Connecticut woman found dead after date with Bumble; criminal investigation opened

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Gray News) – A Connecticut police detective has been placed on administrative leave for mishandling the investigation into the death of a black woman who was found dead after a date with Bumble, the mayor said from the city.

Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, was found dead in her apartment on December 12. The medical examiner ruled her death an accidental overdose, saying fentanyl was found in her system, combined with prescription drugs and alcohol.

But Smith-Fields’ family said they did not take drugs and believe there was foul play in her death.

“Someone put these drugs into her system, and it wasn’t her, and we want answers right away,” said Darnell Crosland, the family’s attorney. WFSB.

Crosland also said the cases of missing and deceased black women like Smith-Fields aren’t getting the national attention they deserve.

“People know black women, black girls have disappeared and not gotten the attention, and I think it’s at a boiling point,” Crosland said. “We’re just asking for a process. That’s it. Treat these cases as you would any other.

Investigators said Smith-Fields had a date at her apartment on December 11 with Matthew LaFountain, 37, a man she met on the popular dating app Bumble. LaFountain told police the two spent the night drinking, eating and watching a movie. He told police that at some point during the evening, Smith-Fields went out to meet someone and “later got sick”, but the two continued to drink.

The incident report shows LaFountain discovered Smith-Fields was not breathing the next morning and called 911. LaFountain has not been charged with a crime and is not being considered a suspect.

After requests from the family, a criminal investigation was opened on January 25 into Smith-Field’s death – more than a month after her body was discovered. On Monday, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced that a police detective had been placed on leave for his handling of the case.

“The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity, especially in cases involving the death of a family member,” Ganim said. “It is an unacceptable failure if the policies were not followed. To families, friends and anyone who cares about the human decency that should be shown in these situations in this case by members of the Bridgeport Police Department, I am truly sorry.

A rally was held in Bridgeport on Sunday, which would have been Smith-Fields’ 24th birthday, with marchers demanding to know if LaFountain had a hand in his death. Supporters, led by Crosland, said evidence – including bloody sheets and a condom filled with semen – had been compromised due to an inadequate response from the Bridgeport Police Department.

LaFountain’s attorney, Peter Karayiannis, said News12 Connecticut that his client has cooperated fully with the police and is no longer at the center of the investigation.

“As we know, the DEA is involved now, and they will help local authorities investigate the matter and shed light on what happened to Lauren,” Karayiannis said.

Karayiannis also took issue with social media claims that LaFountain is a married man in his 50s, stating that he is 37 and single.

“We will continue to cooperate with the authorities to help definitively determine what happened to Lauren that night, and we want her family to find some peace after this heartbreaking loss,” Karayiannis said.

Smith-Field’s family is suing the Bridgeport Police Department, claiming it has been racially insensitive from the start. A detective allegedly told Smith-Fields’ mother at some point to stop calling.

The family also said police did not notify them of Smith-Field’s death. Instead, they said they discovered her landlord had put a note on the locked door of the Smith-Field home.

The mayor said in a statement that the manner in which the family was informed was concerning.

“I share the concerns shared by many regarding the timing and manner in which a family is notified of a loss. Death notifications should be made in a way that exemplifies the dignity of the deceased and respect and compassion for the family,” Ganim said.

Ganim added that he plans to work with police to make appropriate changes to department policies and practices regarding notifying family members of a death.

Bridgeport Police are asking anyone with information to contact Lt. Charles Johnson at 203-449-2195 or the Bridgeport Police TIPS Line at 203-576-TIPS.

Copyright 2022 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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