Unkempt Colorado dentist twiddles his thumbs as court hears how he plotted to poison wife with eyedrops

James Toliver Craig appeared in an Arapahoe County District Court on Wednesday for a preliminary hearing on first-degree murder charge

Sheila Flynn
at Arapahoe County District Court
,Rachel Sharp
Thursday 13 July 2023 14:10 BST
Woman dating Colorado dentist accused of poisoning wife breaks silence

Colorado dentist and father-of-six James Toliver Craig leaned back in his chair and twiddled his thumbs through his handcuffs on Wednesday, his beard unkempt above his orange prison jumpsuit, as court took a brief recess from a preliminary hearing on the first-degree murder charge he faces for allegedly poisoning his wife.

The casual display came shortly after the prosecution laid out a litany of evidence they say supports their case that Mr Craig deliberately poisoned his spouse of more than two decades, Angela Dawn Pray Craig, with shakes while pursuing a relationship with a Texas orthodontist.

Mr Craig, 45, was arrested one day after Angela, 43, was pronounced dead on 18 March following her third hospitalisation in a month for a host of concerning and worsening symptoms. Prosecutors on Wednesday revealed Mr Craig was also now facing a second charge without specifying what it was.

But testimony from the Arapahoe County Coroner and lead detective – as reporters, several of Angela’s siblings and the couple’s oldest son sat in the courtroom – included a number of explosive claims.

According to evidence given by Arapahoe County Coroner Dr Kelly Lear, samples showed that Angela had an arsenic level of 68 around 11.50am on 15 March – but that level had increased to 330 just after 8.20pm.

That would be “consistent with her receiving additional cyanide exposure in that time period,” Dr Lear said.

The cause of death she listed in her report was acute “cyanide and tetrahydrozoline poisoning; the manner of death is homicide,” she testified Wednesday. Tetrahydrozoline is the decongestant used in Visine eye drops – and, according to the prosecution, in the weeks before his wife’s death, Mr Craig had accessed an article about how a woman in another state had been poisoned after consuming something containing five bottles of eyedrops.

The dentist had researched other types of poison before his wife’s death, Aurora Police Detective Bobbi Olson testified on Wednesday. A search warrant obtained for an exam room computer at his dental practice found that, in the weeks leading up to Angela’s final hospitalization, Mr Craig had searched for “how to make murder look like a heart attack,” “is arsenic detectable in an autopsy” and “how many grams of pure arsenic will kill a human?”

On 6 March, the prosecutor told the court, Mr Craig conducted a google search for “how the chemical in eyedrops attacks your body if swallowed and can potentially kill you.

“These are the actions of a man who is determined to kill his wife,” he argued.

That date, 6 March, marked the first time Angela presented at Parker Adventist Hospital. Det. Olson testified that she had reviewed weeks of internal and external home surveillance footage from the Craig residence, and, on 6 March, Mr Craig can be seen making what appears to be a protein shake then sipped by his wife.

“She drinks it and takes a sip and then kind of lunges forward, kind of grimaces, and then kind of wipes her face and walks around to to the other side of the kitchen island and sets it down,” Det Olson said.

Angela visited the hospital but was released later that day – then returned to Parker Adventist on 9 March and was admitted until 14 March, when she was discharged. She visited the emergency department of a second hospital the next day, where her condition worsened and she was ultimately pronounced dead days later.

James Craig in mugshot (Booking photo )

Det Olson testified about how hospital staff, then police, were informed by Craig’s business partner and his wife about their concerns regarding the dentist’s behavior. Ryan Redfearn and his wife, Michelle, who has a PhD in nursing, had been informed by staff at the joint dental practice he owned with Mr Craig that his business partner had ordered a delivery of potassium cyanide to the office. He had instructed an office employee to look out for a private package but it was mistakenly opened by another worker after it arrived on 13 March, Det Olson said.

A staff member “reconstructed the box, put the packaging slip back in; prior to doing that, she saw that it said ‘potassium cyanide,’ described the container, said it was like a tinfoil cardboard type container” she’d never seen before in the dental practice, Det Olson said. “There was also a biohazard type sticker on the box, as well; she put it back together and then handed it to Mr Craig.”

The dentist was later seen leaving with the container, the detective said. The employee googled potassium cyanide and its symptoms, connected them to Angela’s illness and told the Redfearns, who then told nursing staff, who called police. Det Olson said both Redfearns were interviewed in the early morning hours of 16 March; the court heard on Wednesday how Mr Craig had pleaded with his business partner via text to sit on certain information.

During her interview, Michelle Redfearn pointed out to police the previous recent hospital visits Angela had made, Det Olson said.

Mr Redfearn, meanwhile, told police that Mr Craig had filed for bankruptcy in 2021 and the debt payments were being covered by his own part of the business to the tune of $18,000 a month. He said he’d informed his partner in January that he “needed to work more, be around more, take less time off and that he was going to have to take a pay cut,” the detective testified.

Mr Craig’s pay was $39,000 in January and less than $16,000 the following month, she said. The dentist had taken out four life insurance policies on his wife from two companies totaling nearly $4.5million, the court heard.

Throughout all of this, prosecutors allege Craig was enjoying his burgeoning relationship with Texas orthodontist Karin Cain, who is named in the charging documents. Det Olson on Wednesday confirmed that the dentist continued to write letters to Ms Cain from jail after his arrest professing his love for her.

Just hours before Wednesday’s hearing, Ms Cain broke her silence to claim that Mr Craig lied to her about the state of his marriage and that she would never have gotten involved with him if she had known the truth.

Rather than being his “mistress”, the Texas orthodontist said they had only met three weeks prior to his wife’s death at a dentistry conference.

Karin Cain breaks her silence over alleged killer dentist (GMA)

“I don’t like the label,” she said. “If I had known what was true, I would not have been with this person.”

Ms Cain shared doubts that she played a part in Mr Craig’s alleged murderous motive, as she said they had never planned a future together.

“There’s no way I’m a motive. There’s been no planning a future together,” she said.

Ms Cain said that she met Mr Craig at the dental conference in February and that he lied to her by claiming his marriage was over and that he did not live in the same home as his wife.

At the time, Ms Cain was also in the middle of divorcing her husband of three decades.

While she was “not looking for love,” she said that they bonded over their apparent shared experiences and shared devotion to their children.

In total, they spent just three days together at the conference, meeting on a Thursday before parting ways – her to Texas, him to Colorado – on Saturday.

After that they messaged constantly and she felt “so connected” to her new companion, she said.

She planned to visit him in Colorado but the first trip fell through.

The second planned trip came in March when she said Mr Craig told her his wife was ill.

The day before she was due to arrive in Denver, she said that Angela had a seizure and was placed on life support, with a low chance of survival.

While she said she reconsidered going to Colorado at that time, Mr Craig allegedly encouraged her by saying that he could do with her support.

They went for dinner twice, she said, where she noted his behaviour seemed odd.

“He at no point seemed stressed or anxious,” she said. “I mean really I had to drag it out of him like, ‘Are you sure you’re ok?’”

Days later, Angela was dead.

Now, Ms Cain says she feels lied to by the person she felt she was falling in love with.

“I don’t have any sort of headspace in my reality where it fits” what she has now learned in the criminal affidavit, she said.

“I didn’t willingly have a relationship with somebody who was in a marriage.”

Following Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, Judge Shay K Whitaker ruled that the prosecution had met the burden for probable cause and set the next court date for 29 August.

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