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Former police chief guilty of attempted murder, arson in Maryland

David Crawford faces eight life sentences for setting a series of fires to terrorize people who crossed him over trivial issues, prosecutors said.

COLUMBIA, Md. — Former Laurel Police Chief David Crawford was convicted Thursday of attempted murder, arson and other charges linked to an 11-year series of arsons in six Maryland counties.

The verdicts from a jury in Howard County, where Crawford lived, put an end to a long ordeal for victims who lived in locations including Frederick County, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.

Howard County Prosecutor Rich Gibson said he'll ask the court for eight life sentences when Crawford appears again for sentencing in June.

According to testimony in the case, Crawford was described as a "vindictive" former police officer who believed he was was above the law.  He sought revenge against a wide range of victims who crossed him over petty grievances.

Crawford's targets included his chiropractor, a woman he argued with on a school redistricting committee, family members and Richard McLaughlin, who succeeded Crawford as chief in Laurel.

"We worked together, I respected him and looked up to him," McLaughlin said after Crawford's arrest in 2022. "I wracked my brain as to why. There was no conflict. I mean, that's a long time to hold a grudge."

The conviction came after an exhaustive seven-day trial that relied on a complex presentation of circumstantial evidence and an intense examination of Crawford's patterns of behavior, Gibson said. Key evidence was the discovery of a "hit list" that Crawford kept on a phone seized by investigators, the prosecutor said. 

Jurors convicted Crawford despite a lack of DNA or fingerprints. Video in the case showed one of the arsons, but the suspect could not be identified.

Crawford avoided a trial in Frederick County in 2022 by taking an Alford plea, which is not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgement that prosecutors had enough evidence to obtain a conviction.

Crawford is being held by Howard County authorities in jail without bond while he awaits sentencing.

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