Aggravated Arson and Murder Charges for Estranged Husband of Salt Lake City Restaurateur

The estranged husband of a Salt Lake City restaurateur and prominent LGBT activist was charged with aggravated arson and murder in connection with a deadly home fire.

Sunday morning blaze

Aggravated Arson

Photo by: John Goode

Shortly after 1:00am on Sunday, May 23, 2016 a fire was reported at the home of John Williams, a retired partner of Gastronomy Inc. who served the company for over four decades. Neighbors could hear screaming for help from a top story room, but fire fighters were unable to get Williams out in time. 72 year old John Williams was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cause of fire suspicious

Authorities originally stated that the fire was suspicious and likely not an accident. During the investigation which had been determined to be aggravated arson, witnesses claimed to see Williams’ estranged husband, 47 year old Craig Crawford near the home shortly after the fire was reported. According to court documents, Williams filed for a divorce from Crawford earlier this month and attempted to get a restraining order as well. No more information has been released regarding the couple’s marital issues, yet Crawford was considered an initial suspect early on in the investigation.

Aggravated arson

According to Utah Code: “A person is guilty of aggravated arson if by means of fire or explosives he intentionally and unlawfully damages: a habitable structure; or any structure or vehicle when any person not a participant in the offense is in the structure or vehicle.” Aggravated arson is a first degree felony, punishable by five years to life in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.

Aggravated murder

Photo by: Christopher

Photo by: Christopher

Since a death occurred because of the fire, Crawford is also facing aggravated murder or criminal homicide. Aggravated murder has the potential to be a capital felony if prosecutors file notice of intent to seek the death penalty. If not, it will be an additional first degree felony. Crawford is currently being held on 1 million dollar bail.

Squatter Charged with Aggravated Assault for Chasing Homeowner with Machete

A squatter has been charged with numerous offenses including aggravated assault for chasing the homeowner away with a machete.

Surprised homeowner

Photo by: Marcelo Braga

Photo by: Marcelo Braga

A Kearns Utah family came home to an unwanted holiday surprise when they returned to inspect the damage of their home after it suffered a terrible fire earlier in December. The homeowner noticed a car in the driveway and once inside, called out to the uninvited guest. They then observed the man leave the house and decided to follow him outside. It was there that the squatter, 25 year old Scott Thomson appeared with a machete threatening the homeowner with bodily harm.

Aggravated Assault

Although Thomson didn’t actually hurt the homeowner, the fact that he threatened them with harm is what brought the assault charges. Utah code 76-5-102 states that even attempting to do someone harm is considered assault. Adding what code 76-5-703 states is a “deadly weapon” raised that offense to aggravated assault. Threatening to do harm without causing bodily injury is assault, a class B misdemeanor. Making that same threat while holding a machete is aggravated assault, a 3rd degree felony. Charges of course increase if there is essentially harm done to the victim.

Aggressive, high, or scared?

It is unknown what Thomson’s state of mind was when he chased the homeowner away with a machete. There were drugs found at the scene and it is entirely plausible that he was under the influence of narcotics. Whether he acted out of aggression toward someone crashing his solo house party of out of fear of being caught didn’t matter to the responding officers. Once he advanced toward the homeowner while holding the machete he was facing aggravated assault charges. Acting unwisely in the heat of the moment is a precursor to many charges, including assault and aggravated assault. Requesting the aid of a criminal defense attorney will help bring all the surrounding factors into consideration before the judge decides on sentencing and punishment.

Sexual Abuse by a LDS Church Counselor

The LDS church is exceptionally cautious by requiring any person in a leadership role such as a teacher, counselor, or scout leader to be “two deep” to prevent any allegations of inappropriate conduct such as sexual abuse. Unfortunately, leaders acting on their own outside of, or after church activities aren’t always monitored as closely. Just last month, an LDS Church counselor was sentenced to serve time in prison for having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy he’d met previously at a church camp.

EFY counselor

benmckune

benmckune

29 year old Keldon S. Cook from Farmington Utah was sentenced on November 30th 2015 for multiple charges stemming from a sexual relationship he had with a teenager. Cook met the 14 year old youth while he was one of many EFY counselors for an event sponsored by the LDS church. After their initial introductions at the EFY event, Cook communicated with the teen through texting and IMing for the duration of two years. Following the electronic communications, which the teen stated to be quite inappropriate, the adult church counselor arranged a meeting with the boy and sexual conduct ensued. Cook was originally charged with multiple charges such as forcible sodomy and forcible sexual abuse but took a plea deal, reducing the charges to four 3rd degree felonies instead, three of which were unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old.

Age makes a difference

When the sexual abuse began between Cook and the teen, the youth was 16 years old. Although the sexual acts that took place were not legal, the older age of the youth saved Cook many years behind bars. When it comes to charges related to children, the younger the age of the victim, the harsher the penalties will be for the defendant. Charges are known to be drastically higher when the victim for sexual abuse is under the age of 14. This may be due the fact that older teenagers are known as being somewhat capable of making their own decisions where younger teens or prepubescent children are not. In the case of Keldon S. Cook, if the sexual abuse had started earlier when the teen was younger, the charges against Cook could’ve landed him in prison for life.

Position of trust

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Photo by: Randen Pederson

Not only can a victim’s younger age increase charges for a defendant, but so can age along with the defendant’s role in the victim’s life. When sexual abuse occurs with a child under the age of 14 and the adult is in a position of trust such as a church counselor, it is then considered aggravated sexual abuse. According to Utah Code 76-5-401.1, “Position of trust means:

• An adoptive parent;
• An athletic manager who is an adult;
• An aunt
• A babysitter
• A coach
• A cohabitant of a parent if the cohabitant is an adult;
• A counselor;
• A doctor or physician;
• An employer;
• A foster parent;
• A grandparent;
• A legal guardian;
• A natural parent
• A recreational leader who is an adult;
• A religious leader;
• A sibling or a stepsibling who is an adult;
• A scout leader who is an adult;
• A stepparent;
• A teacher of any other person employed by or volunteering at a public or private elementary school or secondary school, and who is 18 years of age or older;
• An uncle;
• A youth leader who is an adult; or
• Any person in a position of authority, […] which enables the person to exercise undue influence over the child.”

Aggravated sexual abuse

Unlike sexual abuse which is a 2nd degree felony, aggravated sexual abuse of a child such as sexual abuse by a person of trust is a 1st degree felony, punishable by 15 years to life in prison. Those in positions where they work with children need to be cautious about never being alone with a child and following any rules and guidelines in place to protect both child and adult. Any adult who is facing true or even fraudulent charges of any sexual abuse should speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.