Husband booked for homicide, arson in death of Utah restaurant owner John Williams

Posted at 6:38 AM, May 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 11:16:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - John Williams, President of a company that operates restaurants including Market Street Grill, was killed in a fire in Salt Lake City Sunday that police said was deliberately set by his husband.

According to the Salt Lake City Police Department, 72-year-old Williams was found dead inside his home near 580 North and East Capitol Street around 2:14 a.m. Sunday, after fire fighters responded to the blaze around 1:20 a.m.

multi home fireA court document indicates firefighters could hear someone yelling for help from inside the home. Firefighters had to fight the flames from two sides as the affected property is on a ridge line, and officials say the fire spread throughout three floors of the home.

Salt Lake City Police Detective Cody Lougy said fire crews knew early on that the blaze was intentionally set.

"I don't know how or what was used to start this fire," he said. "I know there was enough information here that they became concerned and called out the arson investigation team."

No other injuries were reported and officials say flames did not spread to nearby homes.

Craig Crawford mugshotPolice confirmed just after 6 p.m. that 47-year-old Craig Crawford had been booked into jail on charges of aggravated homicide and aggravated arson. Police stated, "John and Craig were partners", and according to court documents Williams filed to divorce Crawford May 4, 2016.

Court documents also indicate Williams sought a temporary restraining order against Crawford on May 6. It is unclear if that restraining order was granted. Court records indicate Crawford filed for a protective order against Williams May 13.

According to a statement of Probable Cause, Crawford was seen walking back into the home after the fire had already begun.

Officers confirmed the man never called police or the fire department about the blaze, and authorities said they located evidence suggesting Crawford had intentionally started the fire.

It's not about Williams' death, but his life close friends are focusing on.

Williams was president of Gastronomy, Inc. According to the Salt Lake Chamber, the company operates nine clubs and restaurants in Salt Lake City, including Market Street Grill, Baci Trattoria, Club Baci, The New Yorker and Cafe P.

"This was a man who will not be forgotten, who changed the lives of a lot of Utahns," said Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis, who knew Williams well.

Drive around Salt Lake City, and he said you'll come across Williams' vision and influence.

"He had a glisten in his eye," Sen. Dabakis said. "He was really one of the first wave of developers that went to downtown Salt Lake and went around the state and said, 'Don't tear it down. I can make money off it.'"

Dabakis said Williams restored the Salt Lake City Hardware Building, an old Salt Lake City firehouse that now houses a restaurant, and the former New York Hotel-- which houses Williams' business Gastronomy and his restaurants New Yorker and Market Street Grill.

"He also started, clearly, the first great restaurants in Salt Lake City," Dabakis said. "Brought us up to a whole new level."

Sen. Dabakis also said Williams was one of the greatest liaisons between the gay community and Chamber of Commerce.

"So well respected in business circles and community leadership circles, that it helped a lot of our business leaders to understand gay people," he said.

Not to mention, Williams often gave to charities and was there for anyone who needed a helping hand, he said.

In everything he did, Dabakis said, Williams was only thinking about one thing: "Our community and making it a better place."

Dabakis also shared one of his favorite stories about Williams, see below for the story of a prank the Utah senator pulled on his friend using expensive wine and a cheap bottle.

Police are still investigating exactly how Williams died-- whether it was from the fire or another cause.

The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition states that free, confidential help and support is available for victims and survivors of domestic violence 24/7. Those resources are available by calling 1-800-897-5465 or visiting the group's website.  Anyone facing an emergency situation should dial 911 rather than the hotline.