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A man accused of killing his estranged husband well-known Salt Lake City restaurateur John Williams in a house fire last month was charged Wednesday with intentionally setting the fatal blaze.
Craig Crawford, 47, was charged in 3rd District Court with first-degree-felony aggravated murder, a potential capital offense, and first-degree-felony aggravated arson in the May 22 fire that killed the 72-year-old Williams.
Prosecutors say Crawford set fire to the home where the couple lived, located near 600 North and East Capitol Street (200 East), to kill Williams.
Charges indicate that Williams who was divorcing Crawford was in the process of evicting Crawford from the home, that Williams had expressed fear of Crawford and that Williams had filled out a petition for a protective order May 21.
Additionally, friends and family of Williams told police that Crawford had said multiple times in the past that "he would be rich" once Williams died, and that Crawford had expressed a desire to set the home on fire or said he wished the home would burn down, charges state.
Fire crews who responded to the early-morning blaze heard Williams cry for help from a bedroom on the fourth floor, according to charging documents. Firefighters were not able to reach the man because the staircase between the third and fourth floor was fully engulfed in flames and had collapsed.
A fire investigator later determined that the fire grew from the second floor of the home's foyer leading to the stairway to the upper levels, charges state.
"The stairway would be the only way out of the residence for persons on the upper levels," a Salt Lake City detective wrote in charging documents. "With the stairway rendered unusable, persons on the upper levels would be trapped."
A neighbor called 911 at about 1:20 a.m. on May 22 to report that Williams' house was on fire, according to charging documents. That neighbor later told police that shortly after she got off the phone with dispatchers, Crawford came to her home and calmly told her that he wanted to show her something in his kitchen. The neighbor then watched Crawford walk back toward the burning home.
Some juveniles told police that they drove to Williams' home after seeing smoke and flames and noticed a man, who matched Crawford's description, using a hose to spray water on some trees and plants but he did not direct any water toward the burning house, charges state.
By the time fire crews arrived, Crawford was no longer near the home, court records state. Firefighters eventually broke through a fourth-floor window to try to reach Williams, but he had died.
A Utah medical examiner later determined Williams died from smoke inhalation.
When Crawford returned to the scene about 7 a.m., a police officer noticed a small cut on Crawford's hand, according to charges, which Crawford said he received during the fire.
Detectives learned that Crawford never reported the fire to emergency personnel, charges state. However, Crawford had called 911 twice before hanging up at 2:57 a.m. and at 3:30 a.m.
A 911 operator called the number back after the first call, but the call went to voicemail.
After the second call, a 911 operator called back and a male answered, saying he had meant to call 411, according to charges.
Crawford has been held without bail at the Salt Lake County jail since his arrest on May 22.
Prosecutors want a judge to continue to deny him bail, claiming he is a flight risk and poses a risk to others.
No court dates had been set as of Wednesday.
Court records show Williams filed for divorce May 4, including a motion two days later requesting a temporary restraining order against Crawford. Crawford then filed a temporary protective order against Williams, which was denied May 13, according to court documents.
Williams' attorney told police that he also filled out a petition for a protective order against Crawford on May 21, charges state.
The attorney told police he was helping Williams evict Crawford and that Williams had posted a five-day eviction notice on his home May 20 at about 5 p.m.
Hours before he died, Williams had dinner with a person who later told police that Williams expressed fear of Crawford, according to charges. Throughout the meal, Williams received multiple calls from Crawford on his cellphone, court records state, and restaurant staff also came to the table to say Crawford was on the restaurant phone, asking to speak to Williams.
Williams' dining partner later told police that after they left the restaurant just before midnight on May 21, he was concerned that Williams was returning to his home while Crawford was there, according to charges.
Williams had been a partner in Gastronomy Inc., a business that owns Market Street Grill, the New Yorker and other restaurants and property in the Salt Lake City area.
Gastronomy spokesman John Becker has said that Williams had been retired from day-to-day operations for several years, but he had previously directed the company's property acquisitions for at least 40 years.
Damage to Williams' home was estimated at $750,000.