Bridgeport, CT – 23 year old Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment on Dec 12 after meeting 37 year old Matthew LaFountain off the popular dating app, Bumble. As of Jan 27, Matthew LaFountain is NOT facing criminal charges and is not a suspect in the case. If you have any information about Lauren’s death please call 203-576-TIPS.
Lauren was 23 years old when she passed away on December 12, 2021. She lived in an apartment in Bridgeport, CT and that is where this all took place.
Lauren graduated from Stamford High School, and was studying physical therapy at Norwalk Community College. She was active on social media, posting about beauty and travel. Her instagram is open and we will link it in the blog.
Her family have said she loved music. She loved music and was a huge fan of BIA’s breakout hit Whole Lotta Money—the remix featuring Nicki Minaj, of course. ‘She also loved SZA’s Good Days.”
Lauren’s mother Shantell Fields spoke about her daughter’s personality –
“The nail salon we go to, everybody loves her,” Shantell said, adding that her daughter was “very bubbly” and a “hugger.” She loved traveling, working out regularly at a nearby LA Fitness, and ordering matcha tea.
She had notes around her mirror, her mother said, spelling out what she wanted to do with her life: finish college, become a physical therapist.
Lauren used the dating app Bumble. If you’re not familiar with it, google says Bumble is an online dating application. Profiles of potential matches are displayed to users, who can “swipe left” to reject a candidate or “swipe right” to indicate interest.
It sounds similiar to Tinder, but I believe Bumble may be more for people looking for relationships, instead of casual hookups.
One selling point of Bumble is that women make the first move. Google also tells me that Bumble is not known as a marketplace for hookups: Less than 4% of men and less than 1% of women on Bumble are looking for a hookup. … Men are attracted to women who make the first move: 63% of men said that “women making the first move” was influential in making them want to use Bumble.
Apparently 85% of users on Bumble were looking for marriage or a steady relationship.
Lauren matched on Bumble with a man named Matthew LaFountain. Matthew was 37 at the time of the match. It is important to note that Matthew has not been charged with anything in this case and is not considered a suspect.
Matthew has taken down all his social media since Lauren’s death so there is also not too much online about him.
Matthew has said that he had only known Lauren for around 3 days when she passed away.
Matthew’s version of events is that Lauren asked him for $40 to get her nails done – this was on December 11 – a Saturday. She then said they should meet at her apartment in Bridgeport.
Matthew met Lauren there and has said they did tequila shots. Lauren became sick after the shots and went to the bathroom to vomit. When she came back, they had a few more drinks of tequilas with mixers. Matthew has said they played games and ate food. They began to watch a movie and Lauren got a text on her phone.
Matthew believed that the text was from Lauren’s brother. Lauren left the apartment to get something from her brother, and when she returned, she went into the bathroom and stayed there for 10-15 minutes.
“He thought it was odd, but didn’t feel it was his place to say anything as he didn’t know her that well,” a police officer wrote in the official report.
Lauren’s brother Lakeem Jetter has a different story about what happened that night.
“I haven’t texted my sister since December fourth,” Lakeem said. He told the media that he had gone to Lauren’s apartment to pick up some clothing that was there. “I didn’t know that anybody was in there. 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. I’m her second older brother, if I would have seen her drunk I would’ve said ‘What are you doing?’ … ‘Why do you look like that?’”
Lauren and Matthew kept drinking the tequila until they finished the bottle. They watched the movie and Lauren fell asleep on the couch.
Matthew has said that he carried Lauren to her bedroom, where they both went to sleep. At 3 a.m., he said, he went to use the restroom, and she was snoring. At 6:30 a.m. he said that she was laying on her right side with blood coming out of her right nostril and was not breathing. He then called 9-1-1.
Matthew administered chest compressions with guidance from the emergency dispatch while he waited for an ambulance. The police report noted that he appeared “frantic, trembling, and visibly shaken.” When medics arrived they discovered that Lauren had been dead for at least one hour.
The investigation into Lauren’s death seems to have been botched, almost from the very start.
Lauren was pronounced dead at the scene on December 12 and her body was removed. It seems like no real effort to trace her next of kin was made.
Lauren’s mother Shantell Fields tried to contact her daughter for hours “Are you OK?” Ms. Fields texted. “Please let me know.”
The following day, December 13, Shantell went to Lauren’s apartment and she found a note stuck to the door. “If you’re looking for Lauren, call this number,” the note read.
Lauren’s landlord answered the number and went to meet Shantell. She learned Lauren was dead.
The landlord gave them the number for a detective, who told her son in a phone call that Lauren, had been on a Bumble date with an older man before she died.
The family phoned an Officer Cronin, who said he would arrive in 30 minutes. After waiting over an hour, they said, they called again and the family was told to stop calling. “How they spoke to us was disgusting,” said Shantell “Hanging up the phone and telling us to stop calling him. Officer Cronin needs to lose his job.”
