September 20, 2022
Happy Tuesday! All courage is a form of constancy.
☀️ Today's weather: More of the same.
🎵 Sounds like: The SMU fight song
🪥 Situational awareness: Family Dollar is recalling Colgate toothpaste and mouthwash products that were sold in 11 states, including Texas, from May 1 to June 21 of this year.
- The products were sold outside their labeled temperature requirements, according to the FDA.
Today's newsletter is 957 trial-ready words — a 3.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Mysterious-death case goes to civil trial
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.
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.
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.
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.
2. 🔍 Inspiring a career as a private investigator
Sheila Wysocki's private investigations business in Nashville has Dallas roots — she was a student at SMU when her friend's murder went unsolved.
Flashback: Angela Samota was found sexually assaulted and fatally stabbed inside her apartment after a night out in October 1984.
- The case went cold. Twenty years later, Wysocki decided to look into the case herself while living in Nashville with her husband and two children.
- Wysocki turned her family's study into a "war room" and called Dallas police hundreds of times to beg them to reopen the case.
- She became licensed as a private investigator to keep pushing for answers.
The turning point: Dallas police eventually tested DNA from the scene and, in 2008, linked it to a man out on parole for a prior rape conviction at the time of Samota's murder, state records show.
- Donald Bess was convicted in Samota's killing and remains on death row.
The intrigue: Wysocki decided to keep her PI license after seeing how many other families need help.
What's next: Wysocki plans to resume her other cases after the Dallas trial, but she says she will always be a fierce ally of the Crews family.
3. 🎓 How local colleges rank
SMU continues its reign as the top-ranked university in North Texas.
Driving the news: U.S. News & World Report released its 2022-23 Best Colleges Rankings last week.
By the numbers: SMU came in at No. 72 out of 443 ranked universities. It also ranked No. 34 on the list of the nation's best schools for undergraduate teaching.
- TCU came in at No. 89, but was rated much higher than SMU in the "best value" category.
- The University of Texas at Dallas ranked No. 151 nationally and No. 72 on the list of public schools.
- University of North Texas is No. 285 nationally, and The University of Texas at Arlington is a few spots down at No. 299.
- Dallas Baptist, Texas Wesleyan and Texas Women's were all ranked between 331 and 400.
Zoom out: Rice University, in Houston, remains the top-ranked school in Texas, at No. 15 overall.
- The University of Texas at Austin ranked No. 38 nationally and is tied for No. 10 among best national public universities.
- Texas A&M ranked No. 67 nationally and No. 26 in top public schools.
- Baylor ranked No. 77 nationally.
Between the lines: U.S. News is one of the most influential college rankings and has shaped the hierarchy of higher education since 1983.
The other side: Last month, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said college rankings are "a joke."
- "Many institutions spend enormous time and money chasing rankings they feel carry prestige, but in truth do little more than Xerox privilege," Cardona said.
4. 🗞 Burnt ends: Bite-size news bits
💻 Sen. John Cornyn is leading Senate Republicans' push for special counsel powers for the prosecutor investigating Hunter Biden. (DMN)
🚍The League of United Latin American Citizens bused migrants from a town on the Texas-Mexico border to three Texas cities, including Dallas, in an effort to counter Gov. Greg Abbott's migrant busing to Democrat-led cities in other states. (KVUE)
🏗️ Oak Cliff Community Investment Fund has proposed a new 63-acre development with mixed-income housing for over 300 families in southern Dallas. (Dallas Observer)
🙏 Post Malone apologized to his St. Louis fans for an onstage accident that sent him to the hospital and shortened his set at the Enterprise Center. (WFAA)
5. 🌮 One taco to go: Tacodeli
Today's Taco Tuesday adventure takes us to an Austin-based chain with four locations in North Texas.
- Tacodeli just revamped its menu, adding a birria taco, because, as we've mentioned, every single taco joint in the world (pretty much) has a birria option now.
What to order: We usually like the fundido choices, but because it's new, we tried the short rib birria.
Where: Tacodeli, 1878 Sylvan Ave.
Cost: $5.65 each.
Pro tip: You can now buy Tacodeli salsas and queso at Whole Foods.
Six-word review: Tasty, messy addition to birria trend.
🤔 Know a great taco we should try? Hit reply and let us know.
This newsletter was edited by Lindsey Erdody and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Yasmeen Altaji.
🤘 Mike is pleased that UT remains better than A&M in every measurable metric.
🤓 Tasha is excited to buy a book written by her bosses.
👗 Naheed is reading about designer Charles Harbison's relaunched eponymous label.
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