A Texas mother, so convinced her son was murdered that she launched her own investigation, is one step closer to uncovering the truth after compelling local cops to hand over key evidence for a forensic test that could crack the case they have failed to close.
It’s been five years since somebody put a bullet through Jonathan Crews’ heart. He was shot with his own SIG Sauer 9mm in his apartment in the quiet Dallas suburb of Coppell on February 2 – Super Bowl Sunday – 2014.
When paramedics arrived at his apartment they found him in bed lying on his back. He was under the covers up to his waist with both arms extended by his sides and the gun next to him on top of his blanket. He was 27 years old.
His girlfriend of three months, Brenda Lazaro, was on the scene. She claimed that Jonathan shot himself in a bizarre attempt to ‘prove’ how much he loved her.
But to the family who knew and loved the ‘exuberant’ young man, the idea that he would end the life he was excited to embrace every day is inconceivable.
Today, in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Jonathan’s mother Pam, 57, told of the family’s fight for justice after cops failed to close the case they once described as ‘easily solvable.’
Jonathan Crews was found dead aged 27 with a bullet through his heart inside his apartment in Coppell, Texas on February 2, 2014. To his family who knew and loved the ‘exuberant’ young man, the idea that he would end the life he was excited to embrace every day is inconceivable
Brenda Lazaro, Jonathan’s girlfriend of three months, was on the scene and claimed Jonathan shot himself in attempt to ‘prove’ how much he loved her
Today, in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, Jonathan’s mother Pam, 57, (pictured) has told of the family’s fight for justice after cops failed to close the case they once described as ‘easily solvable’
The Crews family filed a wrongful death suit in 2016 against Brenda alleging that she had shot and killed their son.
Pam has revealed the shocking details uncovered by the family’s own investigation and the litany of failures which led cops to conclude that there was ‘not enough evidence’ to charge Brenda; the vital information withheld from the Medical Examiner who ruled Jonathan’s death ‘undetermined;’ the witnesses never interviewed and forensic tests deemed ‘too expensive’ to conduct.
Perhaps most shocking of all, is what they have learned about Brenda’s past, the numerous conflicting accounts she gave about what happened that night, the cops’ own belief that, ‘she will do it again’ and how she posed in a wedding dress splattered with blood just months after Jonathan’s violent death.
Pam said: ‘We want to have the truth come out for Jonathan who can’t speak for himself anymore. It’s bad enough that he’s gone but then to have lies about how it happened swirling around him…it just doesn’t seem fair.’
Pam was getting ready to go to bed in February, 2014 after an evening watching television with her daughter, Danielle, 25, when Danielle’s phone rang.
At the time Danielle considered Brenda, who was an instructor at the Kung Fu school she attended, to be her best friend.
Pam recalled: ‘When she answered it I heard Brenda scream, ”He’s dead.” I immediately started asking questions and was making so much noise Danielle got up and left the room.
‘When she came back in she said: ”Brenda says Jonathan shot himself.”’
Jonathan’s father John, 59, was out the door and in his car almost before the sentence was finished. As she followed on in her own car, Pam frantically turned over scenarios that could explain the devastating news – a burglary gone wrong perhaps, or an accident, but her son was so fastidious with gun safety.
She said: ‘When we to there the police officer told us we couldn’t go into the apartment and I said, ”Can you just tell me where he was shot? I need to know was he shot in the head or the body?”
‘He said: ”The body.” And I said, ”I knew it. He didn’t do this. Somebody else shot him.”
Brenda was good friends with Jonathan’s sister Danielle (pictured together), with Pam adding that she ‘stayed in Danielle’s bed for three nights and then one night, in the middle of the night she just disappeared and we never talked to her again’
It was a narrative that made no sense. Jonathan had so much to live for. He had just got a new apartment (pictured) and a new car. He loved his job as Director of an Urgent Care clinic and had done so well he had just been awarded $400,000 to invest in it
When she discovered that Brenda had been in the apartment with Jonathan, Pam admitted, her first thought was, ‘She must have done it.’ And when she learned that Brenda had been taken to the police station she assumed the police thought the same.
