Jury convicts ex-Laurel police chief of arson, attempted murder

Judge’s gavel, Themis sculpture and collection of legal books on the brown background.(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Zolnierek)

A former Laurel, Maryland, police chief, who was tasked with protecting his community, is now a convicted arsonist.

A Howard County jury found David Crawford, 71, guilty of eight counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree arson and one count of first-degree malicious burning in a series of arsons that prosecutors say Crawford carried out over nearly a decade.

Crawford could face life in prison, but his attorney said he plans to appeal the circuit court’s decision.

During the week-long trial, the judge allowed prosecutors to introduce evidence from other pending cases against Crawford. Prosecutors showed the jury photos and videos, proving that he had a pattern of setting dozens of fires across the state between 2011 and 2020.

Overall, fire investigators from six counties — including Montgomery and Prince George’s — testified against the former Laurel police chief as he has pending charges for setting fires there as well.

There is still the unanswered question of motive. Crawford’s attorney Robert Bonsib told WTOP the state didn’t have to prove motive, and he found that part of the prosecutors’ case lacking.

“We also thought whoever set these fires, there was no evidence that individual intended to kill anyone inside the residences,” Bonsib added.

However, prosecutors offered the jury evidence that Crawford had a grudge against his targets, including a neighbor whose family was inside her home when flames spread from the garage.

Last week, Crawford was convicted of first-degree arson in Frederick County after entering an Alford plea, wherein Crawford maintained his innocence but acknowledged the evidence against him would lead to a conviction.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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