Ever since the Golden Krust Bakery and Grill CEO was found dead as a result of an apparent suicide, his family and friends swear they have no clue as to why Lowell Hawthorne would take his own life.
"He never seemed sad," his friend said
But now, there's a new theory: Hawthorne's fear of an ongoing federal tax investigation for tax evasion.
According to The New York Post, family members told detectives that the 57-year-old admitted that he had a huge tax debt and was “acting funny” and “talking to himself” hours before he shot himself in the head.
We also know a little bit more about that day, thanks to surveillance video from the Bronx warehouse.
The footage shows Hawthorne speaking with two employees who left the room and crouched down when they later returned to his office. It's not known if they witnessed Hawthorne shoot himself, but one of the workers did call 911 on their cellphone.
For Hawthorne's friends, this is hard to wrap their heads around his death.
Al Alston, who had been friends with Hawthorne for 30 years and owns a Golden Krust franchise in Queens, called his suicide “more than unexpected — it’s out of character...He was always an upbeat guy,” Alston said.
“We’ve been in a lot of tough jams and situations, but he was always a person who’d say, ‘We’ll get out of it.’ And we would get out of it.”
He added: “All his boys are married now. He was talking about taking on a different role as a father, making his boys into husbands and fathers themselves.”
This isn’t the first time that the company has been in legal trouble. Over the summer, 100-plus workers filed a lawsuit against Hawthorne, claiming that he cheated them out of their overtime pay.
As of now, no one from Golden Krust has confirmed any tax evasion on their end. Hawthorne’s son Omar, who is also Golden Krust’s director of franchise, told the newspaper via email: “We are still grieving, and are not conducting any interviews at this time.”
Hawthorne emigrated to the United States from Jamaica and opened the first Golden Krust store in the Bronx in 1989. Hawthorne, his wife Lorna, four of his siblings and their spouses, reportedly pooled their money to get the store off the ground.
Golden Krust became the first Caribbean-owned business in the U.S. to be granted a franchise license, says it website. At the time of his death, Golden Krust operated or franchised 120 locations in nine states and produced roughly 50 million patties a year.
Our hearts go out to Hawthorne’s wife, family and friends. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please check out the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.