Things That Matter

Lauren Smith-Fields’ Mother Hopes That Her Daughter’s Case Will Bring Attention to How WOC Deaths Are Often Mishandled

After the death of Gabby Petito gripped the nation and spurred a media circus in September of last year, a larger conversation surfaced about “missing white woman syndrome” and how structural racism can impact how the public and authorities react to specific cases. 

On January 23, Cardi B re-sparked this hot-button topic when she tweeted about the case of Lauren Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old Black woman who died while she was on a Bumble date with a 37-year-old man. 

“This man don’t look old and it’s not old at all and yet the media made it seem like she was wit a old ass man lookin to trick on her,” wrote Cardi B about the sexist tone that many outlets took when covering Smith-Fields’ death. “I’m disgusted on how they spin the narrative…”

She added in another tweet: “Justice for Lauren. Connecticut you have failed that young lady!!!”

On December 13, 2021, Lauren Smith-Fields’ family panicked when they couldn’t get a hold of their daughter. When they went to her apartment, they found a note on her door from the young woman’s landlord that said: “If you’re looking for Lauren, call this number.”

When the family contacted the landlord, he informed them that Lauren Smith-Fields had died. 

“When we went [to her apartment] there was no taped-off [areas] or anything. The [man who was with her] was allowed to leave. The police never got into contact with us. We had to keep calling the police officer, and he never ever responded to us. When he said he was going to come over, he never showed up,” said Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, during a recent appearance on The Talk.

Shantell Fields also told The New York Times that she became suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her daughter’s death when she went to Lauren’s apartment to clean up, and found bloody sheets and a used condom.

On Monday, Lauren Smith-Fields’ toxicology report was released, revealing that she had tested positive for fentanyl, antihistamines, and alcohol. Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner concluded that Smith-Fields had died from an accidental overdose. Smith-Fields’ family adamantly denies that Lauren used drugs.

“She worked out every day, she was on a plant-based diet,” Shantell Fields said on The Talk. “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.”

Now, her family says that the investigation was botched from the beginning, marred by the authorities’ unconscious bias. 

According to Shantell Fields, the authorities refused to look into the man that Lauren Smith-Fields had been on a date with. “[Detective] Cronin said that she met a white guy on Bumble, ‘but don’t worry about that, he’s a really nice guy,’” Fields told The New York Times.

“I believe wholeheartedly this would have never happened if it was an affluent white family’s daughter,” Bridgeport, Connecticut councilwoman Maria H. Pereira told The New York Times

Since Cardi B’s tweet and the subsequent public outcry, Detective Kevin Cronin and Detective Angel Llanos have been placed on leave.

While Lauren Smith-Fields’ family is still mourning the loss of their daughter, they are also hoping that her death might not be in vain, but instead help the plight of missing and murdered women of color across the country. 

“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,” Shantell Fields said to The Talk. “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.”

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