Sentencing hearing for man who murdered prominent husband in fire enters final day

SALT LAKE CITY — At the end of a three-day hearing for the man who murdered his well-known husband, restaurateur John Williams, those who tried to help Williams protect himself testified of their fears for Williams in his final days.

Adamant on the witness stand, Williams’ niece, Laura Forsgren, insisted she knew the situation was dangerous when attorneys managed to serve an eviction notice on her uncle’s volatile husband, but hadn’t secured a protective order.

“I knew, I knew it was going to happen,” Forsgren explained, her voice raised.

Forsgren had been close to Williams all her life, even more so when her father and later her mother passed away, she said. They talked daily, Forsgren said, and when Williams began dating Craig Crawford, she became close to him as well.

“When they first met, John was madly in love with him,” she said, describing Crawford as fun, witty and successful.

For years they were happy, Forsgren said, alleging that after the couple’s 2009 marriage, Crawford became critical, cruel and intent in separating Williams from his friends and family in Salt Lake City. Forsgren speculated the change in Crawford was the result of a postnuptial agreement that limited the stake she thought Crawford was trying to establish in Williams’ estate.

By the time Forsgren picked up her uncle at the airport on May 20, 2016, two days before he died, she believed Williams was in danger.

After years of escalating volatility by Crawford — including an assault on Williams when Crawford wielded an ax at a dinner party in Canada — Williams had filed for divorce and was returning to Salt Lake City to request a restraining order and evict Crawford.

Forsgren said she reassured her uncle that everything would work out, though inwardly she didn’t believe it.

She said that’s when Williams replied, “You know, you’re right. My life is going to be fine, but what’s going to happen to Craig’s life? What about him?”

Forsgren’s testimony came as attorneys near the end of the three-day sentencing for Crawford, who pleaded guilty in June to aggravated murder of Williams, as well as aggravated arson, both first-degree felonies, in a deal that took the death penalty off the table.

Prosecutors have pointed to Crawford’s steady and heavy methamphetamine use as the driver behind his bizarre and violent behavior.

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