Early indications seemed to back that up. The search warrant issued at 3.14am the morning after Jonathan’s death, stated the belief that: ‘Brenda Lazaro has committed Murder.’
Later that night Pam received a phone call from Henry Su – the owner of the Kung Fu school at which Brenda taught and she and her daughter practiced.
Pam said: ‘He said he had gone to the police station to pick Brenda up and would I like to know what had happened because she had explained it all to him?’
According to Su, Brenda told him that she and Jonathan had been arguing on and off all that day. Things had calmed down a bit but then the argument resurfaced later.
In the middle of the night she just disappeared and we never talked to her again.
She was mad so she’d gone into the bathroom and when she came out she didn’t want to see Jonathan so she went and sat in the living room.
She said she sat there for a little while and then heard Jonathan shout, ‘cover your ears’ and heard a shot. When she ran into the room, she told Su, Jonathan was ‘already shot.’
Pam recalled: ‘She used those words, ”He was already shot.”
It was a narrative that made no sense. Jonathan had so much to live for. He had just got a new apartment and a new car. He loved his job as Director of an Urgent Care clinic and had done so well he had just been awarded $400,000 to invest in it.
But, overcome with grief and Valium in those first few days after her son’s death, nothing made any sense to Pam anymore.
So when Brenda arrived at their house the day after Jonathan’s death she welcomed her. She even comforted her in her apparent grief.
Pam said: ‘She came to our house acting very upset although visitors to our house later said it was odd because she wouldn’t look anyone in the eye.
‘She always was looking at the floor. I remember one time I wanted to talk to her. I took her face in my hands… I had her look at me and I was trying to comfort and take care of her. She never voluntarily looked me in the eye.
‘She stayed in Danielle’s bed for three nights and then in the middle of the night she just disappeared and we never talked to her again.’
One of the family’s many unanswered questions is whether or not it would even be physically possible for right-handed Jonathan to have shot himself in his left side with such heavy weapon while laying down
Pam said: ‘Our family is extraordinarily close and somebody is missing and the rest of us are going to stand up for him until we’ve done every last thing we can possibly do’. Pictured: Jonathan with his brother Christian as children
Brenda did not attend Jonathan’s funeral but on the very day she sent Danielle a barrage of what they considered cruel texts. She wanted to know why the family hadn’t mentioned ‘how happy’ Jonathan was with her and why they didn’t ask her to say anything at the service.
This was a side of Brenda that Pam had never seen and her mind cast back to a conversation with her son in which he had commented that he was still ‘in the decision process’ as far as Brenda was concerned.
She said: ‘He said, ”There’s a bit of crazy and I’m not sure how deep it runs. I need to know before I can fully commit.”’
Much to her regret Pam urged her son to give Brenda a chance to trust him. Back then Brenda presented herself as a sort of broken bird, a victim with a troubled past who needed nurturing.
But by the beginning of February, Jonathan had decided to end the relationship.
The day before he was shot Jonathan had visited the family home. He was close to his sister and conscious that Brenda was her friend and, out of deference to that friendship, he told Danielle about his decision.
One of Jonathan’s closest friends was a girl named Emily who went on to marry Jonathan’s best friend Jacob.
All his girlfriends had to pass what was laughingly described as the ‘Jacob and Emily Test.’
Three months earlier Brenda and Jonathan had gone to dinner with Jacob and Emily. Jonathan had hugged Emily. It was a gesture that sent Brenda into such a spiral of jealous rage that, all those weeks later, she was still upset about it.
Pam said: ‘Brenda was forcing him to choose between her and Emily and I believe for the last week or two she’d really been putting pressure on him.’
