The mother of Lauren Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old Black woman who was mysteriously reported dead by her Bumble date on the morning of Dec. 12, is speaking out to address what she calls the “biggest misconception” around Smith-Fields’ case.
Contrary to the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s announcement last week that Smith-Fields’ cause of death was “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol,” and the manner of death was accidental, Shantell Fields, her mother, denied that Smith-Fields was on drugs in a Tuesday appearance on The Real.
“She worked out every day, she was on a plant-based diet,” Fields said. “She went to college. She had her own business in her home. There was no drugs. She was not on drugs at all. She had her whole life ahead of her.”
Fields recalled once again how the family had not even been told by police about their daughter’s death, but learned about it by calling a number on a note on Smith-Fields’ door that had been left by her landlord. She says Bridgeport police officers handling the case repeatedly ignored the family, and have even threatened “they won’t move forward with an investigation” if the family doesn’t provide swabs. In contrast, Fields said, police have declined to collect swabs from Smith-Fields’ date, identified as Matthew LaFountain, who was the last person to see her alive.
Fields and the family lawyer, Darnell Crosland, both said on The Real that they suspected date rape to be a factor in Smith-Fields’ death. Smith-Fields had met LaFountain on Bumble three days before they spent the night of Dec. 11 at her apartment.
“When you look at what was found in her body, experts say these are typical in date rape situations,” Crosland said on The Real. “She had fentanyl in addition to antihistamines, which put you to sleep. No one who’s going on a date would themselves ingest antihistamines. But if you’re looking for an opportunity on this date to take advantage, you may look into antihistamines in this scenario.” Crosland also noted that on top of not collecting swabs from LaFountain, police also “didn’t even swab the alcohol to see if there was fentanyl in there.”
Fields said she believes LaFountain “actually went there to do what happened.”
“He went there to get with her sexually, maybe she turned him down, and there was another way he could have sex with her, give her a date rape drug, get her drunk, whatever,” she said.
Fields and Crosland also both criticized officers’ lack of investigation into forensic evidence left at the scene. The family has said they found a used condom in her bathroom, an unidentified pill on the kitchen counter, and bloodstained sheets on the bed, all of which were left behind by police until “as of the 29th, we forced them to collect items of import,” Crosland said. “And as of today’s date, those items still have not been turned into the forensic laboratory for analysis—there’s something terribly wrong here,” he added.
Fields said she found the police report of the evening “suspicious,” as it had taken LaFountain’s word about Smith-Fields’ brother showing up that night presumably to give her drugs. Instead, she says, Smith-Fields had actually just given her brother clothes.
On Monday, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced that two detectives involved in Smith-Fields’ case have been placed on administrative leave and are being investigated by the police department’s internal affairs office. The mayor’s office said further disciplinary action may be taken against Detectives Kevin Cronin and Angel Llanos, who had worked on Smith-Fields’ case before being taken off and placed under investigation, due to a “lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police policy.”
Bridgeport officers are also being investigated for their handling of the case of Brenda Lee Rawls, another Black woman, age 53, who was found dead and alone in her home on Dec. 12, like Smith-Fields. Rawls’ family says that they had not been told by police about her death, and have been ignored and mistreated.
Smith-Fields’ family and Crosland announced last month that they plan to file a lawsuit against Bridgeport for violating Smith-Fields’s and the family’s civil rights and right to due process, alleging that police have been “racially insensitive” toward them, and that police are failing to properly investigate Smith-Fields’ death.
“Black women don’t get the same treatment that Gabby Petito got,” Crosland told the Washington Post. “Lauren Smith-Fields is dead, and a white man walks out, and [police] have absolutely no interest in him.” He also told the Rolling Stone last month, “When a white woman goes missing, the world drops everything. We are done with this valuation.”
Crosland also told Complex he believed police in Bridgeport, Connecticut, “thought we were going to shut up, and lose faith in Lauren and think she was just a drug addict,” but that instead of “running away,” the public has “doubled-down.”
Fields, who described her daughter on The Real as “funny,” “family-oriented,” and someone who “lit up the whole room,” said that justice for Smith-Fields is “for anyone to realize a Black woman, a Black child’s life matters, and we’re not rubbish.”
“Justice for me, for Lauren, is putting a bill in her name, making sure that the police departments do what they say they’re gonna do,” she said. “I want justice for every Black woman, every young Black girl in this world, to make sure a woman of color, any color, whose families are going to [be involved] with the police department, that they have to act… and know how to treat a family member who have lost a loved one.”