Gay Utah businessman allegedly killed by house fire husband started

By : Wire Report
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Salt Lake City (AP) – The estranged husband of a well-known Salt Lake City LGBT pioneer and restaurateur who died in a house fire was charged June 8 with aggravated murder and arson.

Prosecutors said they believe Craig Crawford purposely started the fire to kill his husband, John Williams.

Crawford, 47, was arrested on May 22 after the 72-year-old Williams died in the fire.

Police said Crawford was in the house when the fire started and was later seen walking back to the house but didn’t call authorities.

It was not clear if Crawford has an attorney.

Prosecutors had obtained permission from a judge to keep Crawford in jail after his arrest while they weighed charges.

The fire occurred less than three weeks after Williams filed for divorce from Crawford and sought a temporary restraining order that was rejected, court records show.

The reason for the judge’s decision could not be determined because part of the record is sealed. Williams’ attorney in the restraining order request, Ellen Maycock, has not returned multiple requests for comment.

Williams was the owner of the popular Market Street Grill and other restaurants.

Medical examiners say Williams died from smoke inhalation and ruled his death was a homicide, charging documents say.

A neighbor called 911 to report the fire around 1 a.m. and soon after, Crawford came over, documents show. The neighbor said Crawford acted calmly and said he wanted to show her something in his kitchen before he walked away toward his house.

Police say in court documents that teenagers in the area saw the house on fire and a man matching Crawford’s description watering plants and trees in the yard as the home burned.

Firefighters heard a man calling for help inside the house but could not access upper levels because a staircase collapsed, the documents say. They cut a hole in the side of the house and broke a window to find Williams’ body on the floor of a fourth story bedroom.

Firefighters did not see Crawford at the home but his car was there. He walked up to the house around 7 a.m. as police and firefighters were still on the scene.

Police say Crawford had a small laceration on his hand, which he told officers he received in the fire.

Williams’ long-time business partner Tom Guinney said Williams had been married to Crawford for about a decade. He described Crawford as a Canadian with a lot of energy, who started having problems after being prescribed opiates when he injured his leg.

Investigators said in charging documents that several of Williams’ friends and family members told police that Crawford had said that he would be rich if Williams died and made statements about his desire to set Williams’ home on fire or how he wished the home would burn down.

Williams’ friends and colleagues – many influential city and state leaders – called him a great businessman and LGBT pioneer who was an instrumental figure in Salt Lake City.

In the 1970s, Williams was one of the first openly gay people in Utah’s chamber of commerce and business community, according to Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis, who knew Williams for about four decades.

Williams opened the New Yorker restaurant in 1978 in a renovated historical building, showcasing what would become the two signature talents of his career – running restaurants and renovating buildings, said John Becker, a spokesman for Williams’ company Gastronomy Inc.

Hundreds of family members, friends and colleagues gathered May 31 at a concert hall to celebrate the life of Williams.

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