Brenda did not attend Jonathan’s funeral but on the very day she sent Danielle a barrage of cruel and abusive texts. She wanted to know why the family hadn’t mentioned ‘how happy’ Jonathan was with her and why they didn’t ask her to say anything at the service
Three months earlier Brenda and Jonathan had gone to dinner with Jacob and Emily. Jonathan had hugged Emily. It was a gesture that sent Brenda into such a spiral of jealous rage that, all those weeks later, she was still upset about it
Pam continued: ‘He’d been thinking about it and he decided his options were to stay with Brenda and give up Emily. He said if he did that he would eventually resent Brenda so much that they would end up breaking up. Or he could choose Emily which would result in them breaking up or he could try to kind of wait it out and see if he could make Brenda understand that he and Emily were good friends.
‘But no matter what it seemed all of the options ended with Brenda and Jonathan eventually breaking up and so [he decided] to just break up immediately was the best because it limited the damage.’
Barely 24 hours after he shared that decision with his sister, Jonathan was dead.
Pam shared everything she knew with police who told her that forensic tests had found traces of gun primer on the palms and backs of both Brenda’s hands and the front of the hooded sweatshirt she had been wearing when Jonathan was shot.
It seemed only a matter of time before Brenda would be arrested and charged. An investigating officer had gone so far as to tell Pam that ‘nobody shoots themselves in the flank.’
By not completing the investigation the city has allowed a killer to walk the streets.
Then, inexplicably, the investigation stalled.
Pam recalled, ‘It was like a wall came down. They said there’s nothing more we can do. We don’t have enough evidence.’
A year after Jonathan was shot, a new team of investigators took over the case. The move gave the family new hope.
Pam said: ‘My husband and other son (Christian, 28) and I went over there and there were four or five police officers sitting there and they said they’d been in the file and they were very confused because it seemed like an easily solvable case.
‘They said, ”We don’t understand why it’s still sitting here so give us six weeks and we’re going to test some evidence that wasn’t tested, interview some witnesses that weren’t interviewed and we’ll be back to you with something.”’
According to Pam, Brenda is manipulative and ‘wicked,’ but, with remarkable grace, she said she does not harbor hatred toward her nor does she want vengeance. Because for Pam, a woman of faith who prays outside Coppell Police Department each night, none of this fight has been about Brenda
Six weeks later the family returned to Coppell Police Department to be told there was nothing more that could be done.
She said, ‘The sergeant said, ”There’s not enough evidence. You just need to go live your lives.”’
The family decided it was time to take things into their own hands and retained Dallas attorney, Tom Shaw.
Speaking to DailyMail.com Shaw said, ‘The police in their mind had given up the investigation and they wanted to be vindicated through the civil court system. I told them the best person to talk to was a private investigator called Sheila Wysocki.’
In January 2016 they filed a wrongful death suit against Brenda alleging that she had shot and killed their son. The suit meant that their attorney could depose witnesses.
Brenda’s ex-boyfriend said that she had all but ruined his life with her jealousy, threatened to kill his mother and cut herself during uncontrollable, violent rages
Among them was Brenda’s ex-boyfriend who said that she had all but ruined his life with her jealousy, threatened to kill his mother and cut herself during uncontrollable, violent rages.
911 audio and an interview with a neighbor helped the team construct a disturbing timeline that showed Brenda waited approximately 30 minutes after Jonathan was shot before she made the call.
Jonathan’s neighbor noted both the gunshot and Brenda’s calm demeanor when she knocked on her door 30 minutes later supposedly unable to recall the address of Jonathan’s apartment.
Wysocki’s investigation involved consulting with a plethora of experts. They interviewed the Medical Examiner who revealed that Coppell cops had not provided him with any information regarding the investigation despite multiple requests.
He hadn’t even known it was a homicide investigation. In the absence of that information and convinced it was not suicide he was forced to rule ‘undetermined.’
It is a ruling he has told the family he is open to changing if presented with evidence.
They have also uncovered the fact that Brenda had given at least six different conflicting accounts of what happened that night. Some put her in the room when the gun went off, some did not.
