On Sunday, January 23, the Bridgeport, Connecticut community marched for Lauren Smith-Fields, the 23-year-old woman who was found dead in her apartment by her Bumble date. The day would have marked her 24th birthday.
“I knew Lauren was looking down smiling,” Smith-Fields’ brother, Lakeem Jetter, said to Girls United. “We shouted, ‘Justice for Lauren’, ‘Happy birthday for Lauren.’ At the end we cut a cake, we let balloons go. It was so many family and friends. The whole city of Bridgeport came out.” Together, they marched from the Bridgeport police department to City Hall, as a symbol of their journey towards justice.
On December 12, Smith-Fields was discovered deceased by her date from the previous night. Matthew LaFountain, 37, said during the collection of the incident report that the two met online, drank tequila and were in bed together, but they did not have sex. He also said she fell asleep on the couch and that he carried her to her bed before falling asleep himself. The story gained traction nationally in January, but according to social media users, it initially was under-covered by the media. It also was compared to the case of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old who embarked on a lengthy road trip with her fiancé. Once her fiancé returned to Florida without her (and she was later found dead), an FBI manhunt ensued for the fiancé and updates were frequently provided by several sites.
“Since this case began, Lauren Smith-Fields hasn’t been any different than what we’ve been seeing across the country when it comes to Black girls being missing, or Black girls being harmed,” said Attorney Darnell Crosland, who is representing Smith-Fields’ family. “There’s just a devaluation on the lives of Black girls. And when you compare that to the way the country reacted to Gabby Petito, it highlights this sentiment.”
There are multiple details of the case that Attorney Crosland was inclined to call attention to. The attorney said that the fact that the police did not notify Lauren’s family of her death, a lack of evidence collection, and that no time of death was provided are among them. He is also skeptical about the autopsy that was made public on January 24. Connecticut’s chief medical examiner ruled her death as an “accident” from “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol.” Attorney Crosland believes the language used was meant to create doubt in the general public’s mind about what happened.
“If they can say accident and drugs, then [they think we’ll] leave [them] alone,” he said.
Crosland is also off-put by LaFountain’s assertion that he did not have sex with Smith-Fields, as he told Girls United that there was a condom with semen in it found in a trashcan in the woman’s bathroom. The police, however, have not provided this information.
“One, it was a day and a half late from when we found out [my sister died]. Two, when we went into her apartment there were things that we found that should have been collected and examined, like a used condom and bloody sheets,” said Tavar Gray-Smith, another one of Smith-Fields’ older brothers.
“To walk into your little sister’s house and you see the bloody sheets where she died at? And they didn’t take this, collect this for evidence or nothing? That’s heartbreaking,” Jetter added.
A pill and an open, half-full tube of lubricant, were also discovered in her home.
As of January 25, Connecticut police are investigating Smith-Field’s death as a crime. Her family is also raising funds to secure a private investigator.
“Any room she was in, she always shined.”
Lauren Smith-Fields was enrolled in cosmetology classes at Norwalk Community College at the time of her death. She was also a YouTuber and TikToker who shared beauty tutorials.
“She was multifaceted for sure. Very funny. Gave great advice,” Gray-Smith said of his late sister. “Even though she was my little sister, we could always go to her and talk and vent and she would always give us great feedback. She would light up a room. Any room that she was in, she always shined.”
“She was smart….She was a great person. So many people loved her,” Jetter said.
The 23-year-old enjoyed traveling and had plans of going to Greece with her grandmother for her 24th birthday. “She was in college, and she had a family and friends that love her,” Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, told News 12 Connecticut. “No one is going to discard Lauren Smith-Fields, my daughter, (like) she’s rubbish.”
Smith-Fields’ family has been critical of the police handling this tragedy. Jetter previously told News 12 Connecticut that police did not move to question LaFontaine, citing that he was “a nice guy.” Shantell Fields also spoke to News 12 Connecticut saying that her then-sole interaction with the police had been with a “very insensitive, condescending and arrogant detective.”
“They come to the scene of the case, and they don’t take pictures. They don’t do a proper [crime scene investigation],” Crosland said to Girls United. “Also, what’s odd about this case is the first officer who was responsible for doing all of what we’re talking about, he was taken off the case. And now, he’s being investigated by internal affairs. They haven’t told us exactly the whole story. We agree that he was terrible, but I think they know more than they’re revealing.”
Bridgeport Police are currently unable to provide any additional details about what they described to Girls United as an “ongoing investigation.”
“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 (sic) to her untimely death,” Bridgeport Chief of Police Rebeca Garcia said in a statement to NewsNation.
Bumble, the dating app on which Smith-Fields and LaFountain met, also released a statement on January 27, which read: “With additional information about the death of Lauren Smith-Fields coming to light, we continue to be unsettled by this loss. We empathize with Lauren’s family, friends, and beloved community, and we stand by our statement that every parent deserves to know what happened to their child. This matter deserves a thorough and serious investigation for the Fields family to get justice for Lauren.”
The community support that has poured in is not lost on the young woman’s family. They credit rapper Cardi B, who posted about Lauren on January 23, as someone who helped raise awareness and prompt police to begin a criminal investigation.
“The general public can support us by continuing to share Lauren’s story, continuing to shout her name, continuing to hashtag #JusticeForLauren, continuing to show us support and just stay up on the story,” Jetter said.