The family of a Black woman who was found dead in her Bridgeport, Connecticut home the same day as 23-year-old Lauren Smith-Fields are coming forward, alleging police have not taken the case seriously or investigated her death.
Like Smith-Fields' family, this family says Bridgeport police never notified them of her death –– they found out after doing their own investigation.
Brenda Rawls, 53, died December 12, though Connecticut's Chief Medical Examiner said Thursday (January 27) a cause of death has not been determined.
Rawls' sister, Dorothy Rawls Washington, told NBC News they talked on the phone or texted each other everyday. On December 11, Brenda told her relatives she'd planned to go to the home of a male acquaintance who lived down the street. For two days, her family unsuccessfully got in touch with her.
"Then, on the 14th we said something's wrong," Washington told the outlet. "So two of my sisters, my niece and my niece's boyfriend walked down to that male's house." When they asked if Brenda was there, the man replied that he couldn't wake her up on December 12 and that she had passed away.
Angela Rawls, another of her sisters, noted: "He gave me the clothing that she had on and her shoes. I don't know why that was left behind."
"Nobody ever notified us that she died," Washington said. "We had to do our own investigation and find out where she was."
The family eventually contacted a local funeral home, to see if she was there. The funeral home directed the family to reach out to the state medical examiner's office, and that's where they located her.
"They never took any opportunity to look for next of kin," Washington said of police. "The next time we saw our sister, she was in a funeral home."
The family has sent four letters to Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim and acting police chief Rebeca Garcia. So far, they have not gotten a response.
In the wake of criticism of how Lauren Smith-Fields' death investigation is being handled, Ganim released a statement saying that he planned to work with police leaders to "make appropriate changes here in Bridgeport now for our department's policies and practices regarding notifying family members of a death."
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