Sep 20, 2022 - News

Civil trial starting in case of mysterious Coppell death

A bearded young man on a boat

Jonathan Crews. Photo courtesy of the Crews family

For eight years, a Coppell family has questioned whether their 27-year-old son's alleged suicide was something else. They may get more answers when the case goes to trial in Dallas County this week.

Driving the news: Jonathan Crews' parents are pursuing a civil lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend, Brenda Lazaro, alleging negligence and wrongful death. Jury selection for the trial begins today.

  • Lazaro has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

What she said: Lazaro called 911 the night of Feb. 2, 2014, sobbing and gasping. She told the 911 dispatcher that her boyfriend had shot himself in the chest.

  • "We were just talking, and he just said that he loved me. And I didn't believe him. He said he was gonna prove that he loves me. I didn't know he had a gun," she said during the 10-minute call.

What happened next: In a search warrant executed a day later, a Coppell police investigator said he suspected Crews' death was a homicide and referred to the gun found at the scene as a "murder weapon" — but Lazaro was never charged.

  • Coppell police have said they didn't have enough evidence to prove or disprove the investigator's early homicide theory.
  • The manner of death remains undetermined, per the Dallas County Medical Examiners Office.

Context: Crews grew up around guns, competed in tournaments and was fanatical about gun safety, per his family.

  • He worked as an operation director at a health care company.
  • Lazaro and Crews first met at the Coppell Wu Yi Shaolin martial arts school, where Lazaro was an instructor.

Details: Crews' family says he was planning to break up with Lazaro before he died and that he didn't have any history of depression.

  • Their lawyer approached private investigator Sheila Wysocki in 2015 to look into the case.
  • Wysocki tells Axios she doesn't believe Crews could have shot himself based on several factors: He had a shoulder injury that would have made it difficult to fire the shot, a re-enactment with forensics experts showed the scenario would have been unlikely, and he was lying in bed when his body was found.

Between the lines: Jonathan's parents filed their civil lawsuit against Lazaro in 2016. It's unclear whether criminal charges will follow.

  • The Dallas County district attorney's office tells Axios that as a general rule, they don't comment on "cases that may or may not be under ongoing investigation."

The other side: "Obviously, this is a very difficult situation for the Crews family. Brenda denies any wrongdoing in connection with Jonathan's death," Lazaro's attorney, Andrew Jee, tells Axios.

  • He adds that the trial will be the best place to learn about the points of contention from both parties.

Go deeper: Naheed and Mike have both written about the case before, and it's appeared on ABC's 20/20.


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