Estranged husband who murdered well-known restaurateur, headed to prison

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah)- The man who murdered his well-known, restaurateur husband was sentenced Thursday.

In June, Craig Crawford pleaded guilty to killing his 72-year-old husband John Williams in a fire on May 22, 2016.

Thursday, a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Williams was a beloved restaurant owner and philanthropist. 

The sentencing was surprising.  Judge James Blanch decide to sentence Craig Crawford late Thursday.   Originally the sentencing was scheduled for later in September.   But at the end of Thursday’s three day sentencing hearing Judge Blanch said he was ready.  Both sides did not object and Crawford said he was ready.

Judge Blanch said mitigating circumstances such as a brain injury didn’t sway his decision in issuing a life sentence with no chance of parole.  Crawford’s attorney claimed during the sentencing hearing that Crawford suffered a brain injury from a skiing accident and that compounded other problems such as his meth addiction and domestic violence.

Judge Blanch said many other people have come before his court with brain injuries and it didn’t cause them to commit murder.

“I am disappointed with the ruling obviously, but we accept it,” said Jim Bradshaw, Crawford’s attorney.
It was a sentence the family of John Williams was hoping for.

“After the horrific viscous evil crime that was committed and the life that was lost we’re very happy,” said Amy Zaharis, Williams’ niece.  “I think it’s justice for John.”

It was the harshest sentence possible. 

In June, Crawford admitted to murdering Williams in his Salt Lake home.  The motive, prosecutors said Crawford was kicked out of the house, cut off from Williams’ will after a number of domestic violence episodes.
And his family was shocked to learn Williams was still alive when flames trapped him in the home. Zaharis was one of those who testified during the three day sentence hearing.

“I can’t sleep sometimes tortured thinking about John’s last desperate moments,” she said during the hearing.  “His pain and especially tortured by knowing how he felt betrayed by the one person he had taken such good care of over the past 20 years.”

Crawford spoke for the first time about his crime and apologized.

“I know that I took something wonderful from this world,” he said directly to the Williams  family.  “I know this with my whole being every single day I am filled with remorse and regret not a day goes by that I don’t hear or think of something that reminds me of John.”

Even Crawford’s mother asked Williams’  family to give him a chance at parole.  One possible sentence was a 25-year sentence with a chance at parole.

“This is a waste of two lives,” said Barbara Crawford.  “One by death and one by incarceration.”

 But in the end, the Williams family, including his brother demanded Crawford serve a life sentence with no parole.  Judge Blanch agreed telling Crawford dying in a fire “is extremely cruel.”

“You never have closure,” said Zaharis afterwards.  “You suffer pain and that will never go away.  But we are glad Craig Crawford will never be a threat to us or this society again.”

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