Axios Dallas

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Happy Tuesday! All courage is a form of constancy.

โ˜€๏ธ Today's weather: More of the same.

๐ŸŽต Sounds like: The SMU fight song

๐Ÿชฅ 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 โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Mysterious-death case goes to civil trial

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.

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" โ€” 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.

Go deeper

2. ๐Ÿ” Inspiring a career as a private investigator

Illustration of a folder with a question mark cut out of the center.

Illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios

Sheila Wysocki's private investigations business in Nashville has Dallas roots โ€” 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.

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.

Keep reading

3. ๐ŸŽ“ How local colleges rank

Illustration of a bar chart with the highest bar sporting a college graduation cap.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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. ๐Ÿ—ž Burnt ends: Bite-size news bits

Illustration of the Deep Ellum neon sign, which says "Burnt Ends" and "Axios" instead of "Deep Ellum" and "Texas."

Other news lumen large. Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿ’ป Sen. John Cornyn is leading Senate Republicans' push for special counsel powers for the prosecutor investigating Hunter Biden. (DMN)

๐Ÿš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)

๐Ÿ—๏ธ 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)

๐Ÿ™ 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)

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5. ๐ŸŒฎ One taco to go: Tacodeli

A red taco covered in white sauce

Everyone wants in on the drip. Photo courtesy of Cormac West

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.

๐Ÿค” 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.

Our picks:

๐Ÿค˜ Mike is pleased that UT remains better than A&M in every measurable metric.

๐Ÿค“ Tasha is excited to buy a book written by her bosses.

๐Ÿ‘— Naheed is reading about designer Charles Harbison's relaunched eponymous label.

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