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Bridgeport police to open criminal investigation into death of 23-year-old woman after M.E. report

The 23-year-old's family has been critical of the department's handling of the case

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Authorities in Bridgeport are opening an investigation into the death of a Bridgeport woman following Monday's release of the autopsy report, and several weeks of criticism from her family.

Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead after a man she met online called the police on Dec. 12. He said he awoke to find Smith-Fields unresponsive in her Bridgeport apartment.

The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released her cause of death on Monday evening, saying "acute intoxication due to the combined effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine, and alcohol" contributed to her death. The manner of death has been ruled as accidental.

RELATED: Person of interest identified in connection to Hartford student's deadly fentanyl overdose investigation

"This young lady 23 years old, no history of using drugs, her body is found to have a total just smorgasbord of different drugs including fentanyl. That has taken us all by surprise," said Atty. Darnell Crosland, who is representing the family. "The question is now that we know what was in her, is how it got in her," he said.

On Tuesday, Bridgeport police said they were opening up a criminal investigation as a result of the OCME's report. They will be assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

"Any criminal investigation that doesn't start with the last person that was with her when she was alive, is no investigation at all. So we'll be watching this closely, but we're not confident. But we're hopeful," Crosland said.

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Smith-Field’s family said police never notified them of her death. In response, State Sen. Dennis Bradley plans on introducing legislation that would require authorities to notify family members of a relative's death within 24 hours. Smith-Field's family had been trying to get ahold of her and found out she died when they showed up at her apartment and saw a note on the door, according to Bradley. 

"We shouldn't have to legislate sympathy and empathy, that should just be human nature," said Bradley. "This legislation is with the best intention to make sure that her life is not in vain, that this tragedy will be only one, and never again," he said. 

RELATED: Cause of death released for Bridgeport woman found dead in apartment

Crosland is planning to sue several Bridgeport officials over the handling of this case. He said the family found several items inside Smith-Field's apartment that they brought to the police's attention, including a pill that can be used as a sedative and a sheet stained with blood. 

About 100 people rallied Sunday outside the city's government center demanding answers.

Bridgeport Police are asking anyone with information on her death to call their tip line at, (203) 576-TIPS. 

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at gmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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