Lauren’s family obtained a police report detailing the events of the night she died. Nowhere in the report was it mentioned that Matthew had been taken in for questioning. Lakeem (Lauren’s brother) asked the police about that, and they said he had not been taking in as he seemed like a ‘ nice guy’. The police report does state that Matthew was ‘frantic’ about the situation.
Police did take Lauren’s phone, $1345 cash, keys, and her passport from the apartment – I am assuming they held onto this for safe keeping?
As far as I can tell, no real forensic examination of the apartment was done.
Three days after Lauren was buried, we are now at December 29. Her family returned to her apartment to clean out her belongings.
They found a used condom with semen in the trash, lubrication, bloody sheets and an unidentified pill. None of this had been taken into evidence by the police.
Due to Officer Cronin’s mismanagement of the case, it was reassigned to a Detective Garcia. Internal Affairs are conducting an investigation into Officer Cronin.
When Garcia went to the apartment, that was the first time, the family said, that police came to conduct a crime scene investigation, but the majority of the evidence had been packed, such as the dishes and bloody sheets.
“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 Lakeem. “There was a big stain of blood in the middle of her bed, with streaks going to the right side.”
During Garcia’s visit, the family described him as “unprofessional.”
“He said, ‘fuck Cronin. He got kicked off the case, he’s a fucking asshole,” recalled Shantell. “He then called himself, reassuring me saying that he was Puerto Rican, so he was on my side and telling me how he has daughters.”
Rolling Stone reported on January 16 that none of the evidence allegedly taken by police had been submitted to the proper channels.
Lauren’s family have been very vocal about their thoughts of Matthew’s version of events. Regarding Lauren asking for $40 to get her nails done, they have said that she had her nails done just days before her death. They were still so intact when she died, they did not need to be redone for her funeral.
Matthew’s attorney Peter Karayiannis has stated that he “is not a suspect” in Lauren’s death.
“I think it’s the media that’s made him the main focus of this investigation, although Bridgeport police did investigate the matter, he did fully cooperate and he’s not the main focus of the investigation anymore. As we know, the DEA is involved now, and they will help local authorities investigate the matter and get to the bottom of what happened to Lauren,” said Karayiannis to the media.
Karayiannis described LaFountain as single and age 37.
“We will continue to cooperate with authorities to help definitively determine what happened to Lauren on that evening, and we want her family to find some peace after this heartbreaking loss,” said Karayiannis to News 12 Connecticut.
On Sunday, Jan. 23, when Lauren would have turned 24, her family organized a march in Bridgeport that attracted local and national attention.
Hundreds of people showed up to show their support and they all sang Happy Birthday to Lauren.
Protesters chanted things like “We want answers,” “Protect Black women,” “Save our daughters,” “Bridgeport, step up” and “Mayor Ganim, step up,” as they marched from Congress Street to the Morton government center.
Lauren’s father, Everett Smith, said during the protest that the family’s treatment by the city and police is “totally unacceptable,” and Shantell said her daughter had been treated “like rubbish.”
“The arrogance. The insensitivity,” Everett said. “My daughter had a life. My daughter traveled the world. She was in college. All we keep getting is doors closed in our face and empty promises.”
On January 24, 2022, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Lauren’s death to be accidental by way of acute intoxication, due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol.
Because fentanyl was found in Lauren’s system, Bridgeport PD opened the investigation which will be conducted by the Narcotics and Vice Division with assistance by the U.S. 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,” the chief of police, Rebeca Garcia, said in a statement.
This is a rundown of the drugs found in her system –
Promethazine is an antihistamine and is used to treat allergy symptoms such as itching, runny nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, hives, and itchy skin rashes. It also prevents motion sickness, and treats nausea and vomiting or pain after surgery. It is also used as a sedative or sleep aid.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally. Like morphine, it is a medicine that is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, especially after surgery.
Hydroxyzine, sold under the brand names Atarax and others, is an antihistamine medication. It is used in the treatment of itchiness, anxiety, and nausea, including that due to motion sickness. It is used either by mouth or injection into a muscle. Common side effects include sleepiness, headache, and a dry mouth.
Lauren’s family have said she had no history of drug use at all.
I have seen some comments online that this combination of drugs has been seen before in date rape?
After Lauren’s cause of death was made public, the family attorney Darnell Crosland said “I think they thought we were going to shut up, and lose faith in Lauren and think she was just a drug addict. But people didn’t run away, they doubled-down.”
Darnel Crosland has also said in a tweet”: “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.’
He also tweeted: “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. Lauren didn’t use drugs.”
Lauren’s father Everett has also spoken about the finding. “Without a doubt we know that my daughter was not a drug user, and I had a second autopsy myself paid out of pocket because we felt so uncomfortable with the way it was handled.”
Lauren’s family are now suing the City of Bridgeport in connection with the police department on the grounds of mishandling the case—which is, according to the attorney representing the family, Darnell Crosland—a violation of the 1983 Civil Rights Act.
“This family is not paranoid,” Smith-Fields’ family attorney Darnell Crosland told CNN. “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.”
