Lauren Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old Connecticut woman, was found dead in her home with a man she briefly dated in December.
But Smith-Fields’ family has disputed the official report, saying that their daughter wasn’t a recreational drug user and accusing police of mishandling the probe into her sudden passing.
Now, as of Tuesday, officials are launching a criminal investigation into the Bridgeport death. Local police have reportedly contacted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the agencies are working in tandem to reassess “the factors that led to her untimely death,” the department said in a statement.
Family Demands Probe of Bridgeport Death
Bridgeport police announced the criminal investigation only a day after the state medical examiner’s office ruled that Smith-Fields died from a drug overdose, noting no signs of foul play.
Still, the late 23-year-old’s family had been calling for a renewed probe into her sudden passing since she died on Dec. 12.
Smith-Fields’ loved ones had even vowed to sue the city for its “racially insensitive” handling of the case, before Mayor Joseph Ganim announced Monday that the police department would conduct an internal review.
“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 said.
“There is no tolerance for anything less than respect and sensitivity for family members and their loss,” he continued. “To that end, this matter has been referred to the Office of Internal Affairs to conduct a full and fair investigation.”
Police officials announced Tuesday that, in addition to the internal review, Smith-Fields’ death is now being reinvestigated for evidence of a crime.
Though city officials have apparently reversed course, the 23-year-old’s surviving family members say they still have questions.
“The [medical examiner’s] findings doesn’t cure any of Bridgeport’s lack of process, in [fact], it makes it worse,” Darnell Crosland, an attorney for the family, told CNN.
“Instead we are left with more questions than answers as a result of a botched investigation or lack thereof.”
In a notice of claim Crosland filed in civil court, the family also alleged that Bridgeport police failed to collect all the necessary evidence from the crime scene, and that they refused to consider her date a person of interest during their investigation.
“This family is not paranoid,” the attorney continued. “The reason it feels that way is because as of late, Gabby Petito was missing and the type of manhunt that was out for her killer was insurmountably different than we see here.”
What Happened to Lauren Smith-Fields?
According to police reports obtained by local outlet WTNH, authorities were called to Smith-Field’s home on the morning of Dec. 12 by a man who said he’d only known her for three days.
The 23-year-old was found unresponsive with blood trickling from her nose. Her date, who told police they’d met on Bumble that week, said Smith-Fields felt ill the night before while they were drinking and spent 10 or 15 minutes in the bathroom before going to bed.
When he woke up, the date said Smith-Fields “was not breathing.” Detectives described the man’s behavior that morning as “frantic,” and wrote that he was “trembling and visibly shaken” during the police interview.
Breaking Daily News is not reporting his name, as he has not been charged with a crime.
For their part, Smith-Fields’ family said police failed to duly notify them of the 23-year-old’s Bridgeport death. They said they only found out that she’d passed away when they showed up to her apartment and found a note on the door from her landlord.
“She was in college, and she had a family and friends that love her,” Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, told one local outlet.
“No one is going to discard Lauren Smith-Fields, my daughter, [like] she’s rubbish.”