Former Laurel Police Chief Sentenced to Life for Arson Spree

The former Laurel Police Chief, who was convicted for setting fires to homes, cars and garages during a nine-year spree, was sentenced Tuesday to multiple life sentences plus 75 years in jail.

David Crawford, 71, was found guilty in March of eight counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree arson and one count of first-degree malicious burning.

The Ellicott City resident initially was charged with setting 12 fires to homes and vehicles between 2011 and 2020 throughout Maryland, including three incidents in Clarksburg. He was arrested in March of 2021.

Crawford was sentenced by Howard County Circuit Judge Richard S. Bernhardt to eight life sentences but because some of the sentences run concurrently, he was ordered to serve two life sentences plus the 75 years.

Investigators obtained surveillance video in many of the cases and noticed a similar pattern of starting the fires with gasoline, according to the Office of State’s Attorney for Howard County. The investigators also were able to link some of the cases after learning Crawford had disagreements with multiple victims.

Crawford’s home was searched in January 2021, and a list of targets was found at that time.

Crawford has yet to be sentenced for the three arson cases in Montgomery County. He is charged with first-and second-degree arson and reckless endangerment for his role in these cases.

On Sept. 5, 2016, Crawford was charged with an incident at the 22600 block of Majestic Elm Court. At 5:33 a.m., rescue squads were dispatched to a townhouse fire and found “a fire burning in the rear of the townhouse which extended up the vinyl siding” of two townhouses. One townhouse was vacant while the other was occupied, according to Prince George’s police.

An accelerant was detected at the base of the garage door of the unoccupied residence. It was later found to be gasoline, according to Prince George’s officials. A surveillance video captured the sound of liquid being poured and the clicking noise of a lighter, officials said in a news release.

Then, on Sept. 29. 2017, at the same location, crews found a self-extinguished fire in the rear along the base of the home’s garage door. Surveillance video showed a suspect wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a jug of what was later determined to be gasoline. Liquid being poured was heard on the video, followed by the clicking sound of a lighter. Additional video captured a silver sedan driving away, according to the news release.

During the night of Nov. 17, 2020, crews were dispatched to a structure fire in the 11800 block of Peppervine Drive in Clarksburg, where they saw a fire in a detached garage. Video surveillance captured a loud explosion and a suspect running from the scene.

In each of the incidents, the arsonist was dressed alike and followed the same pattern of using gallon jugs filled with gasoline and a stick wrapped in cloth to set the fires, according to officials.

Crawford was the police chief in Laurel from 2006 to 2010.

Following his sentencing in Howard County Tuesday, State’s Attorney Richard Gibson called the sentence “wholly appropriate for the defendant’s crimes. The horror and nature of arson is so deeply powerful in its impact and complete in its destruction in the victim’s peace of mind that it is only fitting the defendant spend the rest of his natural life behind bars.”

Gibson added, “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 it upon themselves to engage in conduct that was evil and terrifying in its nature. ”

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