’ said Jetter. ‘There was a big stain of blood in the middle of her bed, with streaks going to the right side.’
Smith-Fields’ mother also claims the officers made her feel as if the investigation was ‘not important.’
‘The way they talked to me, the way they have talked to the family, how they treated my daughter, they treated her like she was nobody, like she was not important,’ Shantell Smith told the TV station.
The family’s attorney alleged police often don’t prioritize investigation involving black women.
‘We have seen the amount of resources that have gone to other cases involving missing white women like Gabby Petito and we know so many black woman are missing so much in this country,’ attorney Darnell Crosland said. ‘Everyone is speaking out, everyone is insulted with the way the Bridgeport police and the Bridgeport city has dealt with us.’
The family plan to hire a private investigator to look into the case. Meantime, they have paid for an independent autopsy of Smith-Fields’ body.
Her loved ones claim police did not pursue LaFountain as a suspect, failed to collect what they believe to be essential evidence from the scene and told the family to stop calling about the case
The family have several concerns with the incident report, Rolling Stone reported.
‘I haven’t texted my sister since December 4,’ Jetter said, noting that he did call Smith-Fields on the night of December 11 to bring out a basket of clothes he was picking up.
Her mother also claims that Smith-Fields had gotten her nails done earlier that week and that she wouldn’t have needed to get them done again. Fields also noted that her nails were ‘still so intact’ they didn’t need to be done for her funeral.
Crosland, who is representing Smith-Fields’ family, said he is seeking justice for the deceased woman.
‘We’re suing the city of Bridgeport for failure to prosecute and failure to protect this family under the 14th Amendment,’ Crosland said. He is planning to evoke the portion of the Constitution that provides equal protection under the law for all citizens, including black people.
‘It’s happening all too often with black girls missing across this world, across this country, and no one says anything,’ the lawyer said. ‘When a white woman goes missing, the whole world drops everything. We are done with this valuation.’
He added: ‘We want an independent investigation by an independent state agency or federal agency to look into this case. We want the DOJ like when they have to step in for cases like a Mike Brown, this family has to continue to deal with the loss of their loved one, work and they shouldn’t have to do that when they are hard-working tax-payers.’
Attorney Darnell Crosland, who is representing Smith-Fields’ family, said he is seeking justice for the deceased woman. He said: ‘We’re suing the city of Bridgeport for failure to prosecute and failure to protect this family under the 14th Amendment’ and claims this happens ‘all too often with black girls’. Crosland claims Bridgeport police have issued their condolences, but only after the case was brought to their attention by the media.
‘We see them now offering their condolences after reporters have been asking them for questions and when we hear about it, it’s like a slap in the face, we don’t want excuses, we want answers,’ he said.
‘I have no faith in the Bridgeport Police Department, we have been disrespected and they didn’t handle our loved one’s case like they should have as soon as this happened.’
Bridgeport Police released the following statement to NBC Connecticut last week:
‘On December 12, 2021, the Bridgeport Emergency Operations Center received a call for service regarding an untimely death. Upon police arrival, it was found that [Smith Fields] passed away unexpectedly. This incident is currently being investigated by the Bridgeport Police Department’s Detective Bureau. This investigation remains open and active. The Detective Bureau is awaiting the final report from the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for cause and manner of death of Ms. Smith-Fields. The Bridgeport Police Department offers it’s sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Lauren Smith-Fields. We encourage anyone with information regarding this incident to contact either Detective-Sergeant Joseph Morales at 203-581-5219 or the Bridgeport Police TIPS line at 203-576-8477.’
A makeshift memorial has been set up outside Smith-Fields’ apartment and a GoFundMe established to help the family fund their private investigation.
Fields and Jetter are also planning to hold a citywide march on Sunday afternoon to raise awareness about the case and demand justice for their loved one.
‘We want justice, we want answers, I mean whatever happened happened that night, we want to know and we want to feel like they care as much as we care,’ said Jetter.
‘I never thought something like this would happen where you lose a family member and we are treated like you don’t exist so we are going to ensure this city remembers Lauren Smith-Fields.’
‘I miss my daughter and I see her in everything that I do and it pains me to know that I’ll never get to see her again,’ echoed Fields.
For the past few years, the Bridgeport police department has been under scrutiny for corruption within the department. Former Chief of Police Armando J. Perez was sentenced to a 12-month prison sentence last April for his participation in a scheme to defraud the city by rigging the 2018 police chief examination to solidify his position as chief.
“As somebody who was born and raised here, Bridgeport is incredibly corrupt. Most people know we had a police chief who went to prison, we’ve had five public officials indicted by the feds, and we had a mayor who went to federal prison,” said City Council Member Maria Pereira, who spoke at the press conference. The police department has been in shambles for four or five years. We have over 100 vacancies in the Bridgeport police department right now.”