The lawyer representing her family alleges the investigation was mishandled by Bridgeport PD
On the evening of December 13, 2021, Shantell Smith and her son went to check on her twenty-three-year-old daughter, Lauren. Shantell was concerned because Lauren wasn’t returning their calls or replying to their texts, which was very unusual.
When they arrived at her apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut, they found a strange note on the apartment door that said, “If you are looking for Lauren, please contact this number.”
The number belonged to Lauren’s landlord, who notified them of her death and gave them the number of the detective assigned to the case.
The mother was shocked and couldn’t believe she was learning of her daughter’s death from the landlord. Lauren had died the night before, and law enforcement had never bothered to notify the next of kin of her death.
According to Shantell, her son spoke with the detective, and he mentioned that Lauren had been on a date the night of her death with an older man she met on Bumble, a dating app similar to Tinder. The detective told them they didn’t need to worry about him because he was a “really nice guy.”
The really nice guy was a thirty-seven-year-old man named Mathew LaFountain. He was the last person to see Lauren alive, yet he hasn’t been named a person of interest nor taken into custody for questioning.
In the police report, LaFountain accounted that he recalled arriving at Lauren’s apartment around 9:30 PM the night before. He said the two had matched on Bumble three days prior. He claimed Lauren asked him for $40 to do her nails and told him to meet her at her place with a bottle of tequila.
LaFountain proceeded to say that they drank tequila, played games, then had food together before starting to watch a movie. At one point, he noted Lauren went to the bathroom to throw up, and at another point, she went outside to get something from her brother. When she returned to the apartment, he said she went directly to the bathroom and stayed there for about 10 to 15 minutes. When she came back, LaFountain said that she fell asleep on the couch during the movie, and he carried her into the bedroom, where he fell asleep next to her.
He claimed he woke up at 3 AM to use the bathroom and heard her snoring. Then, he woke again at 6:30 AM and saw blood dripping onto the bed, which was coming out of her right nostril. He checked her pulse and found she wasn’t breathing. That’s when he called 911.
The first responders to the scene wrote in the incident report that LaFountain was “frantic” and “visibly shaken.”
The weirdest part was that the Police never contacted the family, nor did they immediately examine the scene. No one in the Smith-Fields family was notified of the death until Shantell went to her daughter’s apartment and was informed of the tragic incident by the landlord.
According to Lauren’s brother, when he and his family walked into the apartment to gather Lauren’s belongings, they found bottles of alcohol, flipped plates of food, a blood-stained sheet, a sedative pill, and a used condom.
According to the Smith-Field family lawyer, Darnell Crosland, no evidence has been submitted to the forensic lab. He said the family was planning to sue the city for failing to investigate Lauren’s death properly.
And on January 21, 2022, the family lawyer issued a notice of claim announcing that they intended to sue the Bridgeport police department for its poor handling of the case. They believed the police department was “racially insensitive,” as they didn’t take Lauren’s death seriously.
On January 23, which would’ve been Lauren’s twenty-fourth birthday, activists and community members joined Lauren’s family in a march outside the Bridgeport police department, where they demanded justice for the young woman.
On January 24, the autopsy results were publicly revealed. The medical examiner concluded that Lauren had died of acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol. Her death was ruled an accident.
Crosland, the family’s lawyer, commented that the toxicology report made her death look even more like a murder. Her family and friends also said Lauren didn’t do drugs, rarely drank liquor, and regularly went to the gym. Her family believes she was drugged and assaulted and died from a lethal combination of drugs.
After that, the city’s mayor, Joe Ganim, announced that the Office of Internal Affairs would conduct a “full and fair investigation” into how the police handled Lauren’s death.
Also, six weeks after her death and after a growing outcry to properly investigate the case, Bridgeport police have said its narcotics and vice division, along with the DEA, were finally going to investigate if any crimes were committed.
Additionally, there have been reports that LaFountain may have had a personal connection with one of the lead detectives. It is being reported that a detective arrived at 3:30 AM before the 911 call, and there are allegations that this detective may have assisted in covering up what happened to Lauren. That detective was subsequently investigated by internal affairs and suspended, and another detective was also suspended pending the results of an internal investigation.
They were suspended in January 2022
Sources:https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/nyregion/lauren-smith-fields-bumble-date-investigation.html https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/lauren-smithfields-death-police-death-investigation-1283552/ https://abcnews.go.com/US/detectives-involved-death-case-lauren-smith-fields-suspended/story?id=82577889