Murder, arson charges filed against husband in SLC restaurateur’s death

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Prosecutors have filed aggravated murder and arson charges against the estranged husband of popular restaurateur and philanthropist John Williams.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office filed charges Wednesday afternoon against Craig Crawford, accusing him of setting the fire that killed Williams on May 22. An autopsy determined that Williams, who owned the popular Market Street restaurants and was a philanthropist, died of smoke inhalation. His death has been classified as a homicide.

It has been charged as a death penalty case, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill told FOX 13. However, no decision has been made on whether to seek it.

Restauranteur John Williams (family photo)

restaurateur John Williams (family photo)

According to an affidavit filed with the criminal charges, the neighbor of Williams called 911 to report the fire. The woman told police Crawford came to her door and said he wanted to show her something in his kitchen.

"As she walked out, the house was in flames," Gill said.

A group of teens who saw the fire claimed to have seen Crawford watering plants, but not spraying the home with water, police wrote.

When firefighters arrived, they could hear him calling for help from inside the burning home, police said. The third and fourth floors of the home were "fully engulfed in fire and largely collapsed," the affidavit says. Firefighters found Williams' body on the fourth floor and Gill said there was no way he could escape.

Salt Lake City police said Crawford did call 911 hours after the fire was first reported, but hung up. When an emergency dispatcher called him back it went to voice mail. A half hour later, another call was made from Crawford's phone to 911, police wrote in the affidavit.

Craig Crawford mugshot

"A 911 operator called back and a male answered. The male told the 911 operator that he had meant to call 411. There is no record that Crawford ever reported the fire to emergency personnel," police wrote.

Charging documents state that fire investigators determined burn patterns show the blaze started in the foyer area on the second floor of the home, leading up the stairway to the upper level, trapping anyone on the upper level.

Gill told FOX 13 that Crawford stood to inherit a lot of money if Williams died. But Williams had filed for divorce in early May.

"He had also served an eviction notices to Mr. Crawford to leave the premises on May 20. He had sought out a protective order, and then there had been also multiple witnesses to whom the statements had been made about the position to inherit money if Mr. Williams did not survive," Gill said.

Police also wrote in charging documents that Crawford had also made statements about burning the home down.

Williams had recently filed for divorce from Crawford. In the affidavit, a friend of Williams told police that the night before the murder, Crawford had called his estranged husband's phone repeatedly, and even called the restaurant phone asking to speak to him. Both Williams and Crawford had sought protective orders against each other.

Crawford has been in jail without bail since the fire. A court appearance on the murder and arson charges is expected in the coming days.