- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The estranged husband of a well-known Salt Lake City restaurateur and LGBT pioneer who died in a house fire over the weekend has been arrested on suspicion of murder and arson, authorities said.

Craig Crawford, 47, was booked after the blaze on Sunday killed 72-year-old John Williams, the owner of the popular Market Street Grill and other restaurants.

The fire occurred less than three weeks after Williams filed for divorce from Crawford and sought a temporary restraining order that was rejected, court records show.

No details were available in public documents to reveal what happened with the couple or how long they were married.

Detectives say Crawford was in the house near the Utah State Capitol when the fire started. He was later seen walking back to the house, but he never called authorities to report the blaze, charging documents show.

When firefighters arrived, they heard somebody inside crying for help. They found Williams and tried to revive him, but he died at the scene.

It was not clear if Crawford has an attorney yet.

An aggravated murder charge carries the possibility of the death penalty in Utah.

Williams’ friends and colleagues - many influential city and state leaders - expressed shock and dismay about the death of the man they called a great businessman and LGBT pioneer who was an instrumental figure in Salt Lake City.

Williams, whose parents were educators in Idaho, came to Utah to go to college 50 years ago and “changed the fabric” of the community, said Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis, who has known Williams for about four decades.

In the 1970s, Williams was one of the first openly gay people in Utah’s chamber of commerce and business community, Dabakis said.

“You had a guy who had this powerful impact because all the stereotypes that the business community had,” Dabakis said. “John just defied all of them.”

Williams opened the New Yorker restaurant in 1978 in a renovated historical building, showcasing what would become the two signatures of his career - running restaurants and renovating buildings, said John Becker, a spokesman for Williams’ company Gastronomy Inc. Through his restaurants and participation in art-related causes, Williams left his mark on the city, Becker said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, the city’s first openly gay mayor, said in a statement that she’s devastated by the loss of her dear friend and local hero.

“There are patrons of the arts, sciences and education, but John Williams was a patron of our city and helped it become the wonderful place it is today,” Biskupski said.

___

AP writer Hallie Golden contributed to this report.

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