SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah man appeared in court Monday for the first time since being charged with aggravated murder and arson in the house-fire death of his estranged husband, an LGBT pioneer and restaurateur in Salt Lake City.
Craig Crawford, 47, spoke to a judge through a jail video link during the brief hearing held to inform him of the charges. He spoke little, only answering “yes, ma’am” when asked to confirm his name.
His lawyer Jim Bradshaw waived a formal reading of the charges and another hearing was set for July 1. Bradshaw declined to comment outside court.
Crawford is accused of starting the late-night fire to kill his husband, John Williams, one of the first openly gay people in Utah’s business community in the 1970s.
Williams, 72, died on May 22 after being trapped on the fourth floor of his home when flames engulfed a staircase. Prosecutors said Crawford watered the plants outside while it burned.
Firefighters heard Williams’ screams for help but couldn’t get inside until they climbed ladders and cut through an exterior wall. They found Williams dead of smoke inhalation in a bedroom.
Crawford could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
The blaze started less than three weeks after Williams filed for divorce from Crawford following a decade-long relationship.
Williams had said he was afraid of his estranged husband and sought a temporary restraining order that was rejected, according to court documents.
Williams owned the popular Market Street Grill and New Yorker restaurants, among other establishments.