A former Maryland police chief convicted of setting a dozen fires that targeted officials, chiropractors and relatives who he felt had snubbed him was sentenced to multiple life terms in prison Tuesday, authorities said.
A Howard County judge sentenced David Crawford, 71, to eight life sentences plus 75 years in a serial arson case that the state’s attorney’s office said spanned nearly a decade across six counties.
Crawford’s “actual executable prison sentence” is two life terms plus 75 years, the prosecutor’s office said. The terms will run concurrently.
“These families have waited several years for justice and we are grateful to play some part in delivering that for them,” Howard County State’s Attorney Richard Gibson said in a statement. “It is particularly egregious that someone who dedicated their life to law enforcement and was the chief of police at some point in their career would take upon themselves to engage in conduct that was evil and terrifying in its nature.”
Crawford, a longtime police officer who last served as chief in Laurel, a Washington suburb, was convicted in March of eight counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of malicious burning.
He was arrested two years ago after authorities determined there was a link between the fires, the prosecutor’s office said: Crawford had disagreements with each of the victims.
In some cases, Crawford set homes alight while families slept inside, the prosecutor’s office said. One woman, whose home Crawford had burned twice, expressed relief to NBC affiliate WBAL of Baltimore on Tuesday after the sentence was handed down.
“I’ve been going through a lot the past few years with just the anticipation of everything,” Quinn Henderson told the station.
Prosecutors said Crawford developed a target list and began igniting fires with gasoline in 2011, the prosecutor’s office said. The arson attacks stretched across Howard, Frederick, Charles, Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties until 2020, the prosecutor’s office said.
Among Crawford’s targets were two chiropractors, a city official and three former law enforcement officials, including a former police chief, the prosecutor’s office said.
During the trial, prosecutors said Crawford burned his nephew’s pool, fence and deck after he deleted his uncle on Facebook, WBAL reported.
Clark Price, a former supervisor with the Prince George’s County Police Department, told jurors he could have promoted Crawford twice but didn’t, according to the station.
After Price’s home was set ablaze, he wrote about it on a Facebook page for retired police officers. Crawford sent him a direct message asking for images of the fire, WBAL reported.
Price recounted Crawford’s telling him, “It’s better to be lucky than good. You are both. Cheers,” according to the station.
On Tuesday, a lawyer for Crawford called the prison sentence “tragic” and said he planned to file an appeal, WBAL reported.
During the trial, Crawford’s defense argued the case was circumstantial, with no physical evidence connecting him to the crimes, the station reported.
Crawford spoke at the hearing but offered no apologies and said his faith in God had been renewed in recent years, according to WBAL.
Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.