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Since the Golden Krust Bakery and Grill CEO and founder was found dead as a result of an apparent suicide, those closest to him have been trying to understand why he would take his own life. Now a new report sheds light on what could have been behind it all: Fear of an ongoing federal tax investigation.

According to The New York Post, family members told detectives that Lowell Hawthorne, 57, admitted that he owed a huge tax debt and was “acting funny” and “talking to himself” in the hours before his suicide.

At his warehouse in the Bronx, surveillance video shows Hawthorne speaking with two workers who left the room, both of whom were crouched down when they later returned to his office. Whether or not they actually witnessed Hawthorne shoot himself in the head isn’t known, but one of the workers did call 911 on their cellphone.

Al Alston, who had been friends with Hawthorne for 30 years and now 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 faced potential legal issues. Back in August, 100-plus workers at the plant filed a lawsuit against Hawthorne, claiming that he cheated them out of their overtime pay.

No one from the company has confirmed these tax evasion allegations.

Hawthorne’s son Omar, who is also Golden Krust’s director of franchise and community development, told the newspaper via email: “We are still grieving, and are not conducting any interviews at this time.”

As we previously reported, 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.
While Golden Krust started in New York, Hawthorne became a national star when he was a guest on the hit CBS show Undercover Boss last year.
This is so tragic. We’re sending our prayers and thoughts to the Hawthorn family.

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