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'Fearful' restaurateur changed locks, installed cameras before he was killed, warrant says


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SALT LAKE CITY — John Williams had asked a friend and longtime employee to help him change the electronic locks on his Capitol Hill home about two weeks before he was killed, "to keep Craig Crawford out of the house."

That information was detailed in a recently unsealed search warrant affidavit filed in 3rd District Court.

Crawford, 47, was charged last week with aggravated murder and aggravated arson, first-degree felonies, in the death of his estranged husband, Williams, a prominent restaurateur.

Crawford is accused of intentionally setting a fire in the foyer on the second floor of Williams' four-story home, 574 N. East Capitol St., in the early morning hours of May 22. Williams, unable to escape the burning house, died of smoke inhalation.

Williams, 71, filed for divorce from Crawford on May 4, according to court records, and had petitioned for a temporary restraining order against Crawford on May 6 but it was denied. Crawford also sought a protective order against Williams that was denied on May 13.

Williams was the president of Gastronomy, which operates the popular Market Street Grill, Market Street Oyster Bar and the New Yorker restaurants. He restored and renovated old buildings, founded the Downtown Alliance and championed the local arts, Salt Lake City's Olympic bid and other community organizations.

Crawford made "multiple statements" in the past about "how he would be rich when Mr. Williams died" as well as his desire to "set Mr. Williams' home on fire or how he wished the home would burn down," according to charging documents.

The warrant says Williams met with the information technology manager for Gastronomy about May 9 and asked him to "help him with a personal security problem."

All the locks and all the codes to the electronic locks on Williams' house were changed, according to the warrant, as well as the code to the house alarm.

"All this was done because Williams was fearful of Crawford," the warrant states.

Williams also installed a security camera system which could be accessed by both his cellphone and the cellphone of his IT manager. One camera was "mounted above the kitchen door on the south wall of the home (destroyed by the fire). The system had a recording device," the affidavit states.

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The storage device was still active on the evening of May 22, "long after the fire was put out," the investigator noted in the warrant. Neither police nor prosecutors have said as of Sunday whether evidence linking Crawford to the fire was found on the recorded video.

Hours before the fire, Williams was having dinner with a friend. During dinner, Williams received "multiple calls" from Crawford on his cellphone and Crawford also called the restaurant's phone and asked to speak with Williams, charging documents state.

The friend told investigators "he was concerned that John intended to return to his residence while Crawford was there," the charges state. The friend left Williams at the restaurant about 11:45 p.m. on May 21. A neighbor first reported the fire at Williams' home only about an hour and a half later at 1:18 a.m.

In a separate warrant, detectives took unburned matches into evidence that were discovered by members of Williams' family trying to retrieve family photos after the the crime scene was released by investigators.

"The wooden matches were lying on a surface that was covered in soot. The matches are clean and not covered in soot. It appears that the matches were placed after the fire had been extinguished and after law enforcement left the scene," the warrant states. "The matches were pristine and not burned. The matches were not covered with soot, as was all the rest of the bedroom and property inside the bedroom."

The affidavit does not explain the potential significance of the matches.

Damage to the house was estimated at $750,000.

An attorney for Williams had been helping his client evict Crawford from the home and posted a five-day eviction notice on the house two days before the fire on May 20, the charges state.

A special court scheduling conference for Crawford is scheduled for Aug. 8.

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Pat Reavy

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