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Was A UT-Dallas Grad Really The Mastermind Of $1 Billion Silk Road Drug Bazaar?

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Ross Ulbricht attended UT-Dallas.

Five stories that have North Texas talking: a closer look at Ross Ulbricht; is A.C. Gonzalez the next Dallas city manager?; Texas singer-songwriter Steven Fromholz has died, and more.

Who is Ross Ulbricht? He’s the University of Texas at Dallas graduate accused of operating a vast black market bazaar called the Silk Road that brokered more than $1 billion in transactions for illegal drugs. He was arrested in San Francisco in October and The New York Times has profiled his case. Friends and family are shocked by the news. One friend told The Times: “It’d be like they accused my mother of trying to kill someone. … He’s one of the most guileless and nonaggressive people I’ve ever met.” Ulbricht, who grew up in Austin, went to UT-Dallas on a full academic scholarship and graduated in 2006 with a degree in physics. The Times reports: “He was 6-foot-2, a lean, good-looking guy who could have fronted an indie rock band. But he was the opposite of a Lothario. He was vulnerable and eager to find a soul mate, and fell hard for [a] college girlfriend. The two were engaged … but it ended when Ross learned that she had cheated with one of his closest buddies.” In 2012, Ulbricht and a friend interviewed each other for StoryCorps, an oral history project that airs some of its interviews on NPR.  

  • Texas singer-songwriter Steven Fromholzhas died following a hunting accident. He was 68. Fromholz, named a Texas Poet Laureate in 2007, is most famous for his series of songs called the “Texas Trilogy.” Lyle Lovett later recorded the tunes. Saving Country Music reports: “Fromholz rose to become a towering figure of words and music in his home state of Texas, and amongst his famous music friends. He wrote the song ‘I’d Have To Be Crazy’ made popular by Willie Nelson, and also had songs recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, and John Denver amongst others.” The accident happened Sunday near Eldorado, Texas, about 45 minutes south of San Angelo. The Schleicher County Sheriff's Office told the Associated Press Fromholz was shot when a rifle discharged as it fell to the ground while being transferred from one vehicle to another. He was going to hunt feral hogs.

  • Plano native Michael Urie made it big in the TV show “Ugly Betty” – and now he lives in New York City. The New York Times profiled his quest to get the perfect Manhattan apartment. It’s in a high-rise in a quiet Midtown West neighborhood. The Times reports: “The apartment is a cheery, crowded jumble of books, posters, DVDs and mementos of plays, movies and TV shows.” Furnishings include items used on the “Ugly Betty” set, including the “sleek glass-topped table that served as [Vanessa] Williams’s desk on the series.” The Times says Urie is starring in the satirical one-man show “Buyer & Cellar,” and is the co-director of a new documentary, “Thank You for Judging,” about high school speech and debate competitions back in Texas.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.