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Grandson arrested on suspicion of murder in SLC house fire

Jan 11, 2020, 9:35 AM | Updated: 3:35 pm
grandson fire...
Photo: John Wojcik | KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY — Booking records show police arrested a grandson accused of killing his grandfather, then setting a Salt Lake City home on fire to cover it up.

The body of John Peel, 74, was found Friday inside the burning home near 720 E. Logan Ave. Neighbors reported the house fire around 7:05 Friday morning.

By late Friday evening, officials said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was assisting investigators. The federal agency does not typically assist local departments on routine matters, but its agents include certified fire investigators who can help determine where and how a fire started.

Firefighters discovered Peel’s body, police said, after arriving to douse the flames reported by neighbors. According to the probable cause statement, the firefighters also observed what appeared to be a stab wound on his chest.

grandson house fire

Photo: Salt Lake County Jail

Saturday, Peel’s grandson, Maxwell Wolcott, 28, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of murder, arson, burglary, abuse or desecration of a body and obstruction of justice. A check of Wolcott’s criminal history in the Utah court system database showed a few minor charges, including driving under the influence and possession of alcohol before he turned 21, but no violent crimes.

The arresting documents filed by police say they were able to obtain surveillance video showing Wolcott’s vehicle leaving the area near Peel’s home. According to the probable cause statement, when police reached Wolcott, he told them he had stabbed his grandfather, then left and returned to start the fire, using lighter fluid as an accelerant, in an effort to destroy evidence.

Note: an earlier version of this story had an incorrect address listed for the location of the house fire. This story has been edited to correct the address and add additional details from the police arresting documents. 

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