Colorado Coroner Testifies: Dentist’s Wife Tragically Killed by Cyanide and Decongestant Contained in Visine

James Toliver Craig, 45. (Photo provided by Aurora Police Department)
James Toliver Craig, 45. (Photo provided by Aurora Police Department)

The wife of an Aurora dentist who searched online about how to poison someone was poisoned to death, the Arapahoe County coroner confirmed Wednesday.

Angela Craig, 43, died from lethal doses of cyanide and tetrahydrozoline, a decongestant found in over-the-counter eyedrops, Coroner Kelly Lear testified in court Wednesday.

She spoke during the preliminary hearing for Angela Craig’s husband James Craig, 45, who is charged with first-degree murder in his wife’s death. On Wednesday, prosecutors also added a second charge of tampering with physical evidence.

Judge Shay Whitaker ruled prosecutors had sufficient probable cause to take James Craig to trial on both counts. His arraignment is set for Aug. 29.

Investigators say James Craig bought arsenic and cyanide days before his wife was poisoned to death, searched online about how to poison someone, was having an affair and faced financial difficulties. They allege James Craig put poison in the pre-workout protein shakes he routinely made for his wife.

Angela Craig had toxic but not lethal levels of arsenic in her body in the days before she died, Lear testified. The couple had been married for 23 years and shared six children, according to an obituary.

Weeks before Angela died, James Craig used a communal computer at his workplace at Summerbrook Dental in Aurora to conduct numerous searches about poison, investigators alleged.

The searches on YouTube and Google included: “how many grams of pure arsenic will kill a human,” “Is Arsenic Detectable in Autopsy,” “Top 5 Undetectable Poisons That Show No Signs of Foul Play,” “how to make poison,” and “The Top 10 Deadliest Plants (They Can Kill You),” according to his arrest affidavit.

James Craig also searched online for answers to questions such as “is arsenic detectable in an autopsy?” and “how to make murder look like a heart attack” a few weeks before his wife died, Aurora police detective Bobbi Olson testified Wednesday.

He ordered arsenic from on Feb. 27, police allege. He received the package on March 4, and two days later, his wife was admitted to a hospital with symptoms that aligned with poisoning. She was released that day, but returned to the hospital on March 9 and stayed through March 14.

A blood sample taken March 9 showed she had toxic but not lethal levels of arsenic in her blood, Lear testified. While she was hospitalized, James Craig ordered two additional poisons — cyanide and oleandrin — from medical suppliers, according to the affidavit. (He never received the oleandrin because the package was intercepted by police.)

The cyanide was delivered on March 13. Two days later, on March 15, Angela Craig returned to the hospital with additional symptoms, authorities said. She then suffered a heart attack, was placed on a ventilator and her condition rapidly deteriorated until her death on March 18.

Two blood draws during Angela Craig’s hospital visit on March 15 show that the amount of cyanide in her body increased between about noon and 8 p.m. that day, Lear testified.

“That increase is consistent with her receiving additional cyanide exposure in that time period,” Lear testified.

James Craig’s attorneys suggested on cross-examination that the increased amount of cyanide that day could be due to Angela Craig continuing to absorb an initial dose of poison, but Lear said the steep increase suggested a fresh poisoning in that roughly eight-hour window.

Defense attorney David Beller declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

Both cyanide and tetrahydrozoline have similar effects on the body, Lear testified. The latter is found in eye drops like Visine, which can help reduce red-eye. Angela Craig had more than 400 times the amount of tetrahydrozoline in her body than what is considered a therapeutic dose, Lear testified.

It was not immediately clear from testimony Wednesday how that poisoning occurred.

As Angela Craig languished in the hospital, with doctors unable to figure out what was wrong, police alleged her husband was meeting another woman, fellow dentist Karin Cain, who flew from Texas to visit him in Colorado.

Cain, an orthodontist, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she had been in the process of divorcing her husband of almost 30 years when she met James Craig at a dental conference in February. She said they were together for three weeks. Cain said she didn’t willingly have a relationship with someone who was married and she doesn’t like being called Craig’s “mistress.”

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

Asked whether she thought Craig killed his wife to be with her, Cain said they hadn’t been planning a future together.

“There’s no way I’m motive,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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