Salt Lake City man accused of murdering his husband in home arson
09/20/2016 4:05 pm PDT
A mansion in Salt Lake City mysteriously bursts into flames. The intense blaze consumes an estate located in the prestigious Capitol Hill neighborhood.
When trucks arrive, the violent inferno takes a tragic turn. Firefighters report hearing a male voice calling for help, but they can't reach him in time.
Firefighters soon find a 72-year-old man's body on the fourth floor. There was no way he could escape the ferocious flames. But who was the man trapped inside his own home?
The victim was John Williams, a dynamic community leader, wealthy philanthropist and a pioneer for gay rights in Utah.
"This was a man who will not be forgotten, who changed the lives of a lot of Utahans," said Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City).
After Williams' shocking death, more than a thousand people gathered to say goodbye to a man who helped change the face of Salt Lake City.
But what seemed like a tragedy soon turns into an arson investigation.
Did someone want John Williams, a man beloved by so many, dead? The clues they eventually find, investigators say, point to one person: Williams' own husband, Craig Crawford.
"We can certainly say that it was an intentionally set fire," said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
Cops now say evidence is piling up, linking the 47-year-old Crawford to the fatal fire.
The probable cause statement says that while investigators processed the scene, an officer reported seeing a "small laceration" on Crawford's hand. Crawford stated he received the laceration during the fire.
The arson unit determined burn patterns on the stairs show the blaze started in the foyer area on the second floor leading up the stairway, which would trap someone on the upper level.
But what could have triggered Williams' husband to allegedly carry out such a horrific act? The couple reportedly had a troubled relationship beyond repair.
"The divorce proceeding had been filed," said D.A. Sim Gill.
After filing for divorce, court records reveal John Williams filed a restraining order against his estranged husband. But the request was denied.
"Mr. Williams had in fact communicated with a person that night that he was concerned about his relationship," Gill said.
But was greed, not troubled love, the real motive? Court documents say "Crawford made multiple statements to family members in the past about how he would be rich when Mr. Williams died." And he expressed "his desire to set Mr. Williams' home on fire." Prosecutors now believe that's exactly what he did.
Cops arrested Craig Crawford, charging him with aggravated murder and arson. Now he's asking to be bailed out of jail, an unusual request in a case that carries a potential death sentence. But Williams' family says they will fight to make sure he stays behind bars.
Crawford, who pleaded not guilty, was scheduled for a bail hearing, but it was postponed when prosecutors provided massive amounts of new evidence in the case.
"We need some time to digest what has been provided. It's very, very critical information," said Crawford's defense attorney Mark Moffat. "Because of that, judge, we are withdrawing our request at this time for a bail hearing."
Prosecutors are fighting Crawford's request to be released on bond, arguing in court papers that he's now a multimillionaire after selling a home in Vancouver for $2.3 million. They want bail set at $10 million in cash.
Crawford's attorneys say their client has now dropped his request for bail. And while the court proceedings unfold, John Williams' family vows to fight for the man who meant so much to so many.