Angela Pray Craig, a married mother of six raising her family in Colorado, was known for any number of admirable qualities, among them her wit, love of animals, sense of humour and dedication to family. She was also known for another trait that got a very high mention in her obituary: “She had a large capacity to forgive.”
The 43-year-old, married to Denver-area dentist James Toliver Craig, had already forgiven her husband for numerous affairs, according to reports – and, presumably, after he drugged her at least once that she knew of. But Dr Craig allegedly shirked that forgiveness and, according to court documents, continued with his abhorrent treatment of his wife, culminating in her poisoning death last weekend.
Now the Craig children are mourning their mother – as their father faces murder charges.
Colorado authorities allege that Dr Craig executed a cold-blooded plot to kill his wife with tainted protein shakes while courting his orthodontist out-of-state mistress. He appeared in court on Thursday in Aurora, Colorado, as the charge of first-degree murder was filed against him.
The unshaven, handcuffed 45-year-old hanging his head in an orange jumpsuit could not look further from the boyish-seeming blonde father smiling out from professional and family photos. Nor did the disgraced dentist on Thursday match the portrait of a smitten lover drawn by excerpts from his communication with the woman with whom he was allegedly having an affair.
The chilling scheme began to unravel after Ms Craig, accompanied by her brother, presented with severe headaches and dizziness at UC Health University of Colorado Hospital on the morning of Wednesday 15 March. Within three hours, she suffered a seizure and began to “rapidly decline medically,” according to court documents, before being placed on life support in the intensive care unit.
Doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her. Dr Craig’s colleagues, however, had their suspicions.
It wasn’t a secret to some of the employees at Summerbrook Dental Practice, which the dentist co-owns with longtime friend Ryan Redfearn, that Dr Craig and his wife had been having marital problems. But an office manager had also noticed strange behaviour, detailing in the affidavit how she’d seen Dr Craig working on a computer in an exam room, though he rarely used the space and had his own devices.
He’d also told her to be on alert for a personal package he’d ordered to the office, adding that she shouldn’t open it. But when another employee did, according to documents, the manager glanced inside – and saw potassium cyanide. She Googled it and realised the symptoms matched up with Angela’s recent illnesses.
The mother of six had been getting increasingly ill throughout the month of March. She went to the hospital on 6 March; 9 March, when she was admitted until 14 March; and again on 15 March, her final fateful stay. She had been suffering from extreme vomiting, headaches, low blood pressure and dizziness; her eyes couldn’t focus, and she knew something was seriously wrong.
In text message exchanges with her husband that are pictured in court documents, Ms Craig complained to her husband that she felt as she did when she took heavy drugs, as if she were moving through gel.
And Ms Craig would know what being drugged felt like; a relative told police that she’d admitted her husband had drugged her at least once before.
“Angela and James’ marriage had always been tumultuous,” she said, according to the affidavit. “James had multiple affairs with several women, told Angela he had been addicted to pornography since he was a teenager, and drugged Angela approximately five to six years ago. Angela told [redacted] that James drugged her (an unknown drug) because he planned to go into their bathroom and give himself a lethal injection of something and commit suicide. James told Angela he drugged her so she wouldn’t find him nor be able to save him, which would give the lethal drugs time to kill him.”
Text messages obtained by detectives between the Craigs indicate that Mr Craig referred to this incident himself in the days leading up to his wife’s death, telling her: “Given our history, | know that must be triggering. Just for the record, I didn’t drug you.”
Police believe Dr Craig laced his wife’s protein shakes with the potassium cyanide he ordered from Amazon for just $13. At the Craigs’ residence, they found workout-style shakers and two Ziploc-style bags with white powdery substances in them.
In his internet history, they also found chilling searches for “how many grams of pure arsenic will kill a human,” “how to make poison” and “is arsenic detectable in an autopsy.”
Through all of this, Dr Craig was making travel plans with and sending “sexually explicit” emails to an orthodontist in Austin, Texas, with whom he was having an affair, the affidavit shows.
