Affidavit: Dentist purchased cyanide before wife's death

A Colorado dentist accused of poisoning his wife purchased arsenic and cyanide online, according to an affidavit.

Text messages between dentist and wife
Scripps News Denver

A Colorado dentist accused of poisoning his wife searched online for undetectable poisons before purchasing arsenic and cyanide, according to an affidavit.

Aurora police arrested James Toliver Craig, 45, on Sunday morning. He was booked in jail around 2 a.m. on a charge of first-degree murder after deliberation in connection with the death of his 43-year-old wife, Angela, who died in a hospital Saturday.

At the time of his arrest, police called the crime a "heinous, complex, and calculated murder."

James had his first hearing on Monday, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. The judge set a no bond hold, and a mandatory protection order will prevent him from seeing his children. 

The 52-page arrest affidavit for James says that Angela went to University Hospital with a severe headache on March 15. She also said she was dizzy, the affidavit reads. Her brother was with her, and James reportedly joined them later.

Around 2 p.m., Angela had a seizure, and her condition began to deteriorate. She suffered from a lack of oxygen, had no pupil reaction, and had increased intracranial pressure, according to the affidavit. She was placed on life support, and her medical team could not determine what condition she was suffering from or what caused the rapid decline in her health.

This was not the first time this had happened, a friend of the couple told authorities. She said Angela first became sick on March 6 and was released the same day. This happened again on March 9, and she was released on March 14. Doctors apparently could not determine what caused her symptoms.

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On March 15, an office manager contacted Craig's family friend and said she had been contacted by another office manager of Summerbrook Dental Group. This other manager had told her that on March 6 — the first day Angela became sick and went to the hospital — she was working late at the dental office and saw James return to the office after hours. The office manager said she had seen him at an exam room computer with the lights off, which she described as odd since she knew he had his own office with his own computer, plus a personal laptop he took to and from the office, the affidavit reads.

About 30 minutes after she left, James texted that office manager to say he would soon receive a personal package in the mail and she should not open it, according to the affidavit. That package arrived on March 13 and had been opened by another employee. When the office manager looked inside, she saw “a biohazard sticker and what said ‘potassium cyanide’ on a circular canister,” the document reads. She sealed it back up and gave it to James. When she later researched potassium cyanide and its effect on a person, she realized Angela had the same symptoms.

She called the other office manager on March 15 after learning Angela was back in the hospital. That manager then called the family friend as he was en route to the hospital to see Angela.

After this call, the family friends arrived at the hospital in separate cars. They briefly spoke with James Craig, who then stepped away for a doctor’s call, according to the affidavit. He was visibly crying after speaking with the doctors.

After James Craig had stepped away, one of the friends, having just heard the account from the office manager, told one of the attending nurses that he was suspicious that Angela may have been poisoned. He said James had recently ordered potassium cyanide for their dental practice, but there was no medical reason to have it there.

That nurse then called police and the investigation into James began, according to the affidavit.

The Aurora Police Department’s Major Crimes Homicide Unit took over from there.

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After some time at the hospital on March 15, the family sat in their car. They got a call from from James who had “heard ‘some disturbing information’ and then asked him if he had said anything to the hospital staff,” according to the affidavit.

The friend told James that he had and that he was aware of the package delivered to the office. James replied that the package was a ring to surprise his wife — an explanation that the friend rejected. He asked James why he would buy the potassium cyanide. James recanted and admitted the package had indeed contained that chemical, but that his wife had asked him to order it since she didn’t have the proper credentials. He said he “didn’t think she would actually take it,” according to the affidavit.

At this point, the friend told James to stop talking and hire a lawyer.

Around 12:30 a.m. the following morning, March 16, a detective responded to the hospital to speak with staff. The detective learned about the decline in Angela's health. As of that time, she was still on life support with no brain activity. Her prognosis was poor, according to the affidavit.

This same day, March 16, a case worker with Child Protective Services spoke with a detective about her individual meetings with James and his children. His bio page from the dental group website states that he has six children with his wife.

The case worker said James made “some concerning statements” and “alleged that Angela was suicidal and had been for some time,” according to the affidavit. 

She “provided her opinion that James was attempting to build a cover story for what really happened to Angela,” the affidavit reads.

On March 16, police executed a search warrant at the Craigs' home. 

They seized multiple types of powder proteins, multiple workout-style shakers used to drink those powder proteins, computers, a tablet, two different unlabeled plastic bags with white powdery substances, and a water bottle on an exercise bike.

On March 17, detectives conducted an initial history search of the phones, laptops, and James Craig’s iPad seized during the searches of his home and business.

They showed that the user had searched for many poison-related inquiries, including “How many grams of pure arsenic will kill a human?” and “Is arsenic detectable in autopsy?” He had also searched for chemical suppliers in Aurora, according to the affidavit. Investigators also found an Amazon order from Feb. 27 to be delivered to the Craig household for an item called Arsenic Metal 99.9999% Crystalline Metalloid 10 grams for Element Collection, according to the affidavit. It was a $13 order.

Angela Craig was pronounced brain dead on March 18 at 4:29 p.m., according to the affidavit.

Through this investigation, police noticed many similarities between her symptoms and the effects of ingesting cyanide and arsenic, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The conclusion of the affidavit determined several aspects of the case that ultimately led to James' arrest.

“In totality, this investigation has proven that James has gone to great lengths to try and end his wife's life,” it reads.

This story was originally reported by Scripps News Denver.