Watch CBS News

Bridgeport Police Detectives Involved In Lauren Smith-Fields, Brenda Lee Rawls Death Investigations Suspended

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork) -- Two detectives with the Bridgeport Police Department have been suspended and are being investigated to determine if they mishandled two separate deaths involving Black women.

Families of 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields and 53-year-old Brenda Lee Rawls say police never alerted them their loved ones had died, even days later.

CBS2's Leah Mishkin spoke to Rawls' sister on Monday.

"She was not only my sister, she was my best friend," Dorothy Washington said.

Bridgeport resident Rawls was one of nine siblings. She didn't have any kids, but was very close to her nieces and nephews. The 53-year-old spoke to her sister, Dorothy, every day.

"She was a funny person. She always liked to laugh," Washington said.

On Dec. 11, Rawls told her siblings she was going to an acquaintance's house, a man who lived on the same street. Three days later, the family was worried. She wasn't answering calls or texts. So they went to his place to find her.

"They asked him was Brenda there. And he said with a smirk and a laugh, 'No, Brenda, she died Sunday,'" Washington said.

The family said all they have is his word that he tried to wake their sister up Sunday morning but she never did. The family said it's still unclear if she spent the night on her own will.

"My opinion, he had something to do with it, whether it was an accident or not," Washington said, adding her sister was in good health.

The autopsy results are still pending.

"As they were walking away from his house, he yelled out and said, 'Can you tell me what the autopsy say?' So I'm like, why would he say that?" Washington said.

Washington said she doesn't understand why police never notified her family about the death. She said the apartment was never searched for evidence. They don't even know if police ever questioned the acquaintance.

"I don't know if it was she was a Black female in a low-income area and they thought nobody would miss her. That's how I feel," Washington said.

The family called police, hospitals, and funeral homes to locate Rawls' body.

"Insensitivity, disrespect in action, or deviation from policy will not be tolerated," Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim said.

Bridgeport police would not take questions from CBS2 but did put out a late statement saying there was no signs of trauma or evidence of foul play on the victim's body.

On Sunday, Ganim announced two detectives named Llanos and Cronin were suspended from duties. They're being investigated for the mishandling of the case. The case has been reassigned. Washington said it's too little too late.

"It's almost over a month and the mayor decides to come out and speak. How does he think that makes our family feel? That to me looks like he was forced to do it," Washington said.

The family said they think Bridgeport Police Department needs a total overhaul. They want the DOJ or FBI to step in to take over the investigation.

Smith-Fields' family plans to sue Bridgeport police.

The 23-year-old was found dead in her home, while reportedly on a date, on Dec. 12.

Autopsy results show Smith-Fields had alcohol and drugs, including fentanyl, in her system.

Her family says police did not notify them about her death and that some evidence wasn't processed until weeks later.

CBS2's Leah Mishkin contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.