Golden Krust CEO Suicide: Potential Motive Revealed

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
December 4, 2017US News
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Golden Krust CEO Suicide: Potential Motive Revealed
A Golden Krust restaurant in Mount Vernon, New York. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

The CEO of national restaurant chain Golden Krust committed suicide because he was afraid that federal agents were investigating him for evading millions of dollars in taxes, New York Post reported.

Lowell Hawthorne died in New York City at the age of 57. The city’s medical examiner said Hawthorne shot himself in the head at his Bronx factory on Saturday, Dec. 2

Hawthorne was “acting funny” and “talking to himself” shortly before committing suicide, a law enforcement source told the Post. Hawthorne also admitted to his relatives to having a sizeable tax debt.

The source also told the Post that Hawthorne’s suicide was recorded on a surveillance video inside the Bronx warehouse of the Golden Krust bakery. In the video, Hawthorne can be seen talking with two workers who then leave the office. The pair then returned crouching after they heard the shot. One of the employees can then be seen talking on a cell phone, presumably calling 911.

NTD Photo
Golden Krust warehouse at 3958 Park Ave. in the Bronx, New York. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

According to the law enforcement source, Hawthorne left a note apologizing to his relatives. He had hired dozens of people from his family since he founded the business in 1989.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Hawthorn appeared to be fighting his demons.

“We have a suicide note, which I would never divulge to anybody—that’s personal,” he said, according to NY1. “But it clearly shows that he was in crisis at some point.”

Hawthorne started the successful Caribbean fast-food chain in 1989 by selling Jamaican beef patties, jerk chicken, and various types of bread. He built the business into a national franchise with more than 120 restaurants in nine states.

Hawthorne once appeared in an episode of CBS’ “Undercover Boss.” At the time of his death, his company was planning on building a new $37 million headquarters in Rockland County.

“He was a nice boss, a wonderful guy,” longtime employee Everald Woods told the New York Daily News. “He’s the kind of guy you want to work for for that long. He takes care of his employees.”

Hawthorne started his restaurant empire with a single location on East Gun Hill Road in the Bronx. By 1996, he had opened 16 more locations and launched a franchise operation.

The company’s iconic beef patties were sold in 20,000 supermarkets as of last year, according to a news release cited by the Post. The company also serves the New York City public school system, the New York State penal system, and the U.S. military.

“Lowell was a visionary, entrepreneur, community champion and above all, a committed father, family man, friend and man of faith,” his family said in a statement on Facebook. “Our hearts are broken, and we are struggling to process our grief over this tremendous loss.”

In August, Hawthorne was served with a class-action lawsuit on behalf of over 100 workers alleging that he cheated them out of overtime pay. This type of lawsuit is relatively common in the food service industry, the Post noted.

In a Twitter message on Saturday, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness offered his condolences to Hawthorn’s family and employees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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