According to ballistics expert, Michael Martinez who consulted on the case, the gun primer present on Brenda’s hands and clothes is absolute proof that she was in the room when the gun was fired and very probably facing the victim.
Shaw noted, ‘One would think that those contradictory statements would be very interesting to police and yet they don’t seem to want to follow up on anything.’
According to ballistics expert, Michael Martinez (pictured) who consulted on the case, the gun primer present on Brenda’s hands and clothes is absolute proof that she was in the room when the gun was fired and very probably facing the victim
Neither Pam nor Shaw, nor Wysocki can understand why the police who complained of lack of evidence showed no interest in their findings though they have been offered.
Instead they stopped investigating and left the case ‘Open but Inactive.’
And in an extraordinary turn of events, when the family requested the shirt Jonathan was wearing to carry out a Distance Determination test, law enforcement and Brenda’s council actively blocked it.
The test is so important because it alone can show how far Jonathan was from the muzzle when it was fired.
It has taken months of fighting and the threat of a court order for the City to finally cave and hand the garment over.
According to Shaw, ‘This investigation hasn’t been completed until they’ve done this test. My question [to the city attorney and Lazaro’s] was, ‘Why wouldn’t you want this done?’ It could resolve the case.
Our family is extraordinarily close and somebody is missing and the rest of us are going to stand up for him until we’ve done every last thing we can possibly do.
‘What is unusual to me is that there’s so much evidence piling up that points the finger away from this being a self-inflicted death that I’m surprised the city isn’t more actively involved in trying to resolve the inconsistencies.
‘The kind of proof of the pudding for me is that Brenda Lazaro’s council wasn’t supporting the investigation. If he thought his client was innocent wouldn’t he be sitting next to me demanding that the city conduct the investigation? Instead he’s trying to block the very thing that could absolve his client.’
As far as Shaw is concerned, ‘By not completing the investigation the city has allowed a killer to walk the streets.’
He and the family are, he said, confident that when the results of the Distance Determination test come back they will prove once and for all that Jonathan could not have shot himself.
One of the family’s many unanswered questions is whether or not it would even be physically possible for right-handed Jonathan to have shot himself in his left side with such heavy weapon while laying down.
They are convinced that the shirt, which is now in their possession, holds the proof that it was Brenda, furious at losing Jonathan and jealous of his friendship with Emily, who killed him.
He broke her heart, they allege, so she took aim and broke his.
One of the family’s many unanswered questions is whether or not it would even be physically possible for right-handed Jonathan (pictured right with his brother Christian) to have shot himself in his left side with such heavy weapon while laying down
Brenda, now 31, is married and expecting her second child. She still lives in the area but the family have had no contact with her.
Brenda has pled the fifth and has never commented on any of this. DailyMail.com’s attempted to reach her for comment on this story were unsuccessful.
According to Pam, Brenda is manipulative and ‘wicked,’ but, with remarkable grace, she said she does not harbor hatred toward her nor does she want vengeance.
Because for Pam, a woman of faith who prays outside Coppell Police Department each night, none of this fight has been about Brenda.
This is about Jonathan. It has always been about Jonathan – who never lost his joy in life, still sometimes bouncing on his toes as he had as a little child when excited.
Pam said, ‘I always told him be who you want to be because you have one name and one reputation and one life and the way you are remembered is up to you.
‘But now it’s really not up to him. I guess that’s what’s really hard. He wanted to be like his dad. He wanted to be a respectable guy, working and raising a family and he was most of the way there and that’s how he should have been remembered – not some guy who was willing to give up everything he’d achieved and all the people he loved for some girl he’d been dating for ten weeks or whatever it was.
‘He worked so hard to achieve all those things and just when his life had started to blossom it was over.’
She added, ‘If somebody had done this to one of us he would have sold every last thing in the world to get it squared away.
‘Our family is extraordinarily close and somebody is missing and the rest of us are going to stand up for him until we’ve done every last thing we can possibly do.’