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Police say Utah man killed his grandfather, set fire to destroy evidence

Alleged homicide might not have been discovered if not for quick-working firefighters, police say

SHARE Police say Utah man killed his grandfather, set fire to destroy evidence

Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking updates the media about a homicide investigation in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Wilking said Maxwell Walcott, 28, was arrested for allegedly stabbing his grandfather John Peel, 74, and setting the house on fire to cover up the killing. Peel’s body was found at 719 E. Logan Ave on Friday.

Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A man was arrested Saturday morning after police say he stabbed his grandfather to death and then set the house ablaze to conceal the killing.

Police say if firefighters hadn’t extinguished the flames as early as they did, the alleged murder might not have been discovered.

On Friday morning, fire crews responded to the fire at 717 E. Logan Ave and learned the lone occupant of the home, John H. Peel, 74, had not escaped the flames, said Salt Lake police detective Greg Wilking.

After putting out the fire, crews found Peel’s body with stab wounds, Wilking said.

Maxwell Wolcott, 28, was arrested and booked into Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, abuse or desecration of a dead human body, and obstruction of justice, according to a police affidavit filed in support of his arrest.


Maxwell Wolcott

Salt Lake County Jail

“Basically, what we understand is that the suspect came over to that house, made contact with the victim and ended up killing him, and then came back, set the fire in hopes of covering up that homicide,” Wilking said.

He said police Saturday did not know when Wolcott allegedly killed his grandfather, or how long after he returned to set the fire.

“It was a good job by the fire department getting in there and realizing that somebody was unaccounted for, and fighting that blaze. And once they got in there and realized there was a person, a body in there, realizing that person had been a victim of a crime — and turning that scene over to us — they did a phenomenal job,” Wilking said.

According to the affidavit, Wolcott told officers in an interview that he drove to his grandfather’s home “with the intention of killing him” and later returned to douse the body with lighter fluid “with the hope of destroying evidence.”

A possible motive for the killing was not released.

Wolcott does not have an adult criminal history in Utah, according to court documents.