June 13, 2016 – sltrib.com -The man accused in the arson fire last month that killed his estranged husband — Salt Lake City restaurateur John Williams — made an initial court appearance on Monday.
Craig Crawford, 47, appeared via a video feed from the Salt Lake County jail for a hearing that lasted less than five minutes before 3rd District Court Judge Heather Brereton.
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Crawford is charged with first-degree felony aggravated murder — a potential capital offense — and first-degree felony aggravated arson.
His attorney, Jim Bradshaw, waived a formal reading of the charges and told the judge that a July 1 scheduling hearing had already been set in the case.
Williams, 72, was found dead inside his home, near 600 North and East Capitol Street (200 East), after a May 22 fire.
Crawford and Williams were divorcing and court papers show Williams was in the processing of evicting his spouse.
Prosecutors say Crawford intentionally set fire to the home.
Some witnesses told police that during the fire, they saw a man matching Crawford’s description using a hose on plants and trees near the house, but that he never turned the water toward the burning house, charges state.
Salt Lake City firefighters who responded to the blaze have said they heard Williams cry for help from a fourth-floor bedroom, but they were unable to reach him because a staircase between the third and fourth floors of the home had collapsed.
A Utah medical examiner later determined Williams died from smoke inhalation.
Police say Crawford never reported the fire to emergency personnel, although he 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.
Crawford has been held without bail at the jail since his arrest on May 22.
In court papers, police say that in the hours before he died, Williams told a dinner companion he was afraid of Crawford.
Williams was 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.
Damage to Williams’ home was estimated at $750,000.