Utah man who ‘burnt his ex-husband to death’ charged with murder and arson

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A Utah man has been charged with aggravated murder and arson over the death of his ex-husband, an LGBT pioneer, in a house fire.

72-year-old LGBT rights pioneer and Salt Lake City restaurant owner John Williams died last month in an arson attack.

Mr Williams was unable to escape the blaze when his house was set fire to – and was found dead when firefighters responded to a 911 call.

His ex-husband, 47-year-old Craig Crawford, was arrested in May in connection with the attack, and has now been charged with aggravated murder and aggravated arson.

Mr Williams had filed for divorce from Crawford on May 4, and had twice been to court seeking restraining orders against him.

Local news station KSL reports that Crawford was seen near the house as it was engulfed by fire, though neighbours could hear Williams screaming from an upper floor.

Utah state senator Jim Dabakis wrote in a Facebook tribute: “Devastating. The death of Utah gentle generous giant John Williams.

“He was a teacher’s son from Idaho. Came to Utah and changed our community forever for the better.

“As a restoration developer (New Yorker Building, SL Hardware, the Ford Building the Fire Station on 13th East etc.) restaurateur (all the Market Streets) and quiet LGBT advocate (he changed our town – when he quietly came out very early, to the Chamber and business community).

“John, I never met anyone that didn’t like you. You will be so missed – you were so loved.”

He added: “The restaurants he and his partners opened raised the standards of dining for Utah, and the quiet bridges John built between the emerging LGBT community and the Utah business world made this a better place for all of us to live.”

(h/t Towleroad)