“It appears James was flying this woman into Denver while his wife and the mother of his children was dying in the hospital,” the affidavit states.
When he tells the woman that something happened to his wife, she “sent James an email explaining how sorry she was for him and that she wished she was helping him, not pulling him away. She stated she knew it had to be so hard what he was going through and that she wanted to be there for him but did not want to mix in with his family and friends and pretend to be only a friend when there was something more,” the affidavit says.
That email was sent on 16 March; Ms Craig was pronounced dead on 18 March – and her husband refused requests to conduct an autopsy, including from relatives pleading for answers in case the cause of her illness had been genetic. Dr Craig argued that if doctors couldn’t find the source of his wife’s sudden illness while she was alive, he did not want them “poking holes when she was dead.”
One of Dr Craig’s colleagues, however, had informed a nurse at the hospital about the dentist’s potassium cyanide purchase, and police were called. He tried to explain his way out of the situation by claiming that his wife had been suicidal – and had made past attempts – which Angela’s friends and children denied ever witnessing.
Dr Craig went as far as claiming that he had to revive Angela on not one, but several occasions. He also alleged that Angela’s supposed suicidal ideation had worsened after he brought up the possibility of divorce in December 2022.
But text messages between the couple paint a very different image. Exchanges shown in the affidavit for Dr Craig’s arrest show that he had his wife under the impression that he wanted to patch things up.
And while his wife fought for her life in a hospital bed, the disgraced dentist continued to thank church friends for their prayers, noting that it was “pretty scary not having answers.”
When he was confronted by law enforcement, Dr Craig attempted to guilt trip his business partner for not giving “a hungry DA the opportunity to paint him in a negative light.”
In a lengthy text, the suspected murderer described a devastating scene: his six children saying goodbye to their brain-dead mother before arriving home to find investigators seizing evidence.
The dentist was arrested this week and charged with first-degree murder, leaving family and friends reeling after the already shocking death of the beloved mother of six.
Ms Craig came from a large family herself; a native of Dodge City, Kansas, she “was the beloved baby girl in a family of ten raucous children,” her obituary states.
She married James Craig in December 1999; at the time of her death, he was still saved as “The Boy” on her phone. Despite their marital problems, she told the dentist repeatedly how much she loved him, according to texts included in court documents, as he was allegedly poisoning her to death.
Ms Craig had been active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “filling various positions including choir director, teacher, and youth organization leader,” her obituary states. “ However, she most loved working as a family history consultant. She worked on her own family’s history with a powerful dedication, but she also helped friends complete theirs. No doubt she has many friends and family members on the other side of the veil because of the work she has done in this life for them.
On the day Dr Craig had formal charges read to him in court, his wife’s loved ones gathered for a “time of comfort and friendship” in Aurora, the same place where she raised her family and the same town where she died.
The husband of one of Dr Craig’s former colleagues attempted to address how the community was feeling in a Facebook post on Tuesday, noting that his wife had spoken several times with Ms Craig while working with the dentist.
“We were among the first to get wind of the ugly rumour before it went worldwide,” Todd Gilmore wrote. “Some saw a decline, while many regarded him as a skillful and charismatic professional.”
He said he’d overheard conversations between his wife and “her former coworkers – there’s just so much disbelief – what would lead someone to act on such evil? Unimaginable things were going on inside this man that were too well hidden.”
“If you pray, please join us in praying for everyone affected by this tragedy, especially for the six kids left behind. they face lifelong damage that cannot be estimated.”
Dr Craig has laid bare a carefully crafted double life, full of affairs, gambling and financial ruin.
As his children cope with the sudden loss of both parental figures, investigators prepare to pick apart the once-renowned dentist’s defence when he is back in court on 7 April.
In her obituary, Ms Craig’s loved ones have attempted to translate into words her life beyond a tragic and unexpected death. They reminisced about her infectious smile, her endearing determination to be present at every family event, her commitment to her children, and her loyalty to the man who is now accused of her murder.
Andrea Blanco contributed to this report.