Who is Brenda Lee Rawls? Woman Found Dead Same Day as Lauren Smith-Fields Prompts Questions

The death of a Black woman found on the same day as 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields has prompted questions regarding the investigation of both women's deaths, according to reports.

Brenda Lee Rawls, 53, died on December 12 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said last week that the cause of death has not yet been determined.

Rawls' family said that on December 11, she told her family she planned to go to the home of a man she was acquainted with who lived not far from her. Her sister, Dorothy Rawls Washington, said that they tried to reach her on December 12 and 13 and could not get a hold of her.

NBC News reported that on December 14, the family decided something was wrong. "So two of my sisters, my niece and my niece's boyfriend walked down to that male's house," Washington said.

When they asked where Rawls was, the man allegedly said that he couldn't wake her up on December 12 and that she had died, NBC News reported.

"Nobody ever notified us that she died," Washington said. "We had to do our own investigation and find out where she was."

One of Rawls' other sisters, Angela Rawls Martin, added that the man gave the family Brenda's clothes that she had been wearing, as well as her shoes. "I don't understand why that was left behind," Martin said.

Rawls' family told News 12 that they left a series of frantic phone calls to police, in which authorities allegedly said they couldn't help them.

"They treated my sister Brenda like she was a Jane Doe," Martin said. "Like they found her on the side of the road with no identification. They have no respect."

Rawls' case was similar to Lauren Smith-Fields' and caused investigators to question both cases. Smith-Fields was found deceased on the same morning after meeting with a different man that she met on a dating app the same night as Rawls. Reports show that the man she was with noticed there was blood coming out of her nose and she was unresponsive the next morning.

She was pronounced dead just before 7 a.m., according to NBC News. Medical examiners ruled last week that her death was accidental due to "acute intoxication due to effects of fentanyl, promethazine, hydroxyzine and alcohol."

The families of both Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls said that they were not notified by police and allege investigators were racially insensitive. Two investigators involved in the cases were put on administrative leave, according to Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.

The mayor released a full statement regarding the insensitivity from the police department and stated that "The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity especially in matters involving the death of a family member. It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed."

"It should also be known that the untimely death of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls are both under active investigation and have been reassigned to members of the Bridgeport Police Department for resolution," he said.

The family lawyer for Smith-Fields released a statement saying that the mayor's statement was a "step in the right direction."

"The city is liable for the behavior of its police department and its officers. I am pleased that the mayor has accepted that liability publicly and has apologized to this family for the suffering they have endured," the statement said.

Newsweek reached out to Bridgeport Police Department for further comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

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53 year-old Brenda Lee Rawls was found deceased on the same morning as Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, prompting investigators to question the similarities of both cases. In this photo, police tape hangs across the street in front of the house that Dennis Rader lives in February 26, 2005 in Park City, Kansas. Larry W. Smith/Getty Images