We will not be silenced. What we will do is rid Connecticut and this world of corruption, all of it. From Cronin to Colangelo.— Darnell D. Crosland (@DarnellCrosland) February 6, 2022
I am the darkness that must come out the light. Only the fittest of the fittest will survive -Bob Marley #begone#justiceforlauren#crosland pic.twitter.com/iSXXVxMwru
When Lauren’s family were finally able to speak to Bridgeport police, they were taken into an interrogation room.
They said they saw a different side to Detective Garcia that made them uncomfortable. “When I mentioned that [‘Fuck Cronin’] in the interrogation room he turned into a maniac. He said ,‘I would never talk bad about another colleague,’ and I said ‘you’re lying’,” said Shantel.
This is sooo scary!!!A fictional murderer character but in real life!! Justice for Lauren.Connecticut you have failed that young lady!!! pic.twitter.com/hYce46KfYD— Cardi B (@iamcardib) January 24, 2022
There have been some new developments as Lauren’s case has gathered steam.
Mayor Joseph P. Ganim has made his first comments about the case, in relation to the police handling of it.
“I share concerns echoed by many about the amount of time and manner a family is informed of a loss,” wrote Ganim. “ Death notifications should be done in a manner that illustrates dignity for the deceased and respect and compassion for the family. Therefore, I will work with the Chief of Police to make appropriate changes here in Bridgeport – now – for our department’s policies and practices regarding notifying family members of a death. I support and add my voice to the family, community, and elected officials who are calling for state legislation on this issue.”
Reports have come out of the landlord in Lauren’s building hearing a knock at the door at 5.30am. He didn’t answer the knock due to the early morning hour. Lauren was pronounced dead one hour later. According to the family, this knock has not been investigated by police.
According to Darnell Crosland, “They’ve been tight lipped about his involvement, but we’ve been finding out on social media that LaFountain, the individual who was with Lauren, has a huge connection with the police department and his family does as well,” further alleging, “Cronin has intentionally or negligently created a cover-up for the responsible party in Lauren’s death,” stopping short of blaming LaFountain for Smith-Fields’ sudden death.”
Darnell Crosland spoke to media outlet Complex about the possibility of inappropriate relationships within the police precinct. “The acting police chief was a longtime live in girlfriend of the head of internal affairs, we have a lot to outline the incestuous corrupt and disorganized space here.”
Shantell and Lakeem remember walking into the police precinct and being treated as “suspects,” they said. Where they thought they would have been meeting in a regular room used for non-criminals or persons of interest, they were instead put in a tiny interrogation room.
When the family walked into the precinct, Shantell says the entire room stopped. Everyone looked up, “and they gave us dirty looks.” Lakeem added, “It was scary! They were yelling at our lawyer, telling him to shut up and grabbing their guns.”
Matthew LaFountain has also apparently not ruled out taking legal action.
‘It’s still too early to tell in regards to that,” the lawyer said.”
Maria Pereira, a City Council member in the area, questioned how the Police Department would treat a wealthy white mother and father who had lost their 23-year-old daughter, particularly if the last person she had been with was a 37-year-old Black man she had met on a dating app.
“I believe wholeheartedly this would have never happened if it was an affluent white family’s daughter,” said Ms. Pereira.
Bumble has also reached out to the family’s lawyer in regards to Lauren’s death.
On January 28, the family of another woman found dead in Bridgeport on the same day as Lauren came forward. Brenda Rawls was 53 when she died on December 12, 2021.
Brenda’s family have said just like Lauren’s family, they were not notified of Brenda’s death and had to investigate to find out themselves.
Her sister Dorothy Rawls Washington said she and her sisters are close and talk on the phone or text one another every day. On Dec. 11, Brenda Rawls told her family that she planned to go to the home of a male acquaintance who lived down the street from her. Her family said they tried unsuccessfully to reach her Dec. 12 and 13.
“Then, on the 14th, we said something’s wrong,” Washington said. “So two of my sisters, my niece and my niece’s boyfriend walked down to that male’s house.”
When they asked him whether she was there, he told them that he couldn’t wake her up on Dec. 12 and that she had died, Washington said.
One of the Rawls sisters called a funeral home to ask whether her body was there, but it wasn’t. Washington said the funeral home advised the family to contact the state medical examiner’s office, and that’s where they found her.
“They never took any opportunity to look for next of kin,” she said of police. “The next time we saw our sister, she was in a funeral home.”
The family provided NBC News with copies of four letters they said they sent to Mayor Joseph Ganim and acting Police Chief Rebeca Garcia. They said they have not received any responses. A spokeswoman for Ganim did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the family’s allegations.
On January 30, Mayor Ganim announced that both Detective Angel Llanos and Detective Kevin Cronin had been placed on administrative leave. He said both men are the “subject of a Bridgeport Police Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) Investigation and disciplinary action for lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police policy in the handling of these two matters.” I believe that Angel Llanos was involved in the Brenda Rawls case.
“I as mayor, but also as a father, cannot fully comprehend what you must be going through. I can only pledge my continued support to try to ease your pain by getting answers and holding those responsible accountable,” he said.
These are the clips used in Lauren’s podcast episode: